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Internet Explorer Roadmap Update

September 9, 2013
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Internet Explorer (IE) is Microsoft's Web browser for Windows (including Windows RT), Windows Server, Windows Phone, and Xbox. IE releases are relevant to organizations because many internal Web applications are written to support a particular IE version. Application compatibility can affect when an organization can deploy a new version of IE or a version of the Windows OS that includes a new version of IE. In addition, compatibility issues may arise with new devices (such as users' personal devices) that come with a version of IE not supported by the organization.

IE Follows Windows OS Versions and Support Lifecycle

New Windows versions and updates typically include the newest version of IE, and while the pace of IE releases has sometimes been more frequent than Windows releases, the support lifecycle of an IE version is the same as the Windows version on which it is available. (See the chart "Supported Internet Explorer Versions by Windows OS".)

IE versions have an availability relationship with Windows 8 and 8.1 that includes the following:

IE10 is included with Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 and is available for Windows 7

IE10 will not be available on Windows 8.1 or Windows Server 2012 R2

IE11 will be included with Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 and is available for Windows 7

IE11 will not be available for Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012, although IE11 will follow the Windows 8 support lifecycle.

Additionally, Windows 8 and 8.1 come with two user interfaces (UIs): the Modern tile-based UI that is optimized for touch and the traditional desktop UI. Many Windows 8 and 8.1 applications, such as IE, come with an application for both UIs. IE uses a single set of underlying code (such as Web methods, commands, loading processes, and back-end data) but exposes a different feature set for each UI. The desktop version focuses on the traditional mouse and keyboard interaction with the menus, favorites list, and address bar at the top of the screen. The Modern version focuses on touch interaction with menus and address bar at the bottom of the screen and changes the favorites list to a horizontal scroll bar of text and images. IT departments should consider support requirements for both versions as Windows 8 or 8.1 are deployed.

Internet Explorer 11 Release

IE11 improves performance, Web standards support, and rendering of older Web sites. It also includes new development and debugging tools and enhances the Modern UI version for use with Windows 8.1. The changes for older site rendering and Web standards support will likely require organizations to thoroughly test compatibility with existing Web applications, especially sites built to support a specific IE version.

IE11 will be included with Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 (both released to manufacturing and in preview) and will become generally available in Oct. 2013. When upgrading existing installations, Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 will automatically replace IE10 with IE11. IE11 will be available for Windows 7 in Dec. 2013, while availability of IE11 on Windows Phone and Xbox has not been announced.

Notable changes in IE11 include the following:

Compatibility changes improve the display of older Web sites. IE11 modifies, remaps, and removes support for some older Web methods and tags to render sites in a fashion similar to other browsers and to conform to World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards. These changes may require organizations to test Web sites and applications thoroughly for compatibility.

Graphic display support for Web Graphics Library (WebGL) and CSS layout and image controls improve speed and browser compatibility. WebGL is used for rendering 2D and 3D graphics without the use of plug-ins by addressing the local graphics processing unit (GPU) directly. This allows for greater GPU acceleration and performance and could eliminate the need to install and support third-party add-ins. CSS layout and image controls (including border images, flexible box layout, and device-fixed positioning) provide greater customization of page layouts and image handling and bring IE11 into line with other browsers, reducing the need to support multiple browsers.

Developer tools, commonly referred to as F12 tools, include new APIs for mouse, pen, and touch support, helping developers create Web content that supports more types of devices. IE11 adds a User-Interface Responsiveness and Memory Tool to evaluate site performance and memory usage in real time to help resolve issues quickly. IE11 also delivers emulation capabilities that allow developers to preview sites in various screen sizes without physically testing on multiple devices, and a location emulation tool simulates how sites will respond from anywhere in the world, helping developers program for a global market and traveling users.

Performance changes focus on speeding up display and navigation of Web sites. Improvements to page loading are achieved through Network Prioritization, a process that optimizes the sequence and loading of page resources. Navigation performance is improved by caching viewed Web pages in the current browsing session, reducing the need to reload pages when a user browses back to previous pages. IE11 can load pages before they are requested, using processes called Prerender and Prefetch, allowing the next page to build while the user is reading the current page. However, a site and the links on the pages must be programmed and deployed with specific code to take advantage of this feature.

UI changes include HTML5 drag-and-drop operations, allowing IE11 to work with newer data-intensive sites. Users can drag data items, such as scanned receipts from File Explorer or documents from an e-mail attachment, onto expense tracking and document management Web sites, providing a more efficient method for uploading data items. The Modern version of IE11 for Windows 8.1 includes improvements such as new touch gestures for navigation and menu control, tools to manage favorites, and support for more open tabs (previously 10, now 100), bringing it into closer parity with the desktop version.

Older Versions Leaving Support

IE6, released in 2001 for Windows XP, will leave Extended support on Apr. 8, 2014, when Windows XP Extended support ends. Companies should evaluate existing Web sites that were implemented to support IE6 and take inventory of clients still running IE6, because continued use of IE6 will bring considerable risk and costs after support ends. Microsoft will not provide security updates for newly discovered vulnerabilities in Windows XP or IE6 after Extended support ends.

Windows XP and IE6 received security fixes over the past year, indicating that there are likely vulnerabilities yet to be discovered and exploited. As typical at end-of-support periods, attackers are expected to build a cache of vulnerabilities that haven't been addressed (a practice known as "bug banking") and propagate malware after support ends when there is no Microsoft-supplied protection from an attack. Organizations that remain on IE6 should consider third-party solutions to address future vulnerabilities.


Internet Explorer and Windows Client support dates are discussed in the chapter "Windows" of the Sept. 2013 Enterprise Software Roadmap.

Internet Explorer is available from windows.microsoft.com/en-us/internet-explorer/download-ie.

Compatibility changes in Internet Explorer 11 are listed at msdn.microsoft.com/library/ie/bg182625.

An Internet Explorer compatibility test tool to evaluate existing Web sites is available at msdn.microsoft.com/library/windows/desktop/ff966512.