January 02, 2014 - Comments Off on How one check box might change the internet forever

How one check box might change the internet forever

The other day I switched on my laptop and received a welcome surprise: it had installed Internet Explorer 11.

“Internet Explorer” are usually two words that drive fear into the hearts of developers around the world, though thankfully that fear seems to be quickly disappearing.

Speak to any developer for even a small amount of time (seriously talk to us, we aren’t that bad ;)) and the topic of IE6 will rear its ugly head soon enough. This browser – released in 2001 – has hung around for years and has been a problem for developers as other more modern browsers added in new features which it did not support. Ground-breaking at its time of release, it now creaks and groans under the heaving load of the ever increasingly complicated websites we now craft. IE6 is not to blame, Microsoft are.

It took Microsoft five years to update IE6 and most people didn’t bother to update, or even know there was a new version to update to! Bill Gates’ behemoth moved its key teams off IE and onto the .NET project so the lack of updates continued for years.  Even when Microsoft started to take notice and released IE8 and IE9, a large number of people stuck with IE6, whether due to workplace IT policy or a reluctance to update something that still “worked”.

Thankfully two other contenders to the browser throne appeared on the market, Firefox and Chrome. After years of making a small inroad into the IE crown, Firefox was now well established but mainly still used by developers, and those who actively sought a better browser. We needed a household name to come along and shake things up; thankfully Google stepped up to the plate. Google Chrome launched and, after a shaky start, people started to take notice.

One of those to take notice was Microsoft now they had one of the Internet’s largest players going against them in a market they had always dominated. Chrome was faster, safer, had more features and more importantly, it was being updated a rapid pace. Now don’t get me wrong, Firefox had also been challenging IE for a number of years before Chrome even existed, but unfortunately they just didn’t have the money or the market presence that Google has.

The release of Chrome meant Microsoft had to up their game and start taking the IE project seriously again. They released IE-9 to try and stem the flow of people moving to Chrome, but it didn’t help; Chrome’s adoption rate continued to accelerate.

With the launch of a major new version of their operating system, Windows 8, also came IE10. The release of IE10, the Internet’s most recognisable browser took a giant leap forward, fixing many of the issues that have caused developers countless hours of pain and greatly reducing the amount of profanities hurled at Bill Gates and company by dev teams around the world!

As well as being a much better browser than its predecessor, IE10 brought with it a major change that had developers rejoicing; it was the first version of IE to automatically update (via Windows Updates).

A small innocuous checkbox within the ‘about dialog’ box simply saying “Install new versions automatically” might just be the saviour of IE and bring an end to the darker days it has gone through. This small pre-filled check box means that we will no longer be stuck supporting 5+ year old versions of a browser.

This simple option means that Microsoft now have the ability to add new features, patch problems and improve their browser with ease, and without worrying customers. New releases will be automatically installed without the user having to take any action in the same way as Chrome and Firefox have been doing for a long time.

With Windows XP coming to the end of its life next year, Windows 7 and 8 will soon see a massive increase in uptake, and this will mean we can start leaving old browsers behind and build a web based on fast, secure and modern technologies.