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Microsoft Expanding IE 11 Backward Compatibility Options

Microsoft plans to expand the backward compatibility options enabled by the Enterprise Mode feature in Internet Explorer 11, starting next month.

Enterprise Mode is a feature introduced with IE 11 that provides IE 8 emulation for the older Web apps and Web sites that may be maintained by organizations. Sometimes, organizations may have difficulty switching to Microsoft's newer operating systems and browser releases because of an inability to move away from their custom Web apps or intranet sites that depend on older IE technologies.

The current release of IE 11 with Enterprise Mode just supports IE 8 emulation, but Microsoft plans to expand its capability to support "all document modes." This enhanced Enterprise Mode for IE 11 will permit organizations to "force Web apps to render in any document mode -- including IE10, IE9, IE8, IE7, and IE 5 -- without changing a single line of code on the Web site," Microsoft's announcement stated.

Further details will be coming next month, Microsoft promised.

Microsoft also announced a new Enterprise Site Discovery Toolkit earlier this month. This toolkit works in conjunction with IE 11's Enterprise Mode, helping organizations to discover the sites that end users visit and the troubles they may be experiencing. Microsoft sees the toolkit as helping organizations avoid the time and expense of performing Web app compatibility testing because IT pros can see what end users are using and prioritize any needed remediation efforts.

The Enterprise Site Discovery Toolkit reports a number of browsing session details in the form of Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) class information. The data that get collected become available for querying via System Center Configuration Manager or other management solutions. The kinds of details tracked by the tool include the URLs visited by end users, the ActiveX controls and document modes used, hang and crash counts, failures such 404 messages, and IE zone settings used.

Organizations have to turn on support for the toolkit in IE in order to collect the data, and it doesn't collect information from InPrivate browsing sessions. Users don't get any notification that their browsing activity is being tracked, though, so Microsoft recommends consulting local laws before turning it on.

In addition to the Enterprise Site Discovery Toolkit, which provides end user stats, Microsoft has an Enterprise Mode Site List Manager tool. This tool is just designed to make it easier for IT pros to push multiple site URLs with compatibility issues into Enterprise Mode lists.

Microsoft's announcement of expanded support for Enterprise Mode also included a general call for organizations to move to IE 11, claiming that doing so will help "ease migrations to Windows 10." Microsoft has said that Windows 10, currently under development, will ship sometime in 2015.

Microsoft also promised that it is committed to "improve support for modern standards and legacy compatibility" with its future IE releases. Specifically, Enterprise Mode will be supported through Jan. 14, 2020, Microsoft's announcement stated.

The announcement also pointed to the Jan. 12, 2016 end-of-support date for older IE browsers. It's an accelerated IE product lifecycle support timeline that breaks from Microsoft's older convention of supporting IE for the life of the associated Windows operating system. For instance, Windows 7 Service Pack 1 users will have to move to IE 11 or the latest supported browser by Jan. 12, 2016, instead of Jan. 14, 2020, which is the extended support end date for Windows 7 SP1. Failing to do so entails the risks of running an unsupported browser that won't get security fixes from Microsoft.

In addition to urging organizations to move to IE 11, Microsoft is recommending that organizations turn on automatic updating for IE, which will better ensure browser security.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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