IE users in no rush to discard old versions despite Microsoft's support-stoppage mandate

Nearly 70 percent of current IE users must upgrade to a newer IE -- or switch browsers -- in the next 16 months, before support will end

Users of Internet Explorer (IE) were in no hurry last month to discard older versions, even after Microsoft told them that their browsers will drop off the support list in early 2016.

In a surprise announcement on Aug. 7, Microsoft said that after Jan. 12, 2016, it would support IE9 only on Windows Vista, IE10 only on Windows Server 2012, and only IE11 on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

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IE7 and IE8 will drop off support completely, but others on certain editions of Windows -- like IE10 on Windows 7 -- will also get the patch axe.

The browsers will continue working, but Microsoft will halt technical support and stop serving security updates for the banned versions. Because of the large number of critical vulnerabilities Microsoft patches in its browser -- 110 in the last three months -- it will be extremely risky running an unsupported version.

But Microsoft's mandate did little to change the user share of the various versions of IE last month as measured by metrics vendor Net Applications.

IE9 actually gained ground. The browser, which is the newest able to run on Vista, added two-tenths of a percentage point to its user share to average 9.2 percent for August. But because Vista currently powers just 3 percent of all Windows computers, a majority of IE9 runs on Windows 7, which must dispense with the 2011 browser in under a year and a half.

IE8 will be an even bigger problem. The browser, which is the default for many of the Windows XP PCs still in operation, also was adopted by large numbers of businesses as the standard for Windows 7. That showed in Net Applications' statistics: IE8 accounted for 21.4 percent of all browsers last month, down just two-tenths of a percentage point, and 36.6 percent of all copies of Internet Explorer.

(The difference between the numbers for all browsers and only IE was because Internet Explorer has a 58.5 percent share of the browser space, not 100 percent.)

IE6 and IE7 also declined last month, but by minuscule amounts of two-tenths of a point and less than half of one-tenth of a point, respectively. IE6, although no longer supported on Windows XP, is still patched on Windows Server 2003, which is slated for retirement in July 2015.

IE10 barely moved, too: Its user share dropped by less than one-tenth of a point to 6.2 percent of all browsers, and to 10.6 percent of all copies of IE.

The only bright spot was 2013's IE11, which gained about eight-tenths of a percentage point to average 17.6 percent of all browsers, 30 percent of all copies of IE.

By the numbers, Microsoft's customers will have a very hard time scrubbing out-of-date versions of IE by 2016. If IE8 was to magically disappear -- which it will not -- it would have to shed 1.3 percentage points each month. That would represent an increase of more than 2,000 percent from its six-month average decline.

Likewise, IE9 will have to be aggressively suppressed. Even if every copy of Vista runs IE9 -- certainly not the case -- Windows 7 PCs must increase their IE9 disposal rate by 630 percent to make the monthly quota towards zero.

Overall, the numbers are daunting: Microsoft has taken the unprecedented step of demanding that nearly 70 percent of its current IE user base migrate to a newer browser, and do so, for enterprises at least, in a very short time.

Little wonder, then, that Gartner analyst Michael Silver last month said, "This is huge" when asked to characterize Microsoft's announcement.

Net Applications calculates user share by mining data from the approximately 160 million unique visitors each month who browse to the sites it monitors for customers.

This story, "IE users in no rush to discard old versions despite Microsoft's support-stoppage mandate" was originally published by Computerworld.

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