Posted on August 25, 2015
We’re secretly a little horrified when we come across anyone who still relies on Internet Explorer (IE) as their web browser. Despite it often being the default option, you never need to restrict yourself and stick with it, especially when a wide range of other higher-performing alternatives are freely available.
In fact, we’d say Internet Explorer should be your very last choice of browser. In the interest of public service, here are eight reasons why:
1. Glaring security issues
Internet Explorer has continually proven to be more susceptible to hacking than its competitors. In 2014, it was widely reported that hackers were using exploits in its coding to search users’ computers. This allowed them to discover what kinds of security software they were using and attack machines undetected.
As a result of this, both the UK and US governments advised web users to stop surfing with IE – not the best advertisement for a browser with an already chequered reputation.
2. Bugs remain unfixed for too long
Although the vulnerabilities mentioned above were finally addressed in 2015, what’s to stop them from happening again?
Security experts noted that issues sat unfixed for more than a year after Microsoft was made aware of the security hole. This is due to Microsoft’s protocol to tackle bugs on a fixed schedule which means IE users remain vulnerable to known issues until the next timetabled update.
3. Poor compatibility with older editions of Windows
Despite its age, Windows XP is still popular and widely used by many individuals and businesses. This is is often due to the fact that it’s proved to be more stable compared to some of its successive versions.
The latest release of Internet Explorer (11) requires at least Windows 7 to run it, leaving XP users battling with the increasingly outdated and problematic Internet Explorer 8. The most recent versions of Chrome and Firefox, IE’s main competitors, on the other hand, are compatible with XP.
4. Inconsistency between versions
As a result of sporadic updates, amongst other things, each version of Internet Explorer tends to differ wildly from the last, especially in terms of performance and website compatibility.
This became especially obvious when Internet Explorer 8 was released. When it was discovered that many websites were unable to render correctly in the new and ‘improved’ edition, they introduced a ‘compatibility view’ button. When clicked, this enabled the user to surf the web as if they were still using IE7 – not exactly progressive.
5. Limited cross-platform functionality and synchronisation
At present, Internet Explorer is only developed for Microsoft operating systems. But most people now tend to have two or more different devices on the go at any one time, and so this lack of cross-platform availability is becoming a real thorn in its side.
Google Chrome, as just one alternative, has been released for a number of different operating systems – Windows, OS X, iOS, Android and so on – providing a much more consistent experience for the user, allowing them to synchronise browsing data and bookmarks across all their devices.
It’s almost as if Microsoft don’t want you to use anything other than Windows. Hmm…
6. Slower than competitors
A popular complaint is that Internet Explorer simply isn’t as fast as the others. There are some people who would argue this is just a subjective opinion, and it is, but it seems to be an opinion that an awful lot of people share.
In our experience, out-of-the-box IE’s speeds always feel lacklustre compared to its competitors. Even on a high-spec machine it’s not uncommon to experience freezing and sluggish load times. There are things you can tweak to make it faster, but what’s the point when the other major browsers boast cracking performance from the get go without you having to mess with it?
7. Every developer’s worst nightmare
The points above are focussed on user experience, but it’s also worth mentioning how frustrating Internet Explorer is for us and every other developer we’ve spoken to, ever.
When developing a site, we digital builders are confident that it will more or less look and work the same in Chrome, Firefox and Safari, whereas IE is the only commonly-used browser that constantly surprises us, and not in a good way. Even its latest version routinely behaves in ways we don’t expect, and renders websites differently to its competitors.
Combined with the drastic differences between versions mentioned above, this means that we have to factor-in additional testing and, in many cases, write additional code just to make sure a site isn’t going to break in IE8-11. This bumps up the price and duration of a project.
What’s more, with the advancements in web technology, particularly HTML5, many websites (including Google and Facebook) have already dropped support for earlier versions of Internet Explorer, and so some developers refuse to test for them as a default.
8. Microsoft have stopped making it. So that’s all folks!
Is there a clearer sign that it’s time for a change? Upon the recent release of Windows 10, Microsoft introduced ‘Edge’, their new default browser to replace Internet Explorer, effectively making IE11 the final release. The fact that Microsoft themselves have chosen to move on speaks volumes.
Will Edge finally make up for the shortcomings of its predecessor? Time will tell, but we wouldn’t recommend you hang around in the meantime to find out.