WordPress Considers Dropping Support for IE 11

WordPress announced that it is opening discussions about dropping support for Internet Explorer 11. Dropping support means improvement in WordPress performance, a better user experience for users and an easier load for developers.

High Maintenance for Developers

Keeping the WordPress code usable for Internet Explorer 11 makes extra work for developers in order to support a rapidly dwindling user base.

Rather than waste resources supporting a small amount of users, WordPress is going to relieve developers from the burden of having to support IE 11.

There would also be benefits for users of WordPress and those who visit WordPress websites.

The WordPress announcement listed the benefits:

“Dropping support would result in smaller scripts, lower maintenance burden, and decrease build times.

For instance, a recent exploration… demonstrated that not transpiling the scripts to IE11 immediately resulted in a net reduction of nearly 84kB in the Gutenberg JavaScript built files, representing a 7,78% total decrease in size; these scripts have seen a size contraction up to 60%, with an average reduction of 24%.

This is a result of heavily relying on transpilers, further explained by Jason Miller, Web DevRel at Google.

Moreover, dropping support would ultimately make WordPress’ currently included polyfill script obsolete, decreasing the enqueued scripts size 102kB more.

The smaller downloads would positively impact all users, especially those on slower networks, or computing devices. We expect a result of dropping IE11 support to improve performance for the vast majority of users.”

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Downsides of Dropping Support

Dropping support for IE 11 is not all sunshine and good news. There may be folks in countries around the world who are constrained to using IE 11 for legal and other reasons.

According to the discussion:

“There are major institutions like banking, government, and education that are unable to control when they can upgrade sometimes due to legal requirements, depending on the country.

This further underscores the need to determine a policy that takes into consideration both a data-informed approach and the impacted user bases while weighing the potential benefits for the wider web. “

This discussion to consider dropping Internet Explorer 11 is part of an ongoing discussion that began 16 months ago when a developer ticket was opened where it was thoroughly discussed and it was decided to implement a nag screen to encourage publishers to upgrade their browser.

The decision was made to implement a nag screen to warn users that they were using an insecure browser and to update it.

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According to the opening discussion:

“Maintainability cost of IE11 (In terms of time, bundle size and a lot more) is very high and IE11 is approaching the 1% threshold in its usage worldwide… I think we should consider adding a notice to discourage its usage.”

Another member of the development team noted that government clients (at the time) were required to use IE 11:

“After discussion in the accessibility meeting 29 Nov 2019, we agree that this it is a good idea to encourage this – we’re happy to encourage people off IE 11 if they have the option to change.

However, we want to be sure that this is separate from our ending support for IE 11. IE 11 is a required platform for government clients as long as it’s still supported by Microsoft, and is still in use relatively heavily by screen reader users.

Nag needs to take into consideration that people may not have the option to change, be permanently dismissible, and be filterable.”

Screenshot of Nag Screen

Screenshot of WordPress nag screen regarding IE 11

WordPress is Seeking Feedback

The announcement noted that they are seeking feedback. No decision on dropping IE 11 has been made. At this point WordPress is simply bringing the topic up for discussion and soliciting for feedback from the WordPress community.

WordPress noted:

“This is a tough decision to make and we want to solicit feedback from as many voices across the community it may impact.

…Once we’ve gathered feedback, the next step will be to consolidate and decide the policy.”

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Citation

Read the official WordPress announcement:

Discussion: Dropping support for IE11