The Internet has been abuzz since Microsoft’s announcement that the company will phase out Internet Explorer (IE). Though IE has been the target of many Internet memes and other jokes, the end of Internet Explorer has some very real implications.

The Good

Internet Explorer was, from a user, administrative, and web developer perspective, a bad browser. For Internet generation users, IE served only as a vehicle to download other browsers. Older and more often business users were often at a loss in the sea of popup menus, configuration settings, and batty page renderings.

For administrators, Internet Explorer seemed to offer effective group policy settings, providing IT administrators some control over users and their incessant clicking on unknown (and often malicous) links. This control helped mitigate the risk of users downloading malicious content and threatening business processes. However, in the end Group Policy settings was a muddled mess, leaving administrators to learn the hard way that modifying group policy settings was an experiment in trade-off management and balancing wants versus needs. 

For developers, IE does have serious latency issues. Moreover because content never seemed to render properly, web developers loathed spending the time to create pages for what most thought of as the lowest common denominator browser.  

IE’s end signals Microsoft’s tacit understanding that open source development is now a key component in making its software attractive to others. From plugins to add-on customization, Microsoft has learned it cannot in-house the entirety of the Internet and user needs. Instead, Microsoft products need to be an effective platform for others to use to create new ways of using computers and the web.

The Bad

All that good news aside, IE does work well with other Microsoft products and in some cases, such as SharePoint, maximizes them. What this means for the future is still unclear. Project Spartan, now released as Edge for Windows 10, seems to be a reboot of how Microsoft will attempt to keep market share and users’ data within Microsoft products.

A new bad here is who will now become the lowest common denominator. The browser landscape is an intensely competitive place, with the top browsers, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Apple Safari dominating the market. There are a few niche players, such as Torch, Maxton, SeaMonkey, and Avant, but none of these are likely to take the title of lowest common denominator browser.

The Ugly

Despite a fragmenting market, Microsoft Windows 7 and Windows XP still dominate the market for PC Operating Systems. As this market morphs and tablets and smart phones become primary platforms for work, play, and collaboration, the specter of Internet Explorer will linger. This is the ugly component of what is happening as Microsoft leaves IE. IE's legacy will last for years due to fragmented change in the OS market.

The other ugly component of this comes around business needs, specifically administrator control and group policy setting. No other browser on the market allowed administrators to attempt granular control of PC settings on the same network the way IE did. There is a clear need for this, considering the add-on plugins for Mozilla Firefox and Chrome.

For browser users in the Local, State, and Federal Government Sector, the policy of using Internet Explorer as the only default browser will continue on an agency-by-agency basis. IT Administrators will continue to have to balance security and control over usability and access within Internet Explorer.

Another rather ugly component of Edge and Windows 10 is how much personal data users will be required to give away to Microsoft. This sort of data sharing and leverage by a platform is nothing new. In the last few years the public has become increasingly aware that most companies mine user data, queries, and clicks. This is a trade off in using a ubiquitous platform with no clear upfront costs. And as users become more desensitized to sharing more information, platform providers like Microsoft will increasingly take what they can get from users to understand more about behavior and what works best for them.  

Fortunately, for Huddle users Huddle works well in all popular browsers, with no change in functionality (unlike with SharePoint 2007 and 2010). The Federal Government space still makes primary use of Internet Explorer, but that is now changing as users have begun demanding access to more popular browsers. 

No one yet knows if Internet Explorer’s successor, Microsoft Edge, will keep the better components of the legacy Web browser or become something completely different. What is for certain, generations to come will grow up without knowing the struggles of surfing the Web with Internet Explorer – it has gone the way of dial up and will soon be nothing more than a barometer of age.

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