Browser Watch

Microsoft: Give IE another chance

Tidbits from a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" chat also include browser name-change, faster updates and the demise of IE8

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In a wide-ranging "Ask Me Anything" chat on Reddit Thursday, developers and program managers from the Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) team urged users to give the browser a second chance, crowed over the upcoming demise of IE8, and confirmed that even though they will push small, regular feature updates to customers, there will be an IE12.

They also revealed that they have considered changing Internet Explorer's name to distance the browser from its often-negative reputation.

Ars Technica reported on the name-change discussion on Thursday.

Internet Explorer has a "user share," a rough measurement of the percentage of the world's computer users running a specific browser, of 58%, according to metrics vendor Net Applications. That's nearly triple the 20% of the second-place contestant, Google's Chrome.

But IE was once far more dominating: In January 2005, when Computerworld began recording Net Applications' data, IE had a user share of 89%. Then, the second-place Firefox held just a 6% share.

Since its low point in December 2011, when it accounted for a 52% share, IE has clawed out of a long, steady decline that originated with a decision more than a decade ago to essentially stop development. Microsoft thought it had won the browser war.

Now, its developers want Windows users to give IE another shot.

"Often times the decision to not use Internet Explorer is largely based on experiences from a decade ago, and a much different IE," argued Jonathan Sampson on the Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA). "That being said, we know it's our job to change the public perception, and to win the hearts of users everywhere. Each [person who] opens IE, and downloads another browser, is another person we'll be working even harder tomorrow to win back."

Other comments on the chat elaborated on the perception change Microsoft was hoping for. After someone asked whether the company had ever considered dropping the name "Internet Explorer" -- a way to distance the new from the old -- Sampson weighed in.

"It's been suggested internally; I remember a particularly long email thread where numerous people were passionately debating it. Plenty of ideas get kicked around about how we can separate ourselves from negative perceptions that no longer reflect our product today," Sampson said, then coyly hinted that the move might be in the cards. "The discussion I recall seeing was a very recent one (just a few weeks ago). Who knows what the future holds?"

Elsewhere in the discussion, commenters both applauded Microsoft's recent decision to stop serving security updates for older IE editions as of January 2016, and asked a few questions about the policy, which repudiated decades of support promises.

"How serious are you guys about forcing enterprises to move to IE11? My employer is dragging their feet to even upgrade to [IE]9," asked one participant.

"We're serious," replied Colleen Williams of the IE team. She also reported that the IE team was as happy with the decision as most of the AMA commenters who touched on the support stoppage. After someone asked, "What was the attitude in the room when Microsoft issued its browser support policy?" her reply was revealing.

"There was a collective cheer when the policy was changed," Williams said.

While that may have been the case -- perhaps sparked, said analysts last week, by the resulting cutback in the testing required to support fewer versions -- the cheers Williams noted must have been discouraging to the enterprises that will feel the brunt of the new policy.

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