IE Is Dead, Long Live IE: Explorer Compatibility in Edge Browser

Think everyone is using Google Chrome? NetMarketshare has it at over 69%, which means that two out of every three computers use Chrome as their browser. As such, almost a third of all computers use some other web browser. Perhaps it's Mozilla's Firefox or Apple's Safari. It might be Microsoft Edge or even their Internet Explorer.

As I mentioned in "A Brave (Browser) New World," just two decades ago Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) was ubiquitous. In 2002, the Explorer web browser held 96% of the market, while Mozilla's and Opera's browsers had just 1% each![1] Two decades later, what it did to Netscape Navigator—which owned 90% of the market in its time—happened to IE.

A seemingly infinite amount of the symbols for and name of Internet Explorer, which gives us the feeling of its omnipresence in 2002.
Figure 1. Like this image, IE used to be everywhere!

Microsoft announced, "Internet Explorer 11 desktop application will be retired and go out of support on June 15, 2022." Many people are celebrating Microsoft "finally getting rid of its most-hated product." However, what does this mean for those of us who require IE for work?

In this piece, we discuss IE's retirement and our options when we need this archaic software.

The Beginning of the End

While IE dominated the industry being on nearly every computer, it has fallen to only 5% nowadays. Even Microsoft wants to get rid of IE in favor of its Edge browser. At the end of 2020, Microsoft began phasing IE out of its infrastructure. Back in November, Microsoft Teams no longer supported IE. They also announced that as of this upcoming August, Microsoft 365 will no longer support IE.

But with so many amazing, modern browsers to choose from, why does anyone still use IE? Healthcare, manufacturing, and governments often require software requiring IE to function, according to Professor Byron Williams and Researcher Chester Wisniewski.

So, what's the problem if these industries keep using IE after Microsoft no longer supports it? Right now, Microsoft offers security updates for IE only once a month. Compare that to Edge, which receives "security patches for immediate vulnerabilities within days, if not hours." Once IE is no longer supported, Microsoft won't patch its vulnerabilities at all. No security patches mean IE is wide-open to malware such as ransomware.

How to enable Internet Explorer Compatibility in Edge

While IE is going away, its ghost will haunt the Edge browser for years to come. Literally, as there is an "Internet Explorer compatibility" option in Edge. This feature is how companies can continue using legacy software that requires IE—and remain protected from malware. And Microsoft says that they will maintain this option in Edge until 2029!

Here's how to turn this feature on in Edge:

  1. Open Edge
  2. Click on the three dots, or ellipses, "Settings and more" button in the upper left corner
    1. Alternatively, just press Alt+F
  3. Click "Settings"
  4. Click on "Default browser" on the left menu
  5. Move the slider to the right (it turns blue) on "Allow sites to be reloaded in Internet Explorer mode"

A screenshot of the settings to allow Microsoft Edge to allow sites to be reloaded in Internet Explorer mode.
Figure 2. The Internet Explorer compatibility options in Microsoft's Edge Browser.

That's it! Edge will now be your new Internet Explorer. And Microsoft says that they will maintain this option in Edge until 2029! In the meantime, if it doesn't work, contact Microsoft as they promise to fix the issue "at no additional cost."

Take Away (Just like They Took My IE Away …)

No matter what, it is the end of an era. There was something very metaphorical about those early browsers, Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer. We navigated the Netscape in the '90s and explored the Internet in the 2000s. We braved the new world through these browsers, feeling we could boldly go where no one had gone before.

Compare that to today: Safari evokes a little of this sentiment. And Brave implies the feeling that we get when shielded with this browser. But the dominant three are (in order) Chrome, Edge, and Firefox, each of which sound sleek but are meaningless.

As an IT professional, I am glad we have evolved past IE. I hope that with this announcement, vendors update their software to use modern browsers. But the romantic in me misses the iconic blue "e" that opened up the world to us.




[1] For those keeping track at home, the remaining 2% was mostly held by the now-defunct Netscape.