The New Internet Explorer Enterprise Mode or Why You Should Never Use IE 8 Anymore

Let there be no doubt in anyone's mind I an advocate for upgrading your browser to the latest version. Not only do you get better standards support, better performance and of course better security. Enterprise Mode also means you are not wasting money supporting applications designed for a world before the mortgage crisis. Up till now the only option was to send either an X-UA-Compatible HTTP Header or use a META tag in your page's HEAD to kick IE into a compatibility mode. While compatibility mode should solve many issues legacy applications in compatibility mode is not a completely compatible experience. This has forced many enterprises, held hostage to applications designed for a fixed time in the past, to hold off on upgrading not only their browsers, but operating systems.

The excuses to hold back are not reduced with the new Internet Explorer Enterprise Mode. This is a new way for enterprise IT departments to enable legacy applications in new Internet Explorer versions. Effectively enterprise mode lifts one of the primary reasons enterprises are holding their workforce back with Internet Explorer 8.

You may be asking what is the difference between Intern Explorer Enterprise Mode and the existing compatibility mode? This is a great question and a detailed answer is a bit much for this Blog post. The short answer is there are just not some features of Internet Explorer 8 that are easy to just implement in compatibility mode. For example many of these legacy web applications rely on ActiveX controls, which are not really supported in new versions of Internet Explorer. Supporting ActriveX controls and other 'edge' case scenarios are what the new Internet Explorer Enterprise mode brings to the table. What you get is a 'full featured' Internet Explorer 8 emulation mechanism. This effectively eliminates the need for enterprises to standardize on an almost 8 year old browser and embrace the new world of the modern web.

How Do You Enable Internet Explorer Enterprise Mode?

Enterprises can use their group policies to point Internet Explorer to an XML file with a list of domains that should render in Enterprise Mode or use the legacy Internet Explorer 8 support. This is an example of the XML:

The document includes a version number that IE uses to determine if the file needs to be updated or the previously cached version is current. Inside the <emie> element you can specify domains that should use the new enterprise mode. In the example below MSDN, Microsoft store would be rendered using the IE 8 engine. So would bing.com, but not images.bing.com. So you can configure sub-domains to behave differently as your line of business applications warrant.

Enterprise Mode can also be implemented from the browser's toolbar:

There is also a mechanism for users to report a URL to the IT department that should use enterprise mode that is not currently in the configured list. Sorry I do not have a screen shot of how to do this right now.

This is a new feature that will hopefully bring an end to the drag enterprises are having on the web by remaining IE 8 users. By ending the need to standardize on IE 8 I also hope this puts to rest some of the misinformed jokes around the Internet about Internet Explorer issues, as many of those have been resolved years ago. The new Internet Explorer Enterprise Mode Support is also supported in Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7. Enterprises need to update their browser and this is a great solution to a troubling problem.

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