IE8 is back from the dead

Ben Moss.
January 13, 2016
IE8 is back from the dead.
Some site owners may well have been surprised this morning, when checking their analytics, to discover that customers are still visiting them using Internet Explorer. Despite the fact that yesterday Microsoft ended support for any version of IE older than 11—Microsoft will not be providing updates and security patches for them—IE8, 9 and 10 have not been ‘switched off’. The decline of Internet Explorer has long been documented as the world switched from IE to Chrome, but reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. According to caniuse.com the most up to date stats for the browsers Microsoft is disowning are: IE10, 0.87% global usage; IE9, 0.91% global usage; IE8 1.18% global usage; IE7, 0.05% global usage. Surprisingly, that credits IE8 with more users than the two subsequent versions. [pullquote]1 in every 250 aspiring web designers is still using IE8[/pullquote] Of course those stats are skewed by how they’re tallied. w3schools.com reports that in November 2015 IE8 usage on their site was 0.4%. We might expect those people with an interest in web design to upgrade their browser more frequently than the general population, but let’s consider that statistic for a moment: 1 in every 250 aspiring web designers is still browsing in IE8. The reason IE8 appears unkillable lies with operating systems: in 2015 Windows XP usage was estimated at 16.94%; more than Windows Vista (1.97%), Windows 8 (3.52%), and Windows 8.1 (10.55%) combined. Windows XP shipped with IE6, it can be upgraded as far as IE8, but no further. A browser is simple to upgrade, but an operating system is not; especially when an upgrade requires the purchase of new hardware. Everytime Mom and Pop give junior their old laptop for college work, that’s one more frustrated millennial bumping up your IE8 stats. Microsoft’s withdrawal of technical support won’t hasten the demise of IE8, it’s simply a symptom of its steady decline. A decline that will continue for at least another couple of years. Ultimately, other people’s stats are meaningless. The only analytics that matter are your own. If IE8 vanishes from your stats, then by all means ignore it. However, web standards encourage us to develop sites that are stress-tested well below the accepted 1% usage cut-off point. The Web may look a little wonky on IE8, but the content should still be accessible. In which case, why check browser stats at all? Does it really matter if IE8 crops up in your analytics from time to time? When IE8 finally does shuffle off this mortal coil, we may not even notice. Featured image, uses vampire teeth image via Shutterstock.

Ben Moss

Ben Moss has designed and coded work for award-winning startups, and global names including IBM, UBS, and the FBI. When he’s not in front of a screen he’s probably out trail-running.

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