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16 December 2011, 15:43

Microsoft to automatically update Internet Explorer

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Microsoft recently announced that it will soon start updating Internet Explorer automatically. Starting in Australia and Brazil in January, Windows Update will ensure that the most up-to-date version of the browser is installed without any action on the user's part; other countries will be rolled out in stages. Until now, users have always been asked whether they want to upgrade to a major new version.

Microsoft is following in Google's footsteps: since the beginning, Google has updated its Chrome browser automatically and, using silent updates, mostly invisibly to the user. Mozilla is also working on an auto-updater for Firefox. Microsoft is introducing automatic updating for all Windows versions from XP onwards. The updates will be marked "important", which generally means that they are carried out without any intervention from the user.

The company believes that users will benefit, since they will always have the most secure version of the browser. Web developers will also benefit as they will be able to invest more energy in implementing current standards like HTML5 rather than in supporting ancient browsers like IE 6.

In fact, IE6 is still widely used even after ten years. Microsoft says that, in November, 8.3 per cent of all internet users in the world were still surfing with the now hopelessly outdated browser. Usage even increased slightly compared to October (7.9 per cent). With its web site, Microsoft has been trying to encourage users who have yet to upgrade to "say goodbye" to IE6.

Those who want to keep their older browser versions, perhaps for compatibility reasons, and have already opted out of installing Internet Explorer 8 and 9 via Windows Update, will not be faced with automatic updates even after the changes. In addition, Microsoft says, users can uninstall the update and restore the previously installed version.

Those who want to make sure that Windows Update won't affect Internet Explorer can make use of the Automatic Update Blocker Toolkit, which Microsoft offers for users of IE 8 and IE 9. For future versions of IE, Microsoft is planning to include an option to deactivate automatic updates. Microsoft will still provide security updates for pre-installed versions of the browser, but advanced security functions such as the "Protected Mode" sandbox are only for the newer versions.


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