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By GCN Staff

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IE 11 'Enterprise Mode' tackles browser compatibility

Agency IT managers wrestling to keep applications current with frequent browser and OS updates may see some relief in Internet Explorer 11.  The browser’s new “Enterprise Mode” feature aims to address compatibility issues.

An IE 11 browser running Enterprise Mode can automatically switch to emulate older Microsoft browser technologies, such as IE 8 technology, without requiring an action from an end user, if it's set up to work that way. As described by Microsoft, Enterprise Mode potentially could ameliorate upgrade problems associated with older IE technologies.

"Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer 11 may not fix all compatibility problems, but does work for many of the most common issues," Microsoft explained in a blog post. "Most importantly, this is an area of continued investment for Microsoft and is a significant step towards helping customers stay up-to-date with the latest version of Internet Explorer."

Enterprise Mode is also conceived as a way for Microsoft to break the dependencies that organizations may have for continuing to use IE 8. According to Microsoft, organizations "chose to standardize on Internet Explorer 8 to help ease the migration to Windows 7." IE 8 was the last version of Microsoft's browser that was supported on the now unsupported Windows XP OS.

In theory, with IE 11 Enterprise Mode, it's possible to have the performance and security benefits of using Microsoft's newer browser without having to remediate corporate Web apps based on older IE 8 technologies. Enterprise Mode specifically provides a "compatibility view" for IE 8-based sites and apps and it may also support older technologies, such as IE 7, according to Microsoft. It does so by "replicating the original Internet Explorer 8 user agent string" and mimicking IE 8's ActiveX responses. It also dispenses with "some vestiges of proprietary functionality" in IE 8, per Microsoft. Lastly, Enterprise Mode turns off some IE 11 features that don't work when emulating older IE browser technologies. For instance, an improved tab-switching capability in IE 11 doesn't work right with IE 8-based technologies.

IT pros get some controls over the use of Enterprise Mode. For instance, they can specify whether end users can use the Enterprise Mode feature or not. It's also possible to use Group Policy to designate which sites will run with Enterprise Mode turned on and which sites won't.

A longer version of the article appeared on Redmondmag.com, a sister site to GCN.

Posted by Kurt Mackie on Apr 21, 2014 at 11:48 AM


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