What Google killing IE9 support means for software development

Google's announcement that it won't support Internet Explorer 9 is a sign of a broader move toward rapid iteration in software development.

Let's start with this: I am completely OK with this. Sure, it may be a bit of a drag for people running Windows Vista (as newer versions of Internet Explorer – 10 and 11 – require Windows 7 or 8) but, let's be honest - nobody expects any company to spend the money and man-hours supporting every web browser for all eternity. And Vista users still have the option of installing another web browser, such as Firefox or Chrome.

So, if this isn't all that big of a deal, why am I bringing it up?

  1. Web browsers are, in essence, platforms for running software.
  2. Internet Explorer 9 was released in 2011. It’s only two years old.

That means that we have reached the point where complete application platforms are being deprecated, and left unsupported, after having existed for only two years. And, while that does bode well for the rapid improvement of platforms, it comes with a pretty steep price.

The most obvious of which is that end users are put in the position of needing to upgrade their systems far more often. This costs a not-insignificant amount of time (especially in larger organizations) and money. It is, to put it simply, inconvenient.

This rapid iteration of new versions of these systems also takes a heavy toll on software development. More versions of more platforms means more complexity in development and testing. This leads to longer, and more costly, development cycles (and significantly higher support costs). The result? The software that runs on these systems is improved at a slower rate than would otherwise be possible, and in all likelihood they will be of lower quality.

These are some pretty major drawbacks to the current “Operating Systems and Web Browsers are updated every time the wind changes direction” situation. But is it really all that bad? The alternative, for Windows users, isn't terribly attractive. Nobody wanted to be stuck with IE 6 for a second longer than was absolutely necessary.

I don't have a solution to any of this, mind you. Not a good one, at any rate – maybe we should make a gentleman's agreement to not release new Operating Systems or Browsers more often than every three years. (See? Not a good solution.)

I'm just not a big fan of how it's currently working.

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