Oddly enough, for the second time this week, Microsoft has been spotted telling the world that its software is, er, not very good.
While Redmond’s marketing orifice suggested Office 2019 was old and busted compared to its 365 brother, deep within Microsoft’s Experiences and Devices Group, principal program manager Chris Jackson dropped the bombshell that Internet Explorer is just a big old pile of “technical debt”.
A pile of something, for sure.
Jackson went further, pointing out that IE isn’t really a browser any more. Instead, he described it as little more than a “compatibility solution”. Microsoft has, after all, been trying to kill it stone dead for some time by skipping the implementation of new web standards and directing users to a more modern browser. Like Edge.
But even with the love and resources lavished upon it, Edge has failed to set the world alight. A quick look at Statcounter shows it still trails Internet Explorer at 4.4 per cent desktop share compared to the mighty 5.7 per cent of IE (a share that actually grew last month).
In a mea culpa, Jackson accepted that Microsoft’s obsession with backwards compatibility led to a situation where many enterprises simply found it easier to run IE with compatibility mode as a default for corporate intranets. Jackson used the example of IE8, where the browser would fall back to IE7 standards for intranet sites unless told otherwise – handy for those creaking corporate intranets, but not so good for future admins shovelling their way through piles of technical debt.
2014’s IE11 introduced the concept of legacy by exception, meaning admins had to think a bit harder about their old intranets, and consider bringing legacy web apps up to date for more modern browsers rather than simply flinging a wildcard at the compatibility list.
One wag pointed out to Jackson that if defaults are the problem, perhaps Microsoft might consider stopping the likes of Windows 10 using the browser as a default for a number of file types.
As for Jackson himself, he didn’t make any recommendations on what to use instead. In fact, he said Microsoft was happy for customers to keep using IE for sites that absolutely must have it. But only for those sites.
Just please, please, please stop using the thing as an easy default for everything, because that way lies madness. ®
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