Microsoft's office productivity applications will stop working with Internet Explorer in 2021, another step toward obscurity for the once-dominant browser.
The company announced this month that it would end IE 11 support for its Microsoft 365 web apps. Teams will be the first to go, as it will stop working with the browser on Nov. 30. The remaining 365 apps and services will stop supporting IE 11 on Aug. 17, 2021.
In the announcement, Microsoft said users' IE 11 apps would continue working. Also, the company would send browser security updates for the lifecycle of Windows 10. Nonetheless, this is a sign that the end is near for the product, and industry observers said users should prepare to work with other browsers.
Phasing out Internet Explorer
The Internet Explorer brand has been fading for some time. Microsoft sought to replace it with Edge in 2015, but the new browser did not capture a significant slice of the market. In January, Microsoft tried to revitalize Edge with a rebuild based on open-source Chromium code developed by Google and used in its Chrome browser. Microsoft plans to stop supporting the legacy version of Edge next year.
Internet Explorer has lost relevance over the years. While it had a market share of around 90% in the early 2000s, IE 11 today constitutes about 1.28% of browser usage, according to StatCounter. Chrome dominates all browsers at 65.89% of the market, with Apple Safari in second place, with 16.65%.
Preparing for a transition
While IE 11 is not widely used, businesses still rely on the browser to run legacy applications that get essential tasks done. Because the original developers no longer update the applications, they often require old hardware or software to run.
"It's often far cheaper and easier, albeit riskier, to stay on older systems until the last responsible moment," said Dion Hinchcliffe, an analyst at Constellation Research.
Businesses that still need IE 11 should start looking for alternatives, said William Warren, the owner of Maryland-based IT services company Emmanuel Technology Consulting.
"It's about time for IE to die," he said.
Warren said he advises clients to use Firefox or Chrome. He said he prefers Firefox, claiming it runs more smoothly and handles privacy better than the Google browser. Chrome has drawn criticism for allowing cookies to track a user's browsing behavior.
Daniel Beato, director of technology at New Jersey IT consulting firm TNTMAX, advises clients reliant on Internet Explorer to update their application, website or system to support all browsers. By doing so, they will be protected when a browser becomes obsolete.