HTML5, Internet Explorer and automatic updates

One of the problems with HTML5, or development at the cutting edge of the web, has always the need to support a large number of different browsers. Depending on who you ask the numbers will vary slightly but is usually boils down to Internet Explorer being the biggest and Chrome and FireFox each taking quite a big chunk of the stats and the remainder of the browsers filling up the gaps.


So that means that any public facing website should at the very least support the three major browsers, not to bad right?


Turns out that live isn’t quite as good as that. With Chrome and FireFox most users are at or close to the last revision of the browser but with Internet Explorer this isn’t the case. In fact as the chart below shows the majority is still using IE8 with IE9 only accounting for a little over a third of all IE users.



So what the big difference?

There are 2 reasons.

First of all IE9 is only available on Windows Vista and Windows 7 and it turns out there is still a substantial number of people using Windows XP. For all those users Internet Explorer 8 is the latest version of the browser they can use. And that is not going to change when Internet Explorer 10 ships. However that number of XP users isn’t that large.

The second and more important reason is that Microsoft doesn’t automatically update Internet Explorer when a newer version is available. You can download it if you want to but if you don’t explicitly do so nothing happens. And by contrast all recent versions of FireFox and Chrome are self updating, so whenever a new version is available it is downloaded without any explicit user action. The benefit is that with both Chrome and FireFox a web developer wanting to do cutting edge HTML5 stuff can be pretty confident that a user has an up to date browser. Well except with Internet explorer that is Sad smile


Microsoft has seen the update light

Fortunately that won’t be a problem much longer. Recently Microsoft has announced that it will start auto updating Internet Explorer using Windows Update. So no longer are we dependent on users going in and manually doing an update, instead if they don’t take any action they will be automatically upgraded to the last possible version of IE. This means that we should soon see at leas two thirds of all IE users use IE9, and more important for HTML5 developers, a more compliant browser with a much faster JavaScript engine.

Of course IE9 still isn’t perfect because it supports less HTML5 features than both Chrome and FireFox but the fact that the JavaScript engine is much faster makes it much easier when using polyfills to insert missing pieces. And the fast JavaScript engine and more compliant rendering engine is great news for all web developers Smile

And the this update will mean that adoption of IE10 will be a lot faster when it ships later this year.


The auto update doesn’t start worldwide right away. At first it will start in Australia and Brazil only. But when that is done they plan on doing so in more countries around the world.


A big step forwards for Microsoft and a huge step forward for HTML5 developers all over the world Open-mouthed smile





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