Microsoft recently revealed
that it will be silently and automatically updating its Internet Explorer (IE) browser on users’ computers who are running on Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7, starting from January next year.
The move is aimed particularly at addressing security concerns that arise from running out of date – and unpatched – browsers which may have flaws only addressed in later iterations.
According to Ryan Gavin
, Microsoft's general manager, Internet Explorer business and marketing, the company wanted to ensure that its customers “have the most up-to-date and safest browsing experience possible, with the best protections against malicious software such as malware”.
Gavin elaborated that safety was one of the key reasons that the industry has been moving towards automatic updates as the norm. He explained that this had become increasingly important, since the biggest online threat at present was socially engineered malware, which typically targets outdated software like web browsers.
Additionally, Gavin asserted that with automatic updates enabled through Windows Update, the company’s customers would receive IE9 and future versions of Internet Explorer seamlessly without any “update fatigue” issues.
However, security is not the only benefit offered by an updated browser. One of the banes of the internet, particularly for web designers, is browser incompatibility, which leaves carefully crafted sites looking like an ill conceived mess on some users’ computers who are running outdated browsers.
Internet Explorer 6, which for companies and users running old PCs may still be their default browser, was a typical example of both problems; with many security issues and little to no support for current web standards.
On the company’s blog
, Gavin pointed out that wider deployment of the most up-to-date browser benefits the web in other ways as well, such as enabling developers and online businesses to spend less time coding for specific browsers and spend more time building “the next big thing” on the internet. “More of the Web running an HTML5 capable browser, vs. something built ten years ago, is a great thing for developers and the businesses they support,” he commented.
Still your choice
However, enterprises and home users still browsing the web on Internet Explorer will be able to decline or opt out of the automatic update. An Internet Explorer 8 and Internet Explorer 9 Automatic Update Blocker toolkit will prevent automatic upgrades of IE for Windows customers who do not want them.
Users who have declined previous installations of IE8 or IE9 through Windows Update will not be automatically updated. Similarly to organisations, people will also be able to block the update altogether and upgrade on their own. Future versions of IE will provide an option in the product for users to opt out of automatic upgrading.
To the point
While the first thing we install on any new PC that crosses our desk happens to be Firefox and Chrome, the silent update may still be a boon, particularly for organisations that are less technology savvy, running older computers and who are inadvertently at risk at having their security compromised through their browser.
Hopefully, running into IE 6 will become just a distant, unpleasant memory in the annals of the internet.