Microsoft launch modern.IE – is it too little too late?

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Microsoft launch modern.IE – is it too little too late?


modern.IE is a set of resources and free tools that aims to make testing of different Internet Explorer browsers easier.

This effort made by Microsoft is, on the face of it, a good thing, as developers, project managers and website testers have long had major browser compatibility issues with older browsers such as IE6 and IE7.

Internet Explorer

Of the 5 main Internet Explorer versions (IE6, IE7, IE8, IE9 and IE10), the older browsers are no longer as important to support as they once were.

Internet Explorer 6

Back in 2009, we were talking about whether we should stop supporting IE6 as a way of forcing users to upgrade. This was because IE6 was taking developers so much more time and effort when building websites that still needed to be IE6 compatible.

Thankfully, once Windows 7 was released it did cause enough people to upgrade to newer browsers and so usage of IE6 dropped away.

Internet Explorer 7

Fast forward to 2013 and we’re now looking to stop supporting IE7, as usage of that browser appears to be dropping below the magical 1% market share now.

Internet Explorer 8

So that leaves Internet Explorer 8 as a browser still used by a reasonable large proportion of people that gets developers in a pickle, as it does not have support for HTML5 and CSS3.

Market share for IE8 is hovering at around 9 or 10% in the UK so unfortunately it does still need to be supported.

IE9 and IE10

The newer Internet Explorer browsers provide better support for newer technologies such as HTML5 and CSS3 and, although they are behind the likes of Chrome and Firefox, building sites to be compatible with IE9 and IE10 is more straightforward.

modern.IE – what is it?

What you get with modern.IE is a scanning tool to check web pages for compatibility issues, a free 3 month subscription for Browserstack if you sign up and the ability to set up some virtual machines for testing with older versions of IE in a virtualized environment.

In addition there are some tips on coding to standards and best practice plus the usual push torwards obtaining the new IE10 browser.

Too Little, Too Late

All this is fine, I just wish Microsoft had done it 3 or 4 years ago, as it might have made testing on IE6 and IE7 that bit easier. Now, we have a number of decent browser testing tools at our disposal, including Browserstack but also good tools such as Crossbrowsertesting and Multi-Browser Viewer, which were originally released partly to combat the Internet Explorer testing frustration.

This means that initiatives such as modern.IE don’t really cut it in my view, as the rest of the industry has found ways to test in each Internet Explorer version a long time ago.

Have a look at modern.IE by all means, take the 3 month Browserstack offer, review the 20 tips and run a scan of your web page. If that makes testing websites a bit easier across the IE browsers then I suppose modern.IE has achieved its aim.

What do you think about modern.IE? Let me know in the comments.

Tom Batey
Tom Batey, founder of Testing Web Sites & WebDepend, is a hands on website tester focusing on quality across web, mobile and email.