The perils of using Internet Explorer as your default browser

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  1. Brink's Avatar
    Posts : 36,102
    64-bit Windows 10 Pro build 18836
       1 Week Ago #1

    The perils of using Internet Explorer as your default browser


    From time to time, I am asked by customers, “How do I ensure that all web traffic goes to Internet Explorer?” In fact, I was recently asked this question by someone trying to help a hospital. Now, I understand the scenario. In healthcare (as in many other industries), it’s often the case that you’re running with an extremely thin team. As a result, it can seem that using Internet Explorer be default for all situations is the “easy button” because, well, most of your sites were designed for Internet Explorer, so…just…always use it, ok?

    In short, this seems like a deliberate decision to take on some technical debt. It’s true that most organizations have some technical debt lying around. (For example, if you’ve disabled User Account Control, require a 32-bit OS or 32-bit Office suite, or are paying for extended support for a legacy version of Java, you have some technical debt.) But this technical debt? Well, it’s different.

    Creating technical debt by default

    In the past, Internet Explorer was optimized for simplicity at the expense of technical debt. Looking all the way back to Internet Explorer 6, the very concept of “standards mode” vs. “quirks mode” comes from this “easy button” approach. All existing content (which had no DOCTYPE) would get quirks mode; you got standards mode by adding a specific DOCTYPE.

    This, of course, had one little pesky problem: most people neither manually type HTML nor obsessively read the documentation to make sure they get the right DOCTYPE. You see, in the bad old days, you couldn’t just put in <DOCTYPE HTML>, you had to put in a full document type definition (DTD), and what you put in determined whether you’d get standards or quirks. So, it wasn’t just the presence or absence of a declaration, but also whether you put in a correctly formatted and properly chosen DTD, that would promote you to standards mode.

    So, what really happened is that developer tools either added this in the skeleton code, or they didn’t. Which meant, if your tool didn’t add this in, you would get Internet Explorer 5 emulation (quirks mode) by default. Getting modern was opt-in because that was easier.

    Fast forward, as Internet Explorer standards mode supported more and more standards, we decided not to just update the mode we called standards mode because, when we did, we risked breaking applications written for an older interpretation of the standards. So, with Internet Explorer 8 (IE8), we added IE8 standards, but also kept Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) standards. That meant, for sites in the Internet zone, it would default to IE8 standards, but, for sites in the local intranet zone, it would default to IE7 standards.

    Another easy button.

    As you can see, by going with the “technical debt by default” approach, we ended up in a scenario whereby if you create a brand-new webpage today, run it in the local intranet zone, and don’t add any additional markup, you will end up using a 1999 implementation of web standards by default. Yikes!

    Enough is enough

    When we introduced Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer 11 in 2014, we made the very deliberate decision not to include wild card support. You must add all the sites that you want so that we don’t continue the chain of “debt by default” that was initiated back in 2001. But you’re probably even busier today when you were back then—if, in fact, you were working in technology in 2001, which many people weren’t!—so how do we do that without making you pay the price?

    We had to simplify creating that initial blacklist (legacy by exception, not by default). First, we launched Enterprise Site Discovery so you could gather this data from your endpoints. We then enabled similar functionality from Windows Analytics Site Discovery so you could gather this data without needing to build a new set of infrastructure and processes. Once you have that initial list, it should be all downhill from there: simply remove sites as you modernize them.

    By making it easy to take a blacklist approach (legacy by exception), we were finally able to move away from taking a whitelist approach (legacy by default).

    Why shouldn’t I just keep doing what I have been doing?

    So, why was it so important that we invert our approach to legacy? Because if we didn’t, you would end up in a predicament—and probably sooner than you think.

    You see, Internet Explorer is a compatibility solution. We’re not supporting new web standards for it and, while many sites work fine, developers by and large just aren’t testing for Internet Explorer these days. They’re testing on modern browsers. So, if we continued our previous approach, you would end up in a scenario where, by optimizing for the things you have, you end up not being able to use new apps as they come out. As new apps are coming out with greater frequency, what we want to help you do is avoid having to miss out on a progressively larger portion of the web!


    Source: The perils of using Internet Explorer as your default browser - Microsoft Tech Community - 331732
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  2. Ztruker's Avatar
    Posts : 7,242
    Windows 10 Pro X64 1809 17763.292
       1 Week Ago #1

    So the real problem is not so much security as it is obsolescence. That actually makes sense to me.
    I've given up on Edge after trying to use it as my default browser for 6 months at work and switched back to IE11 for now but will soon move to the latest Firefox.

    IE11 has been working okay, better than Edge (for me) but it too has it's quirks so moving on is in my near future.

    A good article Shawn, thanks.
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  3. hTconeM9user's Avatar
    Posts : 2,709
    Windows 10x64 Home Version 1809 (Build 17763) 316
       1 Week Ago #2

    That is why I got rid of IE11 as soon as I could once Edge came available.
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  4. jamis's Avatar
    Posts : 241
    Windows10 Home 64 bit v. 1803 bld. 17134.590
       1 Week Ago #3

    I guess this begs the questions: When Edge based on Chrome is released, will it become MS's default browser? Will IE11 then be laid to rest?
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  5. Posts : 1,261
    Windows 10 Home x64 and Pro x86
       1 Week Ago #4

    Well, I thought the author was pretentious and quite aimless

    The only part of the article that addressed the aim implied by its title was right at the end:-
    ... We’re not supporting new web standards for it and, while many sites work fine, developers by and large just aren’t testing for Internet Explorer these days. They’re testing on modern browsers.


    Denis
    Last edited by Try3; 1 Week Ago at 08:45.
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  6.    1 Week Ago #5

    Microsoft has included browser in the OS since, well, seemingly forever but it's been "only" 20+ years. During this time the browser development team could not keep up with web technology/standard changes. People could not wait for MS to get their act together and Google Chrome pretty much took over the browser market. That's just in a nutshell, that does not account for application backward compatibility among other aspects of the browser....

    Now, MS is replacing their own browser with Chromium open source browser, that changes rather rapidly. Certainly much faster than IE and/or Edge have been changing. What makes MS believe that at this time they will be capable to keep up with Chromium updates? Especially, after the Redmond overlay applied to Chromium...

    Maybe it would be better, if MS acquire the Chromium based Vivaldi browser...
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  7.    1 Week Ago #6

    I used to use IE for convenience, after all it's built into the system. Endless trouble with it, some of the reason as indicated by that article. I have my complaints with Chrome, but it's been simple to use and reliable. I think FireFox has come a long way though, definitely a close runner up. I don't trust MS to do well with their new Chromium based browser, probably won't go near it.
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  8. Infrasonic's Avatar
    Posts : 132
    W10 Home 1803 / Virtual Box / Linux Mint VM
       1 Week Ago #7

    I use Edge, Chrome and FireFox all pretty much without issue.
    The last time I used IE was for some antiquated Govt. site that needed it to log in...
    Edge (beta) on Android is quite good, so it bodes well for the chromium desktop version. My default on Android is Firefox Focus though, great speedy little browser with loads of privacy + delete on exit options.
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  9. Posts : 1,261
    Windows 10 Home x64 and Pro x86
       1 Week Ago #8

    Since you have experience of other browsers, may I take advantage of this thread to ask if any browser you have tried has these IE capabilities -
    - it saves favorites as separate files that I then file away [drag & drop] wherever I want them
    - its Favorites bar allows me complete & ready access to all the url/equivalent files in that particular folder tree
    - its url/equivalent file properties can be read, displayed & edited by File explorer
    - its url/equivalent files can be manipulated by fairly standard Windows tools such as powershell, vbs, [Office] VBA

    These capabilities are the reason I stick with IE for almost everything. I would like to be able to switch to a currently-maintained browser instead.

    Denis
      My ComputerSystem Spec

  10. Infrasonic's Avatar
    Posts : 132
    W10 Home 1803 / Virtual Box / Linux Mint VM
       1 Week Ago #9

    Try3 said: View Post
    Since you have experience of other browsers, may I take advantage of this thread to ask if any browser you have tried has these IE capabilities -
    - it saves favorites as separate files that I then file away [drag & drop] wherever I want them
    - its Favorites bar allows me complete & ready access to all the url/equivalent files in that particular folder tree
    - its url/equivalent file properties can be read, displayed & edited by File explorer
    - its url/equivalent files can be manipulated by fairly standard Windows tools such as powershell, vbs, [Office] VBA

    These capabilities are the reason I stick with IE for almost everything. I would like to be able to switch to a currently-maintained browser instead.

    Denis
    Hi Denis, none of those requirements are a priority for me, so I've never investigated them.
    I do have a huge imported IE hierarchical folder bookmarks list sitting in Chrome, but it never gets used these days,I can't remember the last time I used it, in fact I may delete it...

    I use Chrome for logged in Google services (I have multiple accounts), Edge for MS services (ditto) and FF for 'anonymous' browsing with most of the security/ anti tracking et al bits turned on.

    Chrome is fully backed up and synced with my Android Phone, Edge partially the same, FF not at all.

    So for me it is a horses for courses choice. It works for me but may be horrendous for someone else.

    I've tried dozens of browsers over the years on desktop and mobile, some last a matter of minutes others hang around. All I can suggest is try some others out and do your best to break them. If they won't do what you want uninstall and move on.
      My ComputersSystem Spec


 
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