Here’s an early present for you: Microsoft has announced that Internet Explorer users will receive automatic updates from January 2012.
The program will be launched in Australia and Brazil for all users who have Windows Update enabled. Other locales will be added over the coming months. Windows XP users will receive IE8 while Vista and 7 users will receive IE9. It’s the final nail in the IE6 and IE7 coffins.
We’ve been waiting a long time but Microsoft has finally admitted the web is better and safer when people run the most up-to-date version of their preferred browsing application. IE is the last mainstream browser to automatically update — and it’s the one which needed it most!
Automatic updates always posed a problem for Microsoft. Business users operating Windows and IE couldn’t risk introducing an untested browser into the organization which could potentially break intranet applications. This problem was exacerbated by Microsoft’s sedate progress — particularly the five year gap between IE6 and IE7. The fairly radical IE7 update broke many systems which had been specifically developed for IE6. Fortunately, browser development is more rapid (but could be better) and many of IE’s fundamental problems have been fixed.
If necessary, individuals and organizations can opt-out from the update process:
- Those who previously declined installation of IE8 or IE9 through Windows Update will not be automatically updated.
- Microsoft provide IE8 and IE9 Automatic Update Blocker toolkits. Versions are available for individuals and organizations but I really don’t want to publicize the links. If you need the download, please find it yourself!
Those who disable Windows Update or use illegitimate copies of the OS won’t receive the update either. Security updates for all supported browsers — regardless of version — will continue to be delivered as before.
While web developers want users to have the latest and greatest technologies, there will almost certainly be a backlash from some sectors. Therefore, from IE10, the browser will include an opt-out setting to disable automatic updates. Mozilla intends to offer a similar option in Firefox when silent updates are implemented. Personally, I think that’s a good decision which will pacify large organizations’ reluctance for regular updates.
Well done Microsoft; you’ve made me happy today. Now if only you could do something for XP users who are stuck with IE8 — the last remaining ‘modern’ browser without HTML5 support…
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.