Microsoft Aims to Reduce Internet Explorer Fragmentation

Microsoft's Internet Explorer team is working to repair the browser's reputation by letting go of its past.

Old Internet Explorer Versions

Microsoft's Internet Explorer engineering team is aware that the company's browser is a source of frustration among IT professionals and Web developers. So the group is working to mend fences.

In a Reddit AMA ("Ask me anything") question-and-answer session, Microsoft's David Catuhe, an IE senior program manager, said that the company has already begun efforts to fix the browser's reputation. "A lot of things are changing. We [announced] the end of support for too-old versions of IE or for out-of-date ActiveX [controls]. This is a first step to reduce fragmentation which is really a pain for Web developers," he stated.

Earlier this month, the company announced that on Jan. 12, 2016, it would effectively stop supporting Internet Explorer 8 and below. "Outdated browsers represent a major challenge in keeping the Web ecosystem safer and more secure, as modern Web browsers have better security protection," Roger Capriotti, director of Internet Explorer, said in a statement.

Microsoft is also taking cues from customers. "I'm going to a lot of Web events just to gather feedback and really try to improve IE," added Catuhe.

The company also considered rebranding IE as of at least a few weeks ago, revealed Microsoft Program Manager Jonathan Sampson. "It's been suggested internally; I remember a particularly long email thread where numerous people were passionately debating it," he said.

"Plenty of ideas get kicked around about how we can separate ourselves from negative perceptions that no longer reflect our product today," said Sampson. "Who knows what the future holds," he added.

Part of the challenge is IE's old "baggage," according to Microsoft Developer Advocate Rey Bango.

"We've been working on standards-based features since IE 8, but admittedly, older versions of IE brought baggage, which developers had to continue to support, and in some cases, they continued to leverage," said Bango. "We've worked hard to deprecate a lot of that (e.g.: DXFilters), but changing mindsets isn't easy. We're working on it, and you can see that in IE 11."

Future versions of IE will be more standards-compliant, said Sampson. "Each successive release of Internet Explorer has seen more and more adoption of existing Web-standards. Our team actively works with Google, Apple, and Mozilla (among others) on developing new standards for driving the Web forward."

In terms of overlooked features in IE, Bango pointed to its built-in set of developer tools called F12.

"I love seeing developer expressions when they realize how feature-rich the F12 Developer Tools are," said Bango. "The tools team is putting a lot of effort in improving and innovating in the browser tools space, and it's great when developers experience them."

Sampson chimed in with the F12 UI Responsiveness feature. "It records everything, and helps you debug Web-applications with insane granularity. If you're a Web developer, you should definitely check it out."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...