Internet Explorer to auto-update

In a surprise announcement from Microsoft, it's been revealed that the company will soon be automatically updating Internet Explorer. This is a path followed by others in the field, but Microsoft has to date avoided auto-updating, and its browser has long been a thorn in the side for web designers and developers. This new initiative should see older versions of IE more rapidly consigned to history, and follows Microsoft's previous attempts to kill off the ageing IE6 through the likes of the Internet Explorer 6 Countdown project.

Ryan Gavin writes on The Windows Blog that the scheme will begin in January "for customers in Australia and Brazil who have turned on automatic updating via Windows Update. Similar to our release of IE9 earlier this year, we will take a measured approach, scaling up over time". The ultimate goal is to "make sure that Windows customers have the most up-to-date and safest browsing experience possible".

Interestingly, Microsoft's plans aren't just for users with the most recent version of Windows. According to Microsoft pundit Paul Thurrott, Microsoft XP users with IE6 will be catered for, offered an update to IE8 (the most recent version of the browser supported by XP), while Vista and Windows 7 users will get version 9. When it's released, IE10 will be offered in a similar way, for compatible versions of Windows. Microsoft will also put into place toolkits to assist enterprise customers in updating browsers "on their schedule", and won't update customers who have previously declined installations of IE8 or IE9 through Windows Update. But even taking into account laggards, Microsoft's move has the potential to rapidly demolish the remaining market-share of the most outdated versions of its browser.

Ryan Gavin, General Manager, Internet Explorer, said to us that the company's "approach to IE auto-updates are a 'win, win, win'—a win for consumers, a win for developers and a win for enterprises—getting consumers the most up-to-date version of their browser with the latest security technologies, moving the web to a modern browser for developers, while allowing enterprises to update their browsers on their schedule".

Happy Cog founder and standards advocate Jeffrey Zeldman told us he was delighted on hearing the news: "I think it's great. It's going to change the landscape forever. The ghosts of IEs past have haunted web development forever, impeding standards adoption in some quarters and forcing responsible, standards-focused designers to agonise over hacks, code forks, otherwise needless JavaScript, and so on. Once Microsoft flicks the switch, in a flash – if you'll excuse the expression – tens of millions of computer users will have access to a fantastic and highly standards-compliant version of IE. This is the greatest holiday gift Microsoft or anyone could have given us!"

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