back to article Make up your mind: Microsoft puts a bullet in Internet Explorer after all

Microsoft has changed direction slightly with regard to how Windows 10 will handle web browsing, in a move that suggests development of Internet Explorer has finally come to an end – as has been rumored. We've long known that Redmond has a new, standards-compliant web rendering engine in the works called Project Spartan, which …

  1. x 7

    " Spartan won't support ActiveX controls "

    = Spartan can't be used within the NHS. And more importantly, nor can Win10 given the embedded version of IE.

    Its bad enough that during the current Win7 NHS rollouts, the version of IE has to be held at 8 or 9 depending on the other software used.Newer versions of IE don't work. It looks like Windows 10 - with a choice of IE11 or Spartan simply is not going to be useable by the NHS

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      That isn't Microsoft's fault - is the fault of both Labour and Conservative governments who think it's a brilliant idea to throw billions at a company to solve all the IT problems the NHS has. The fault of the use of ActiveX controls and it's reliance on legacy systems is down to these IT contractors who know that, whether they deliver the product they said they would, they'll get the millions they said it'd cost, plus the blank cheques they'll have signed when the projects over run. Sadly that problem won't fix itself until someone who knows their Apples from their PC's is put in charge and is firm with these companies and they are held to account.

      I'm with you though in your sentiment. It's a f**king joke the NHS's IT system is what it is. But on the brightside, the NHS won't have to upgrade to Windows 10 for many many years due to the current compatibility issues.

      1. tin 2

        I disagree somewhat. It's certainly the fault of both parties but mainly Microsoft's.

        They embraced and extended, then got lazy once they killed Netscape (which was after all, the plan), then decided they didn't want to support their own extendedness any more. That's pretty shitty on all accounts. There's a pretty good argument there that we'd be a whole lot better off if MS hadn't entered the browser market at all,

        Companies writing systems targetting the system designed, promoted and most importantly "supported" by none other than Microsoft? I personally would (and did) say that's very stupid and asking for trouble, and agree with the sentiments about the contractors, but there's a lot of very good reason why one would legitimately think it the best move. MS are absolutely the architects of that.

        Also I am amused that once more MS are abandoning a product because - suprise - it's one of the shittest implementations of whatever genre of product it tried to be. And we as an industry - generally speaking of course - keep lapping it up.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          MS have been trying to persuade everyone to stop using ActiveX, etc, for years now. There comes a point where it stops being MS' fault that people refuse to accept they're going to have to rebuild their software.

          Given that IE11 is still being shipped, ActiveX WILL still be available anyway - for now at least, you can see it being removed in Windows11.

          Historically MS share a lot of blame historically but companies who refuse to re-build 10+ year old internal software are the issue now.

      2. Elmer Phud

        "is the fault of both Labour and Conservative governments "

        Now, you;re not going to suggest there is a third bunch of politican who will gather the NHS in to its bosom and nurture and care for it are you?

        The other purple and yellow mob are all set to assset strip the NHS then offer it up for TTIP.

        1. Richard 81

          Presumably Labour and the Conservatives where specifically mentioned because they've actually been in government, or at the head of one.

          It's probably the civil service's fault as much as the politicians. I rather suspect they make all the real decisions, no matter what party is in power.

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            It's probably the civil service's fault as much as the politicians. I rather suspect they make all the real decisions, no matter what party is in power.

            Well, of course. The Civil Service wouldn't want to leave anything important up to the amateurs, would they?

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. x 7

      To give an idea of the problem, the batch of Win7 machines I'm installing at the moment need

      IE9 (some progs actually need IE8 but we're ignoring those) Anything newer won't work - even in compatibility mode

      Java VM 1.4.2

      Java VM 1.6.4

      Java VM 1.6.17 (needed to gain access to the NHS Spine network)

      On top of which most NHS sites have to be run in compatibility mode AND have the smartscreen filter turned off

    4. theOtherJT

      Not going to be just the NHS.

      Working for a higher education institution that will remain nameless, we've been forced to keep IE pegged at 8 and java at 6 (for which we have to pay for extended support) because a shit-ton of our admin software won't work with anything newer.

      That would be bad enough were this "legacy" software, but it was purchased in 2012, by which time both of these products were clearly already end of life. Bad choices have been made all round.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: Not going to be just the NHS.

        "Working for a higher education institution that will remain nameless, we've been forced to keep IE pegged at 8 and java at 6 (for which we have to pay for extended support) because a shit-ton of our admin software won't work with anything newer.

        That would be bad enough were this "legacy" software, but it was purchased in 2012, by which time both of these products were clearly already end of life. Bad choices have been made all round."

        Give me an email and I will rebuild your stuff in HTML5 and Silverlight :)

        1. x 7

          Re: Not going to be just the NHS.

          "Give me an email and I will rebuild your stuff in HTML5 and Silverlight :)"

          Microsoft say Silverlight is deprecated......

          1. JDX Gold badge

            Re: Not going to be just the NHS.

            He's after the repeat work.

            I'd rather build you a desktop application if you need native code, that way you can probably keep the existing code running, but not inside ActiveX.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not going to be just the NHS.

        "Working for a higher education institution that will remain nameless, we've been forced to keep IE pegged at 8 and java at 6 (for which we have to pay for extended support) because a shit-ton of our admin software won't work with anything newer."

        Possibly unfair in your specific case, but in a shed load of corporates I've seen (and definitely some NHS stuff) the problem is in the basic concept of ramming stuff into browsers that never belonged there in the first place.

        With some minor glitches like UAC and fiddling with default user directories (easily patched) we've supported everything from WinNT4 to Win8.1 with no major difficulty and we can still support all those platforms today.

        Reason? We coded to a stable API with massive backward compatibility resources always dedicated to it. That would be the Win32 API. All native code, no VMs (unless you count database engines), browsers used appropriately (meaning rendering HTML pages and nothing else), want to display a DOC file or XLS? That's what ShellExecuteEx is for.

        To this day our core product is native code virtually all the way. After a decade of pressure from "consultants" we do, finally, have a reduced feature angular.js variant which we explicitly stress is for casual and non-core use only - because I don't trust the JS evangelists of today any more than their Java counterparts a decade ago.

        I accept things are changing now, but anyone building a line of business app in a browser even 5 years ago is\was as insane as someone building an enterprise CRM out of Word and Excel macros (or WordPress). Even today there is a lot of angular, rails, ember etc. stuff getting loose in corporate silos where a solid Win32\64 fat client would do the job better.

        1. theOtherJT

          Re: Not going to be just the NHS.

          Allow me to set a scene:

          The comedy begins with some important high level managers who have macs. They love their macs and insist that any future software we buy has to run on them. Of course, they're not going to buy macs for everyone in the institution (would tarnish the halo) but they've heard the word "cloud" and think it sounds jolly exciting and so the best thing would be for everything to run there. Browser interfaces are the way the world is going dontchaknow?

          So a browser interface is specified in the requirements for the next big departmental software purchase. The managers in question, who have most definitely earned their salaries by turning up to this specific meeting, now exit stage left and are never heard from again.

          Meanwhile the contract has gone out to tender and the lowest bidder (Which is to say "the least competent") wins it. In this contract a "browser interface" is specified, but it doesn't say any more than that, so to get the job done as quickly as possible a whole ton of legacy code is run through some fairly perfunctory translation to active-x, a crappy java app is knocked up and bish-bash-bosh we have an interface that runs in a browser.

          The fact that it's a very specific browser - IE8 and below - and only on a specific OS (hard coded 32bit calls mean it barfs even on x64 Windows) and thus completely misses the original point of "should run everywhere" is considered irrelevant since all the staff who are going to actually use the thing are using 4 or 5 year old windows desktops anyway, the Macbook toting high level managers have already lost interest and fucked off, and the IT support staff are left to clean up the mess.

          This worked perfectly well as native code 7 years ago. It would have been fine as an in-browser front end to some server side processing. What we actually have is some hybrid abomination where the native code version was forced into a java virtual machine so it could be run in a browser where it performs like shit and goes wrong all the time.

          1. JDX Gold badge

            Re: Not going to be just the NHS.

            Just run Parallels (or similar) on the Macs.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    Ohh dear, it's the browser Hokey Pokey

    You put your web browser in,

    you pull your web browser out,

    You put your web browser in

    and shake it all about!!!

    1. king of foo

      Re: Ohh dear, it's the browser Hokey Pokey

      Dear god what's wrong with me... I'm seeing double entendres everywhere!

      I'd argue it's more like

      Old Mother Hubbard

      Went to the cupboard

      To get her poor doggie a bone,

      When she got there

      The cupboard was bare

      So the poor little doggie had none

      ...but who's cupboard will she look in next? Apple? Google? *nux?

  3. Ian Easson

    This is a good idea

    Now, you (either as an individual or an organization) have a clear choice with regard to Microsoft browsers:

    - Future-looking standards-compliant (Spartan), or

    - Backwards-looking compatible (IE)

    Windows 10 will ship with both, and you can make your choice.

    1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: This is a good idea

      Looks to me as though MS is trying to please all of the people all of the time, which never works out in the end. Making everything backward compatible has led to more and more security flaws being introduced and never plugged. Better, at least from a security perspective, to wipe the slate clean and try to pull the developers into line rather than keeping something around that allows them to avoid overhauling their non-compliant, hole-riddled app so that it at least pays lip service to the idea that security might have some relevance to what they do.

      1. Ian Easson

        Re: This is a good idea

        So, Mr. Helpman, you seem to be happy with the idea of Microsoft abandoning 90% of all Windows enterprise customers?

        You may be, but Microsoft cannot afford to be as a corporation.

        End of story.

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Re: This is a good idea

          At some point MS has to pull the plug on support legacy crud whether theirs or a third parties. If they were smart, they would say W10 will be the last traditional Windows kernel. It will be supported like previous versions (10 years). The next version WILL NOT use the same kernel and most older software will likely not be compatible.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: This is a good idea

            "If they were smart, they would say W10 will be the last traditional Windows kernel. It will be supported like previous versions (10 years). The next version WILL NOT use the same kernel and most older software will likely not be compatible."

            Why would they do that? Windows already has pretty much state of the art kernel design - being a hybrid microkernel and fully modular.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: This is a good idea

              Why would they do that? Windows already has pretty much state of the art kernel design - being a hybrid microkernel and fully modular.

              They did in 1993. Sadly they botched it up two years later with Windows NT 4.0 and it's been downhill ever since. Some things have improved, but Windows has changed a lot from its original microkernel beginnings.

              The "kernel" is hevily polluted with code that simply does not belong there, as evidenced for example by the recent Truetype font exploits leading to system level code execution.

              For all Windows' modularity, they don't seem to push that much. For example, I cannot have a desktop environment without IE being there, not since the release of Windows 98. (Windows 95 and NT4 could, and did out of the box.) It's an "all or nothing" experience, the "all" being the full fat desktop with all the crap, and "nothing" being the Windows Server core, which is not available on any version of Windows other than the "server" edition.

        2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Re: @Ian Easson

          "You may be, but Microsoft cannot afford to be as a corporation."

          So what if MS decides to ditch IE and drop support for all legacy systems, maybe with patching stopped in 2-3 years? Those enterprise customers have no where to go, they will simply have to update and move on to a future without IE's awful stuff.

          What alternatives do they have? They can't realistically go on with old OS/browser without MS providing security patches, so they simply have to either suck up MS' latest offerings, maybe pay a fortune for post-end-of-life support, or go elsewhere.

          Where is the 'elsewhere' for them to go? Apple has abandoned any real interest in anything outside of consumer use. While I am a keen supporter of Linux, I am in no doubt that if you are IE-bound and MS-dependant for all sorts of specialist software then you have more pain in changing OS than fixing IE-related stuff.

          So basically MS can do as the please and corporate users of Windows just have to follow because so little software was ever designed to be cross-platform. That my friend is the real "End of Story".

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Meh

          Re: This is a good idea

          "Microsoft abandoning 90% of all Windows enterprise customers"

          almost

          "Microsoft abandoning 90% of all Windows public sector customers"

          Fixed.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is a good idea

      Hmm, Netscape had their reptillian mascot "Mozilla"… what would IE's mascot be?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Doctor_Dolittle_characters#The_pushmi-pullyu

      http://image.frompo.com/f879fbefc82fbfb99d99c76ead19b643

  4. Steve Knox

    Spartan won't support ActiveX controls or Browser Helper Objects

    ABOUT F**KING TIME!

    ActiveX controls were a somewhat OK concept implemented in an incredibly poor and insecure manner. BHOs were just shite. Both of them should have died horrible deaths over a decade ago.

    Now PLEASE say we can completely remove IE from the system....

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Spartan won't support ActiveX controls or Browser Helper Objects

      As a developer I love ActiveX and NPAPI (never used BHO) for what they allow me to do... rendering in a browser tab, open an Excel document in the browser, etc. But that's more "this is a cool nerdy thing to do" than "this is something useful or sensible".

      There are still valid use cases for these type of technologies (despite what Google claim about JS being able to do everything) but they are very niche.

    2. Gis Bun

      Re: Spartan won't support ActiveX controls or Browser Helper Objects

      You could remove IE as far back as Windows 7, but certain parts of it shares code with the OS.

      1. Jordan Davenport

        Re: Spartan won't support ActiveX controls or Browser Helper Objects

        "You could remove IE as far back as Windows 7, but certain parts of it shares code with the OS."

        Afraid not. You could "Turn Off" Internet Explorer in Windows 7, but it was still staged into Windows Side-by-Side (WinSxS) component store, ready to be re-deployed. That's part of why Windows 7's footprint is 16GB - the Windows component store.

        Furthermore, the code that it shares with the OS itself is fairly minimal if reports are to be believed these days post-IE6. Its rendering engine (MSHTML.dll) is left because there are so many applications that expect it these days. It's pretty much impossible to remove IE entirely without breaking a ton of non-default applications but not necessarily Windows itself. That said, I've never looked at the source code and can't verify if any separation has actually occurred.

  5. Mikel

    Well that was clear as mud

    Communications must not be Microsoft's strong point.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well that was clear as mud

      and marketing too.

      1. TheOtherHobbes

        Re: Well that was clear as mud

        They're not that great at software, either. (Allegedly.)

  6. Michael Thibault

    Feet to the fire, please

    Microsoft should show some forethought and fortitude and, in staged, incremental updates, pull the plug on everything in the way of IE going back to cover version 6--by having the update mechanism yank and shred each, in turn, until there's nothing left but the Spartans. With fair warning, of course, so that those foolish enough long ago to have bought in big time have no excuse for jonesing when they can no longer get a fix.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Feet to the fire, please

      And all the Fortune 1000 companies will give "fair warning" to Microsoft that, if MS shreds IE, they will shred MS in court.

      Will never happen, buddy.

      Unfortunately.

  7. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Missed opportunity here

    Really, I don't see why MS should keep on IE other than for some locked-in corporate customers. So why don't they make Spartan the only supplied browser for Win10 and sell IE11 as an extra-cost option, maybe chucking it in with the "W10 professional enterprise edition" or whatever?

    Those who really, really, must use IE will either stick to Win7 or whatever for the next 5 years, or simply pony up for it on Win10. Their pointy-hired bosses might just see that its time to fix their Intranet once they see an on-going cost for not doing so.

    But, and this is the important bit, Joe Public won't consider it as an option as nobody has paid for a browser since, oh yes, IE was bundled for free two decades ago. Thus the few remaining web sites that rely on IE-specific support (and all public-facing gov sites, who are often offenders there) will get endless complaints until they fix their shit and become cross-platform.

    1. x 7

      Re: Missed opportunity here

      "sell IE11 as an extra-cost option"

      You've missed the point......anyone who "needs" IE needs IE8 or 9. Not IE11

    2. Tom 13

      Re: So why don't they

      Because even now they can't afford to admit they perjured themselves in the Netscape case.

  8. bigfoot780

    Launcher

    I don't understand why these legacy software can't work in a IE launcher. Why don't ms produce an easy launcher creator. Enter the url. It creates an MSI for the legacy application. Deploy the application. The big issue will be active x, Java etc.

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: Launcher

      MS's model was to have IE at the core of everything.

      (is the Desktop still an IE session?)

      That hasn't worked - not for MS, though Google have managed it.

      It almost seems as if they still want something similar - it's all 'active desktop'.

  9. Rabbers

    So the award for programming kudos

    Will go to the first person to wrap activeX controls in a Spartan JS extension.

    1. joeldillon

      Re: So the award for programming kudos

      Given that ActiveX controls are native code with full OS access, that basically means rewriting Wine in Javascript. I wouldn't hold your breath.

      1. dogged

        Re: So the award for programming kudos

        feasible, given asm.js but nightmarishly difficult. I wouldn't want to try it.

  10. Joerg

    All marketing Microsoft lies...it's just a skin!

    It's still Internet Explorer! The marketing dept wants to change the name to make it look like something all new. They are going to remove ActiveX controls because it just sucks.

    It's still Internet Explorer with a new skin and some features disabled and they put a new name on it.

    How to make a fool of customers.

  11. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    But where's IE6?

    in the legacy chart?

    IE 5.5, IE7, 8, 9 , 10 & 11 are shown.

    Has MS been out in the sub a bit too much?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But where's IE6?

      You need Tunes.

  12. Wade Burchette

    Want to impress me?

    If Microsoft wants to really impress me then make sure all updates to their browser do not require a restart of the computer.

    1. Tom 13
      Joke

      Re: Want to impress me?

      But the browser is a critical part of the OS! They have the court papers to prove it!

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