Next Tuesday, Microsoft will issue the last patch for its Internet Explorer 8, 9, and 10 browsers. In addition to the usual security fixes, the patch will include an “End of Life” notification that asks users to upgrade to Internet Explorer 11 or to Microsoft’s new Edge browser.
You’ll be able to continue using the older versions of Internet Explorer if you really want to, but after Tuesday you’ll be on your own, since Microsoft won’t be officially supporting the software anymore.
For a lot of tech companies, it’s tricky to know how long to keep supporting legacy products. Apple generally takes a pretty aggressive stance: its operating system updates usually don’t work on hardware that’s more than a few years old. Microsoft, on the other hand, provided security updates for Windows XP until April 2014, nearly 13 years after the operating system debuted. That’s partly because a lot of businesses use Microsoft software and can’t afford to pay to upgrade to each new version, and partly because until recently Microsoft has been pretty generous about plugging security holes in old software.
But Microsoft wants its engineers and coders working on making current software the best it can be, not releasing endless patches for software that’s years out of date. So the company has begun gently nudging users forward, dropping support for old operating systems and browsers and encouraging users to upgrade to the latest versions.
Microsoft will help companies with more than 500 employees upgrade to the latest Internet Explorer, while small businesses and home users must manage the switch on their own.
Last summer, Microsoft developer evangelist Jerry Nixon referred to Windows 10 as “the last version of Windows,” meaning that the company will release lots of incremental improvements to the operating system over time rather than releasing a major version every few years. With the impending end of Internet Explorer 8, 9, and 10, the company is following a similar path for browsers: get as many people as possible on the newest version, and keep that version up to date with constant tweaks and fixes.
That way, users don’t have to navigate major upgrades in the future, since the upgrades happen behind the scenes and a little bit at a time, and Microsoft can devote more energy to improving its current-generation software. (Windows 10 also includes a “Long Term Servicing Branch” with less-frequent updates, for businesses that can’t risk an update breaking compatibility with existing software.)
Internet Explorer 11 and the Edge browser are also simply better than previous versions, Microsoft argues. They’re more secure, faster (even on low-end computers), and support current web standards for features such as embedded video. By upgrading, users will lessen their vulnerability to hackers, which is particularly important for businesses that handle sensitive financial and customer data.