Microsoft this week told the remaining users of Internet Explorer 10 (IE10) that it would cut off support years earlier than promised, saying it would end security updates for the browser in January 2020.
IE11 will replace IE10 on systems running Windows Server 2012.
"Starting in the spring of 2019, commercial customers running Windows Server 2012 and Windows Embedded 8 Standard can begin using IE11 in their test environments or pilot rings," wrote Suchithra Gopinath, a Microsoft program manager, in a Jan. 28 post to a company blog. "You will have until January 2020 to complete the transition from IE10 to IE11. After this, we will not release any security or non-security updates, free or paid assisted support options, or online technical content changes for IE10."
IE10 was supposed to receive security updates until Oct. 10, 2023, the retirement date for Windows Server 2012. That support had been promised after Microsoft forced customers to upgrade to the latest version of IE for their operating system, an order that meant most had to adopt IE11 or migrate to a rival browser. The mandate ended IE8's support four years before its time and IE10's seven years early on OSes including Windows 7 and Windows 8.
The only non-embedded operating system allowed to run IE10 while still receiving updates was Windows Server 2012. Gopinath's announcement effectively culled three more years from IE10's once-pledged support on Windows Server 2012.
She cited "(a) shift to a faster, more secure browsing experience" as the reason for the abandon-IE10 decision and added that "it will also allow you to reduce the number of Internet Explorer versions you support in your environment."
The latter was as likely a reason for Microsoft's command as any. The Redmond, Wash. developer had long ago designated Internet Explorer a has-been, continuing to support it solely as a legacy application for commercial customers who were stuck on aged-if-not-obsolete web apps and intranet sites designed for IE during its heyday. Dumping it will remove a browser from Microsoft's list of responsibilities as well as for enterprise customers.
To be fair, losing IE10 won't be a shock to the web: According to analytics vendor Net Applications, the browser accounted for just four-tenths of a percent of all user share in December 2019. (It's doubtful that an appreciable amount of that 0.4% share came from Windows Server 2012; much more likely, the bulk of the remaining IE10 share ran unsupported on older client OSes.)
Microsoft set the end date for IE10 support on Server 2012 and Windows 8 Embedded as Jan. 31, 2020, or one year from today. Before then, customers must replace it with IE11, which can be downloaded from the Microsoft Update Catalog. Later this year, Gopinath said, an IE10-to-IE11 upgrade will be offered via Windows Update and the Windows Server Update Services (WSUS).
Earlier this month, Computerworld predicted that Microsoft would call an end to all IE support at some point and stop delivering security updates forever, which is what it has vowed. The IE10 announcement amounted to a consolidation of support and provided yet another example of the company reneging on previous commitments.
But Computerworld's contention that the perfect time for Microsoft to end IE support would be January 2020 should now be suspect if an operating system with three years of life left -- Server 2012 -- is supposed to run IE11 until 2023 after just ditching IE10. If Microsoft had really been thinking of forsaking IE in a year, it would have dispensed with this latest cut in support and just ended things in January 2020 by replacing IE on Server 2012 with the upcoming "full-Chromium" Edge.