Why Do So Many Companies Still Use Internet Explorer?

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.


Comments

    I work as an eLearning developer and have been producing solutions built in Adobe Flash for years. In the last couple of years we've finally made the switch to HTML5 development with most of our clients, yet some refuse to upgrade to anything newer than IE7. So it looks like Flash isn't going anywhere.

    "Why should we spend time upgrading everyone's browser - they're here to work, not surf the internet?"

      *facepalm*

        Spandas Lui - trembre has a point. Many people think that their office and office assets are their own and can do whatever they wish within reason of course. Employees are there to work and not spend hours on Facebook (example only).

        When working at a big company, we developed web sites only on IE that are work related web sites. We didn't have time to change the site to work on Chrome or Firefox or Apple's and it was a waste of money and time to be honest. You can control IE via domain's AD, plus it's easier to only use one Web Browser for updating software on company network. If you are using WSUS, it's there as an option to update IE.

        Companies will normally stick with one browser due to the fact of time and money unless you are developing for public use like Facebook where it needs to be compatible with all browsers and when working in IT, you don't want to be sitting and manually or setting up all computers to update web browsers. Time and Money is all it comes down to, if that company is using public web sites then it's up to that developer to make sure it runs on all browsers. Perfect example is ATO for accountants

          Yeah, there are two issues with this. First off, that management attitude I highlighted - while browsers are valid corporate tools, they can also be the number one source of time-wasting in a business so are taken less seriously. Secondly, in most cases, businesses only fix things that are breaking or are outright broken and browsers are no different. The company I work for just upgraded to IE11, but only because it had to - prior to that, IE9 worked for what it had to so that's what we used.

          Apart from the guys in IT, who all had Chrome...

            Never use Chrome for business or at home, Firefox does the job and doesn't phone home with your search history and web site browsing history like Chrome used to or still does just so Google could improve their searching and make money off Chrome users with ads. That issue when Chrome first came out left a bad taste with me. Edge is good at the moment and will only get better (fingers crossed for it and first signs are good so far)

              Have you had a look in to chrome for enterprise? My company uses it and I'm not in IT so I don't know what the fine details are but there is a lot of control over what users can and can't do and I imagine google sold it as enterprise by letting companies turn off the tracking to some extent. Might be something worth looking into.

      Nice sarcasm, but you raise an interesting point.

      Many of the resources we use legitimately for work purposes are external websites on IP-based or direct login authentication.

      Which then don't render or work properly since we're stuck on IE8 (Win7 Enterprise). More recent versions aren't permitted since the intranet runs a host of legacy web apps that can't/won't be updated. Mostly due to the costs/resources required and some because they are out-of-support.

      So the "solution" has been to provide Chrome too.

    This is one of those things that fills me with rage at my job. There are computers here running IE9. They have to run 9 because some of the software we use hasn't been updated. It hasn't been updated because the business considers the cost too extreme. So we're using obsolete software on obsolete platforms to save money.

      This.

      My previous job advertised my position with a wide ranging GIS database. Turns out it was a CRM (Client Relationship Manager?!?!?!) run through IE9. Was appalling.

      When I installed Chrome without admin (hint: you don't need admin privileges) I had someone ask me if i had "hacked in".

      Reason 431 for going back to my previous job.

    I'm sorry.. but none of those excuses fly. The plethora of ways to solve these problems with back-ends is crazy. It seems more like excuses and we'll stick to what we know as ancient guns more so than anything to me. The money spent on keeping systems up to date far out weighs the cost of potentially getting hacked, no matter how you spin it.

    Work software not working with anything else.
    Work IT desk will not help you if you are running anything else.
    No vendor support if you are using anything else.

    I provide users the choice to use their preferred browser. However we also have a couple of applications that only work on IE argggg.

    We have quite modern apps that simply don't work well with Chrome and Firefox. They have problems with passing on login states, as well as numerous bugs with international support (especially date formatting).
    It would be great if Google or Mozilla were motivated to address such shortcomings which often have years and years of forum threads detailing them.

    So yes IE is not great. But for the rest: pot. kettle.black.

    Last edited 27/08/15 2:06 pm

      I've just this minute had to print a selection of a webpage from a Drupal site. Of Chrome, Firefox and IE, only IE could print the selection properly. (Chrome grossly distorted the controls and Firefox dropped content).

    You missed one of the main reasons : integration with Windows active directory. . Changes to ie settings can be pushed out as group policies. Things like single sign on for trusted domains, proxy settings and even the home page are much simpler to manage in IE. Don't get me wrong- I still hate the older versions. - but I understand why enterprise prefers it.

      Not true.. I've written an entire site which works 100% and interacts with AD for authentication and LDAP integration using Windows servers.. Works flawlessly in IE, Chrome and Firefox. Just create a certificate that AD knows about and signed by the Win CA... done. (and i'm not a web developer)

    Accountability is a major factor, I'm led to understand.

    Yes, it's the default option, and all that, but this is primarily because organisations often have corporate/government accounts with Microsoft for the Windows OS and other software (e.g. Office, SQL Management Studio, etc). There's a built-in level of technical assistance service and accountability that would be sacrificed if employees brought about security concerns by using another browser (and no browser is entirely impervious where security is concerned).

    Internet Explorer was the best browser available at one stage,,,
    I'm trying to think of a time when that was true... and I got nuthin'...

      IE 4.0 ran rings around the bloated Netscape Communicator. Why do all good things eventually become bloated and sucky, Firefox, then Chrome.

        Communicator which tried to do everything sure sucked, but wasn't standalone Navigator still an option? I don't remember. I do remember though that IE 4 included Active Desktop, with Microsoft shoving HTML into places it didn't belong.

        Ironically, Edge may now be the less-bloated browser. It's still a newborn though - we'll see if it porks up once it starts eating solids.

    Tech company I started working for this week is still using XP Professional...

    Last edited 27/08/15 4:09 pm

    You didn't mention one of the biggest advantages of Internet explorer in the enterprise. Group policy and configuring settings.

    I left a big company 5 years ago, they were running IE6 at the time, it was so out of date we could hardly work effectively and I ended up running firefox portable off a USB stick just so I could order parts and stuff, you know, doing my JOB. I go back there recently, they've upgraded, to IE9 and won't budge. So frustrating, but I'll just go back to running a browser from USB and probably risk their security while doing so.

    you totally misread what he said. you can manage IE via gpo, it has nothing to do with the app. (Chrome can be managed also this way). Firefox however needs a totally different mechanism to manage. Again this has nothing to do about can a web site be AD integrated, it has to do with managing the browser itself.

    We got this thing called Infra which only runs on IE8 and the company was bought out so is in maintenance mode for years. But soon we will be using something else.
    The answer is to run what you have to in a sandbox on your preferred environment.

    Last edited 28/08/15 3:20 am

    The problem is less internet explorer, and more old arse outdated internet explorer.

    Mainly as certain sites of ours just work properly (sharepoint and IE seem to work better than chrome not sure why though).

    Although in honesty i would much prefer everyone use Chrome simply so i don't have to use IE on my computer for crappy 5 min jobs.

    As someone who has designed many SOE's and done standardisation projects, the real answer is control. With IE and the native MS Tools (group policy, wmi, wpad) these work. This means your fleets are in a known, standard, controlled state. this allows for easier troubleshooting and management of these, meaning less time and resources from a bottom line. It has nothing to do with performance, and everything to do with the core ms infrastrcuture (OWA, SP, TFS, CMS) these web consoles all work well and the management of IE in the enterprise. Until the other browsers get these tools in, stable and have actual enterprise support models, they wont get a foot hold in the enterprise.

    we moved to Chrome as the default browser but gave had to move back to IE because Chrome dropped support for NPAPI which means it doesn't work for corporate applications including Citrix. Also you can do more granular control of Flash on IE.

    There is some very valid history as to why IE became so entrenched in business.
    Back before the end of last century, browser standards were a desirable idea, but only IE and Netscape were really in the race, with both adding proprietary extras all over the place.
    The main problem was that only IE was offering the sorts of extras that actually helped businesses design robust browser-based line-of-business (LOB) and business-to-business (B2B)applications.
    When I was developing browser-based functionality, I started out trying to cater to both, but quickly decided to standardise upon IE, just because it was full-featured enough to actually use for serious stuff. I didn't want to spend most of my time writing javascript to backfill functionality into Netscape, especially since it could be undermined with the next version.
    This was around the time of IE 5 and 5.5. By the time 6 came around, enterprises were firmly reliant upon IE, as Netscape had just fallen away.
    Now, IE6 was heavily tied to XP, and it was really the heavy reliance of enterprises upon the idiosychrasies of IE, and the consequent prospect of huge time and money layouts to modernise their dependent apps, that they stayed with XP for as long as they could. An OS upgrade from XP would have been relatively trivial without having to consider the rampant IE dependencies.
    Now, a lot of developers from more recent years have bemoaned the legacy of IE6, but without it, browser development, especially in enterprises, may have been a much lower key affair. It cemented web technologies as a key to business operations.
    Many of these recent developers have had the advantage of standards that were actually being designed to, and plenty of browser competition, but almost totally lacking any understanding of how and why history has brought us to this point, which is to be expected if they weren't working at the coalface at the time.

    Sorry, coming late to the party because this article was linked today in a new article. Commenting anyway because I'm surprised the prior comment is the only mention of the matter.

    @phoniclynx I think what Intranetdev was referring to by "integration" was less about sites interacting with local AD and more about controlling what users can do with their browsers.

    Take proxy settings for example; A key issue with corporate environments employing internet proxies is ensuring users cannot find a way around said proxies. Active Directory Group Policies allow administrators to mass-deploy proxy server settings and editing locks for those settings. Such Active Directory Group Policies are actually applied to the system proxy settings, which Internet Explorer adheres to. I believe Chrome does too, but am not certain. Firefox on the other hand allows for inheriting the system proxy settings, but any other proxy settings are managed through Firefox itself & stored separate to the system settings.

    Firefox does not integrate with AD in the same way as IE (and, perceptively, Chrome, albeit to a certain extent) does.

    That being said, there are third party providers of AD integration products for Firefox, which introduces another layer of administration for a given IT team - something that is relevant in this discussion given the author's mention of "Bob"'s wariness of additional software support requirements.

    Going back to the point, having full control over IE via AD GPO's is surely one of the main reasons IE remains the primary browser in the corporate world.

Join the discussion!