Google will drop support for Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) for its online apps and services in mid-November, effectively ending support for many users of Windows XP.
"Internet Explorer 10 launches on 10/26/2012, and as a result, we will discontinue support for Internet Explorer 8 shortly afterwards, on 11/15/2012," the company wrote on a blog post. "After this date, users accessing Google Apps services using Internet Explorer 8 will see a message recommending that they upgrade their browser."
[ Get ready for Windows 8 with the Windows 8 Deep Dive PDF special report, which explains the new direction for Windows, the Metro interface for tablet and desktop apps, the transition from Windows 7, and more. | Stay atop key Microsoft technologies in our Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]
Because IE8 is the newest Microsoft browser that runs on Windows XP, and because Google had previously abandoned IE7 and IE6 -- the other versions that run on XP -- the move significantly impacts Windows XP users locked into Internet Explorer by corporate or organization policies.
Neither IE9, which Microsoft launched in March 2011, or IE10, which will debut alongside Windows 8 in late October, runs on Windows XP.
After Nov. 15, users running IE8 may have trouble with some features in Google Apps. And if past practice is any clue, other sites and services, including Gmail and Google Calendar, may also be affected. At some point, those apps may stop working entirely in IE8.
This wasn't the first time that Google has warned users to upgrade to a newer browser. In July 2011, the company said it would dump IE7 from its list of supported browsers; in January 2010, it announced it would no longer support IE6, Microsoft's 2001 browser.
Google's policy is to support only the current version of a browser, and its immediate predecessor. Giving up on IE8, however, is markedly different than dumping IE7. Last year, when Google said it would stop supporting IE7, that edition accounted for just 7 percent of all browsers used worldwide, according to Web analytics firm Net Applications. IE8, on the other hand, was the most widely-used browser edition in the world last month, with a usage share of 25 percent. Of those who ran one version or another of IE, nearly half, or 47 percent, ran IE8 in August.
Windows XP faces its own end-of-life cutoff; Microsoft will serve users with that operating system's final security update in April 2014. But like IE8, Windows XP remains a major presence. Last month, Net Applications measured XP's global usage share at 42.5 percent, just behind the three-year-old Windows 7's 42.8 percent.
Google is the first major online software maker to drop 2009's IE8 from a support list. Microsoft, for instance, has committed to supporting IE8 on Windows 7 until 2020.
IE8 users, particularly those running Windows XP, can switch to another browser, including the most recent versions of Mozilla's Firefox, Google's own Chrome or Opera Software's Opera, to run Google Apps.
The end-of-support plan for Google Apps will not disrupt access to its search site using older browsers.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about Web apps in Computerworld's Web Apps Topic Center.