With the development of Internet Explorer 9.0 near completion, ComputerWeekly.com has learned that thousands of sites and applications are incompatible with the new browser and its immediate predecessor.
Since Microsoft released IE8 two years ago, internet users have been spoilt for choice of browsers, including new versions of Apple's Safari, Opera, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.
Last month Microsoft warned developers they may experience problems with IE8 and IE9 incompatibility. In a post on its support website, the software company stated: "Some websites may not be displayed correctly or work correctly in Windows Internet Explorer 8 or in Windows Internet Explorer 9 Beta. This problem does not occur in earlier versions of Internet Explorer, and the affected websites continue to be displayed correctly and to work correctly in Windows Internet Explorer 7."
An IT manager's user group disclosed an IE8 problem with uploading material to a website. "It didn't work when someone tried to access it through IE8. The issue was something our developer had never come across before."
Another IT director said he had experienced issues, but these could all be solved and he now uses IE8 as standard across his organisation. "Nothing was flagged as a problem in any of our management sessions. I guess the guys just made it happen. Our standard is IE8 and has been for some time."
However, Microsoft has identified a list of over 1,100 public websites that do not behave as expected under IE9. These include popular sites such as Youtube, the Wall Street Journal, UPS, the National Lottery, the AA, British Airways and the BBC in the UK.
According to its support page for IE8 and IE9 compatibility, menus, images or text may appear in the wrong positions on incompatible sites; some websites features may not work; visitors to the site may see scripting error messages; and Internet Explorer could stop working or crash on some websites.
Even the main Microsoft website has a fudge to work around IE8/9 incompatibility issues. It uses a tag in the site's header to force IE7 compatibility.
Unlike a home PC, where users can enable Microsoft to monitor how they use the web to improve quality, corporate networks block this data-gathering.
Greg Lambeth, chief technical architect at application compatibility specialist Changebase, said: "Microsoft has a well-placed infrastructure to gather telemetric data on Windows application usage. However, the process is blocked in an enterprise environment, due to enterprise firewalls." This means there is a gap in the information it can learn from corporate use of IE.
Internal websites and applications that present a browser user interface present a serious compatibility issue for Microsoft since it is not possible for it to look inside corporate networks to find out how IE is deployed within businesses. According to some experts, there are literally thousands of web-based applications and websites that fail to render correctly in IE8 and IE9.
A recent survey of 100 IT professionals, from application migration software specialist App-DNA of enterprise organisations and system integrators, found IT professionals had key concerns with intranets, SAP, Oracle apps, PeopleSoft, Salesforce, Business Objects, SharePoint, CRM and ERP systems and financial market data applications.
Even non-web applications, like AutoCAD, may not function correctly under IE8/9, due to the way it uses Internet Explorer in its Help system.
Paul Schnell, chief technology officer at App-DNA, said: "Enterprise web applications are different from websites, in that they run business processes. Also, they tend to be associated with data creation, storage and retrieval. In contrast, websites are mainly used as read-only sources - their content changes occur outside of the organisation." In the survey, 52% of respondents said IE8 web application compatibility issues were inhibiting the rollout of new applications.
For more information, go to the Windows Internet Explorer weblog >>