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Microsoft has now stopped providing support for several versions of Internet Explorer, meaning that Windows users will need to run IE 11 to continue receiving security updates and technical support.
Specifically IE 8, 9 and 10 are now not supported by Microsoft, and the company has urged users of these browsers to update to IE 11 or the new Edge browser at once.
"End of support means there will be no more security updates, non-security updates, free or paid assisted support options, or online technical content updates," the firm warned.
Microsoft first detailed this change of policy in August 2014, but the firm has issued reminders over the past weeks and months to encourage customers to upgrade to the most recent version of IE for the platforms they operate.
"IE 11 is the last version of IE and will continue to receive security updates, compatibility fixes and technical support on Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10," the company said.
This means IE 11 for the majority of Windows users. The exceptions are Windows Vista SP2 and Windows Server 2008 SP2, for which the latest available version is IE 9, and Windows Server 2012, for which the latest available version is IE 10.
The reminder is most pertinent to those running Windows 7, which is still the most widely used version of the platform and pre-dates IE 11. Upgrading the browser may be of little consequence for consumers, but could have implications for businesses if applications they rely on have been developed to work with specific versions of IE.
"Many businesses are still running browsers that will fall out of support in January 2016," said Ed Shepley, solutions architect at Camwood, a UK firm specialising in migration services, speaking to V3 towards the end of last year.
"These businesses run a risk of falling out of compliance with their third-party suppliers or from a regulatory compliance position, and as a result will need to upgrade their browser estate."
However, it is not simply a case of deploying a new browser, as customers will have to perform web application testing to ensure that everything will continue to function as before.
"An upgrade of the browser estate without web application testing runs the risk of breaking functionality in these web applications," Shepley warned.
"At Camwood we are seeing increased interest from organisations on browser migration and we are recommending a two-stage testing process to address critical and non-critical web applications."
Microsoft is also seeking to address this problem. "We understand many customers have web apps and services designed specifically for older versions of IE, so we're continuing to improve our set of Enterprise Mode tools to help you run those applications in IE 11," wrote Jatinder Mann and Fred Pullen, executives involved with Microsoft's browser development, in a posting on the Microsoft Edge Dev Blog.
Enterprise Mode is a feature for business customers in IE 11 that enables the browser to emulate the way older versions handle web pages, and thus allow legacy browser-based enterprise applications to continue to run unmodified.
Microsoft said that the firm "continues to make significant improvements to Enterprise Mode, helping customers upgrade more easily to IE 11 while extending the ability to run older web apps".
New features include explicit support for HTTP ports in Enterprise Mode, so that customers can specify an HTTP port directly in their Enterprise Mode Site List, along with a Web Application Compatibility Lab Kit.
The latter offers IT managers a walk-through of how to configure and set up Enterprise Mode; use the Enterprise Site Discovery toolkit to analyse which web apps are in use on a customer's site; test web apps using the F12 developer tools; and manage the Enterprise Mode Site List with the Enterprise Mode Site List Manager utility.
Microsoft also detailed improvements in Windows 10 to better support compatibility. The platform comes with the new Microsoft Edge browser that is used by default, but business customers have been able to specify IE instead.
The firm has updated Enterprise Mode for IE 11 to open Microsoft Edge for these customers if they navigate to a modern site that calls for the latest web platform features. This feature has a similar user experience to the analogous feature in Microsoft Edge to open IE 11, Microsoft said.
Finally, Microsoft said that, following feedback from customers, it is overhauling the XML schema used for the Enterprise Mode Site List to make it simpler and easier to use. Starting with the Windows 10 November Update, the firm has already begun supporting a new v.2 Enterprise Mode XML schema, although IE 11 and Microsoft Edge on Windows 10 will continue to support the existing v.1 XML schema for compatibility.
However, this will not be supported in older versions of Windows until sometime alter in 2016, to avoid burdening IT departments with extra work to support the new XML schema while customers are trying to upgrade to IE 11 on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 before the 12 January deadline.