I remember the sheer contempt that coursed through my body when I had to use Internet Explorer to access the work intranet in one of my previous jobs. I, like so many others out there, hate Microsoft's former browser with a passion. So why do our employers still insist on ramming it down our throats? Let's talk about that.
There's no denying that many organisations are still forcing workers to use Microsoft's notorious Internet Explorer browsers to access enterprise systems and other functions like the office intranet. Microsoft knows that people hate Internet Explorer, which is why it brought out Edge with its new Windows 10 operating system. Unfortunately, Internet Explorer is still out there, lurking in the background, waiting to be used by the unfortunate workers who have no other choice.
To capture my disdain for this archaic browser, please excuse me for going all teenage "mean girl" here: I, like, totally hate Internet Explorer. Like, seriously, nobody likes it. Like, there are so many good browsers out there that can, like, do so much more. So, Earth to businesses: Stop trying to make Internet Explorer happen. It's not going to happen!
Now I've got that off my chest, let's dive into why companies stick with Internet Explorer.
A personal trip down memory lane
I decided to talk to the IT manager at my former workplace which inspired this article, who did not wish to be named. For now, we can refer to him as 'Bob'.
"Back in the day, our in-house development team decided to make the intranet work on just one browser, and they picked Internet Explorer because it's the default browser that comes with all Microsoft machines," he told Lifehacker Australia. "Yes, we can change this but it's about the cost and manpower involved in supporting multiple browsers. There are also some proprietary plug-ins from Microsoft like Silverlight that doesn't work well with other browsers."
Another hurdle that Bob pointed to was the fact that there are so many browsers in the market and the company just can't support them all. You can argue that organisations can just take the plunge and modernise apps using programming tools like HTML5 and CSS that adapts to different browsers and devices. But earlier versions of Internet Explorer don't support HTML5, resulting in performance issues. The newer Internet Explorers like 9 and 10, which do support HTML5, are not backwards compatible with older Windows operating systems that many companies still use. Boo.
Time and money (lots of it)
Another big problem is, again cost and manpower. Enterprise legacy systems are so interconnected it really would require a huge amount of time and money to make any changes. For some organisations it nigh on impossible to commit to this just so its workers can stop whinging about IE, according to Phil Hassey, CEO at capitoIT, a technology advisory firm.
"There are still plenty of companies using legacy Microsoft frameworks and using earlier versions of Internet Explore such as IE 8. I was in an enterprise the other day and it was still running Windows XP," he told Lifehacker Australia. "For organisations that have been on Internet Explorer for generations they think "Why change it now?". There is an inherent conservatism in technology investments because they need to make those investments pay off."
It's not just as simple as paying to upgrade compatibility of an app with newer browsers. As mentioned, legacy systems are often overlapped. The enterprise resource management (ERP) system might be tied to the customer relationship management (CRM) tool. If you take one offline for upgrading, it could result in a domino effect that is too much for organisations to handle, according to Hassey.
It's not just in-house apps that are lagging behind. Hassey noted that there are still commercial enterprise offerings that work best on Internet Explorer.
"There are some online meeting apps that barely run on Chrome or Safari, despite the large marketshare both those browsers have, and that shows the enterprise apps ecosystem has yet to catch up to modern times," he said.
To be fair, browsers that are popular today may not be in vogue later down the track. Internet Explorer was the best browser available at one stage and look how it has fallen from its lofty domain. Even if companies do support a variety of browsers, there's no guaranee they'll be here to stay and all that effort would have gone to waste.
But what about the plethora of security flaws with Internet Explorer? Negligible, according to Hassey.
"There have always been security concerns with Internet Explorer and Microsoft offerings in general. It's the first thing hackers attack because it's the most popular," he said. "Security is a bit of an issue but that's the trade off and organisations expect Microsoft and other third-party service providers to be able to manage those issues. Everything is vulnerable in this day and age anyway."
But enterprise's obstinate commitment to Internet Explorer could be contributing to the rise of Shadow IT; that is, the use of systems and services by employees that are not officially approved of by in-house IT departments. We highlighted the dangers of Shadow IT in a previous article and talked about how businesses can manage this problem.
Listening to the employees is a crucial part to combating Shadow IT, and if your workers are constantly moaning about how they don't enjoy using Internet Explorer, it's worth hearing their gripes. Investing in changing the technology in the business to match the desires of employees could help boost morale in the organisation, increase productivity and benefit the company in the long-run. And that's something worth investing in.