Microsoft has started a 17-month campaign to upgrade customers to the newest version of Internet Explorer that their operating systems will support, which should make it simpler for the company to keep the browser secure because it will have fewer versions to deal with.
On Jan. 12, 2016 Microsoft will drop support for all but the current browser versions. The versions can be automatically upgraded via Windows Update, which is the route the company recommends.
Commercial customers should test the latest upgrades for compatibility with their apps and configurations and then install them as soon as possible, the company recommends.
After the cutoff date, Microsoft will support only the following pairings of desktop operating systems and IE versions: Windows Vista SP2 and IE9; Windows 7 SP1 and IE11; Windows 8.1 and IE 11.
It will support these pairings of Windows Server with IE: Windows Server 2008 SP2 and IE9; Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 and IE 11; Windows Server 2012 and IE 10; Windows Server 2012 R2 and IE 11.
In addition to reducing the number of browser versions it supports, the new rules will have benefits for end users and developers, Microsoft's director of Internet Explorer Roger Capriotti says in a blog post.
Top of the list is better security because newer browsers have newer security features built in. Capriotti cites NSS Labs statistics that protection against malicious software was 69% effective with IE8 in 2009, but was 99% for IE11.
In addition, the newer browsers are faster and support newer Web standards, making them able to fully display apps and Web sites that incorporate these new standards. That's a help to Web site developers as well as Web app developers because they can use modern standards without having to worry so much about how they will work with earlier versions that don't support those standards, he says.
Capriotti's post includes links to services that can help businesses migrate.
Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter@Tim_Greene.