The Eventual Decline of Internet Explorer

Recently Google Chrome surpassed Internet Explorer as the most used browser for an entire week. It’s sparked a bit of debate over the accuracy of the numbers, but it’s still a significant event. It’s an indication of an eventual truth that everyone knows about, even if some don’t want to admit it. Internet Explorer is losing its deathgrip on the web. Maybe not today, but it’s certainly going to happen.

IE is an old browser.Before I get into the details, I should mention how heated this subject can be. I first heard about this from an article on Business Insider. Take a moment to look at it, paying special attention to the comments. A disturbing number of them have been removed and flagged as offensive. Wow. It doesn’t seem like this should be such a big argument when the facts are so clear.

Internet Explorer 9 is the first passable browser that Microsoft has produced, and that’s only because they finally admitted that they were losing market share. When they had a significant lead, they basically ignored web standards. For years.

If you don’t believe me, check any developer forum. You’ll find that most of the complaints are about IE. This doen’t work in IE, and that can’t be adopted because it works in every single browser except for IE. Oh, and of course this other thing will only work in IE if you use their particular CSS to achieve a result which is only sort of what you want. Hacks, work-arounds, extra code… all sorts of insanity is required to force Internet Explorer to do basic things. For instance, IE8 doesn’t accept media queries. JavaScript is needed to fake it, just as it’s needed to force IE to recognize HTML5 tags. IE7 is a sharp degree worse than IE8, and IE6… oh dear Lord, IE6. Don’t get me started. Don’t get any developer started.

Reasons Why

So why is this stuff around when it’s so bad? How come there are all these people using old versions of IE? Simple. Either they’re forced to, or they just don’t know any better.

Many companies simply refuse to upgrade their browsers, so employees are forced to use old stuff. They get alerts to update things, but they can’t because they don’t have admin rights on their work computers. These folks aren’t choosing to use IE. They’re being forced to use it. Maybe they’re using old versions of Windows, or maybe the I.T. department is just lazy. Either way, old browsers are a security problem. One that many people are not allowed to solve.

Another reason why people use the old stuff is because it’s packaged with Windows. Internet Explorer is pre-installed and set as the default when they buy the machine. If the user isn’t computer savvy, they might just use whatever’s already there. Given a choice (or more importantly, the knowledge of a choice) most people would pick a browser that doesn’t suck.

There’s also a third reason. Computers are getting cheaper, but they still cost money and people aren’t made of the stuff. A non-technical person could easily let the machine go as it ages. If IE9 won’t load on their old computer, then they won’t get it until they eventually buy a new machine.

All of these reasons share a common theme. Old stuff and inexperienced users. Neither of those things can last. Eventually the old stuff will stop working, and users become more web savvy every day. Microsoft can’t just ignore the competition anymore.

Optimism

When IE9 arrived, I had hope for the first time where Microsoft is concerned. It can do lots of things that the rest of the world has been doing for quite a while. It’s late and it still has problems, but at least it’s out there. Could Microsoft be waking up? Could they be committing to the use of modern technology on the web? Will future versions of IE continue to improve, taking steps to keep up with actual, honest-to-goodness web standards?

I have no idea. I can only hope that they do.