Microsoft Internet Explorer is one of the most established and popular web browsers, with more than one in five people globally choosing it to surf their favourite sites. While the software is no strange to updates and developments, Microsoft has announced one of the biggest changes in its setup to date which will come into effect from January 2012.
From next month, Internet Explorer (IE) will introduce automatic browser upgrades across PCs operating Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. According to the official Microsoft’s Ryan Gavin, users will automatically be upgraded to latest version of IE available for their systems, “to make sure that Windows customers have the most up-to-date and safest browsing experience possible”.
Why is Microsoft introducing automatic updates?
Currently, Microsoft issues Internet Explorer software changes on an opt-in basis, through the Windows Update service. This, however, means that many users are running old versions of the browser – after all, everyone is guilty of ignoring notifications now and then.
While some updates are introduced for aesthetic purposes or to make navigation easier, many are developed as patches to security vulnerabilities that have been identified. As a result, previous releases could leave users’ systems open to abuse. On the firm’s official blog, Gavin explained: “We want to make updating to the best protection possible as fast and simple as we can for Windows customers.” To achieve this, updates will be forcibly patched onto browsers from now on.
What versions of Windows will automatic updates be applied to?
All PC users running Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 will receive automatic updates for IE. Older Microsoft operating systems – including Windows 98 and Windows 2000 – will not be affected, as they are not capable of running the newer incarnations of IE. Windows XP users will be upgraded to IE8, while Windows Vista and Windows 7 users will be given IE9 – the most recent release.
How will the changes affect IE6 and IE7 usage?
IE6 was introduced in 2001 on Windows XP and can still be operated with the Service Pack 3 version of that operating. However, Microsoft no longer updates IE6 and has officially declared it “time to say goodbye” to the iconic software version, as it is incapable of running more developed coding.
IE7 was released in 2006 and is still available for download on operating systems up to and including Vista and Windows Server 2008.
Windows XP users who still use IE6 and IE7 will be upgraded to IE8, meaning usage will drop significantly. However, if customers have opted not to upgrade previously, they will not be subject to an automatic upgrade.
How will the changes be rolled out?
From January, customers in Australia and Brazil who have turned on automatic updating via Windows Update will receive the new upgrading system. It will then gradually be extended to include users in other territories.
Microsoft says it recognises that businesses and organisations may have reasons for introducing browser updates at their own pace and, alongside the planned rollout, have introduced the IE8 and IE9 Automatic Update Blocker toolkits. In addition, all customers can uninstall updates retrospectively.