If you’re one of the 10 people on the planet who absolutely loves Microsoft’s venerable Internet Explorer browser, you’d better spend quality time with it while you can—Microsoft is retiring the browser on June 15, 2022.
The much-hated browser has clung tenaciously to the Windows operating system thanks largely to a never-ending supply of businesses that tailored custom websites and web interfaces using IE-only functionality, because those businesses were unwilling to rewrite them for a more modern web environment. But Microsoft believes that the new Chromium-based Edge has finally licked the problem of IE compatibility once and for all:
Not only is Microsoft Edge a faster, more secure and more modern browsing experience than Internet Explorer, but it is also able to address a key concern: compatibility for older, legacy websites and applications. Microsoft Edge has Internet Explorer mode (“IE mode”) built in, so you can access those legacy Internet Explorer-based websites and applications straight from Microsoft Edge.
The retirement doesn’t apply across the entire spectrum of Microsoft operating systems yet—IE11 is disappearing from standard Windows 10 editions but will continue to live on (for now) in Windows 10 LTSC and in all current versions of Windows Server.
Internet Explorer is dead—but Internet Explorer Mode is not
Microsoft describes the new Edge as offering a dual engine advantage. Proprietary IE-only websites that depend on legacy ActiveX controls—Java, Silverlight, Browser Helper Objects (BHOs), and so forth—can’t function properly on the modern Chromium-derived engine, but they do function and remain supported under the proprietary legacy MSHTML rendering engine used in IE compatibility mode.
Assuming, of course, that Microsoft is correct—that the entire global collection of websites, web apps, and web interfaces that depend on Internet Explorer function correctly under Edge’s IE compatibility mode—getting rid of the old codebase solves several problems. Behind the scenes, that’s roughly five million lines of code that Microsoft gets to stop maintaining.
IT managers can stop worrying about users who need IE for banking applications or similar “getting lazy” and using the older, less-secure, more problematic browser for normal everyday browsing as well. In larger environments, administrators can also use the IE Mode Configuration tool to generate a site list that will automatically switch Edge into and out of IE mode as necessary for the specific sites that organization needs.
In addition to having stronger inherent security due to a more modern codebase, Edge can respond to new threats much faster—IE11 gets packaged security updates monthly, while Edge can issue patches aimed directly at breaking vulnerabilities as they occur. In some cases, this difference can mean addressing and stopping a new threat within hours rather than weeks.