Microsoft is pruning the Internet Explorer family tree.
Next week, the software giant will stop issuing updates and patches for IE8, IE9 and IE10, effectively focusing its development efforts on IE11 and the new default Web browser for Windows 10, Microsoft Edge. "Beginning January 12, 2016, only the most current version of Internet Explorer available for a supported operating system will receive technical supports and security updates," stated Microsoft in an online advisory.
Businesses are being encouraged to upgrade their users to IE11 and avert some of the potential security and compatibility problems that can arise from running unsupported software. "Internet Explorer 11 is the last version of Internet Explorer, and will continue to receive security updates, compatibility fixes, and technical support on Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10," continued the Redmond, Wash., software maker.
On Jan. 12, an "End of Life" notification will begin displaying on IE8, IE9 and IE10, urging users to upgrade. Administrators can disable the on-screen notice with the registry tweaks described in this Microsoft knowledge base entry (KB3123303).
According to the latest figures from Net Applications, a Web analytics firm, IE8, IE9 and IE10 cling to 8.95 percent, 6.67 percent and 4.18 percent of the desktop browser market, respectively. Meanwhile, IE11 claims just over 25 percent of the market.
To ensure that corporate customers can still run browser-based applications built for older versions of IE, Microsoft includes a compatibility mode called Enterprise Mode to IE11.
Under the configurable Enterprise Mode, users can continue using legacy apps without modification. IE11's Enterprise Mode supports several document modes, stretching back to IE5. On Windows 10, Microsoft Edge can launch IE11 for sites that may not render properly on newer browsers.
Since the release of IE11 Enterprise Mode in 2014, Microsoft has been continuously updating the feature and improving its backward compatibility.
In November, the company added support for HTTP ports and released a Web Application Compatibility Lab Kit to help administrators configure IE11 and better manage their legacy Web apps. "Microsoft will continue to invest in compatibility improvements, tools, and other resources to help customers upgrade and stay up-to-date on the latest browser," the company pledged.
Before the Jan. 12 deadline, Microsoft is warning customers about the possible risks of continuing to use older IE browsers to conduct business. "Without critical browser security updates, your PC may become vulnerable to harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software which can steal or damage your business data and information," cautioned the company.
Businesses can also expect independent software vendor (ISV) support to dry up, said Microsoft. The company's own Office 365 productivity suite has already moved on to new browsers, reminded the company.
Plus, users may run afoul of regulations governing their industries. "Businesses that are governed by regulatory obligations such as HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] should conduct due diligence to assess whether they are still able to satisfy compliance requirements using unsupported software," Microsoft said.