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Matouš Borák for NejŘemeslníci

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How to get rid of Internet Explorer faster but carefully

Many web developers eagerly look forward to Internet Explorer End of Life, scheduled on June 15th, 2022. We definitely do as well! Of course, this EOL date doesn’t mean that all IE users will be gone by then. But it will be OK to take IE into consideration even less when updating the site.

Nevertheless, we’ve already set out that journey about a year ago:

  • we show an overlay popup to all IE users, asking them to switch: Internet Explorer popup
  • throughout last year, we upgraded to Tailwind 2 and Stimulus 3 even though both frameworks drop official support for IE,
  • we still use a few IE-related polyfills that solve the biggest issues, but only for the most critical use cases,
  • and we generally don’t test newly built features in IE any more.

(For more details about our previous IE-related measures, see our last post.)

Since then, we saw a clear trend: relative IE usage dropped from 1.7% in January 2021 down to ~0.5% in early November. Still, we were thinking: could we help this trend even more? Our site is a marketplace connecting customers with various craftspeople. We observed that almost all IE visits were from our customers, especially first-time visitors. We knew our customers were often not very tech-savvy and we couldn’t expect them to migrate to a newer browser unless the experience was really seamless. So, could we still help them make the switch somehow? Turns out we could!

The ”Need Microsoft Edge List“

A nice migration process is actually offered by Microsoft itself although the feature can be harder to find. Microsoft keeps an official list of websites that want their users to switch from IE to Edge. Windows systems periodically download this file and take care of the migration process on the sites listed there.

The list is called IE Compatibility List and the process to get there is both surprising and lovely — because very old-school and manual 😍:

  • as a prerequisite, you need to show a message to your IE visitors on your web, asking them to switch,
  • then you can officially request Microsoft to add your site to the list; you do that by sending a free-form email including the required information,
  • a human replies (in our case it was Kelly, hi! 👋) to confirm your request or clarify details,
  • the same person takes care of you during the whole time and informs you about the progress,
  • about a week later, your site is added to the list itself and starts being recognized by Windows immediately.

From now on, when a user visits your site with IE, he or she is redirected to the Edge browser and a localized explanation pops up. Most importantly, all bookmarks, settings, cookies and passwords are automatically transferred so everything works just the same as in IE (but better).

IE to Edge migration

The effect

Of course we were very curious how effective this IE compatibility list was. Our analytics data shows that the number of IE visits dropped to half of the previous numbers within a few days after the addition to the list.

Effect of the IE compatibility list

That’s great! Using the official list, we were able to migrate even many first-time visitors and the relative proportion of IE visits dropped to ~0.2%. Still, as can be seen in the chart, there are a few IE visitors left, making around one hundred visits per week. We guess these are users of very old and long-time-not-updated Windows systems who must experience increasingly serious problems accessing the internet overall… We are sorry about that but we believe we did all we could. So, good luck to all and see you in better browser times!

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