It’s hard for me (or perhaps any web designer) to say but IE has certainly come a long way since IE6. There was once a time when uttering the words ‘Internet Explorer’ would send a chill down any developers spine. In recent years things have gotten better though, and pretty soon IE11 will be coming out. What should we expect? Is it actually a good browser?

Evergreen

It’s been a while now since Microsoft announced IE would join the ranks of so called evergreen browsers, i.e. (haha, hilarious) browsers that automatically update, and we definitely have seen that happening with the rapid switch from IE9 to IE10. It means we as developers no longer have to worry about the lingering threat of another Internet Explorer with shoddy support for CSS and HTML.

However, whereas Chrome and Firefox tend to see rapid uptakes of new versions within a month, the IE cycle seems a bit slower with IE9 taking since February to drop down a significant amount to still just about 5% of the market according to data on StatCounter.

The reason this is (and the reason automatic updates from Microsoft has been a bit of a hoax) is because IE10 is not supported on Vista or XP. So effectively (and quite outrageously) we as web developers have to wait until XP and Vista die off before we can be totally free of IE9. This is a pretty common feature of Internet Explorer versions so don’t expect it to disappear in the future.

Support

So the big thing we’re worried about is support. IE has been going to great lengths to declare itself as one of the best browsers out there in advertising campaigns but do the stats actually weigh up? Well, yes, actually. IE11 (according to Can I Use..) will support 72% of all specifications (including unofficial). This is lower than the current version of Safari by 1%, and lower than the current version of Chrome by 16%. The improvement is about 5% better support from the IE10.

What IE11 will support

This list is not all inclusive but it definitely includes most of the main things that you will notice when IE11 hits the proverbial internet shelves.

  • Border Images
  • Full Screen API
  • 3D Graphics via WebGL and Javascript
  • SPDY Networking Protocol
  • Mutation Observer – way to observe changes in the DOM
  • Support for vmax and vmin units (vh and vw introduced in IE9
  • Device Orientation Events (supposedly buggy)
  • Touch Based Drag and Drop HTML5 Events (not clear if only touch based
  • Attribute ‘aria-haspopup’ for hover effects activating on first touch on mobile devices
  • Phone Number Detection

Is that enough?

Well, yes and no. It seems like a lot of things on the surface but you have to remember some other stuff too. The IE developer cycle is super long. IE10 came out a year ago. Chrome and Firefox releases happen all the time, and they’re open source. So IE11 will have all this new stuff but by the time IE12 comes out, Chrome and Firefox will be lightyears ahead again, and so the cycle continues. It seems like we can’t shake the burden of IE just yet, but fortunately market share for IE is decreasing, so it will become less of a burden in the future.

Also, 72% support for all major specs ain’t so bad for Internet Explorer, so we can hope IE will become less troublesome in the future.