WordPress Considers Dropping Support for IE 11 After Usage Falls Below 1%

A new proposal on WordPress.org explores the ramifications of dropping support for Internet Explorer 11 (IE11). Héctor Prieto summarized the current state of IE usage among WordPress users, citing three metrics that demonstrate declining usage that is now cumulatively below ~1%:

StatCounter’s GlobalStats record IE11 having dipped below 1.0% for the first time in August 2020, and it has continued declining steadily since then.

The numbers cited in the proposal are similar to those contributors used when WordPress 4.8 officially dropped support for IE versions 8, 9, and 10 in 2017. These types of browser support decisions are always carefully considered, as they affect more users than one might guess, given the scale of a software project with more than 40% market share of all websites.

“It’s important to keep in mind that when viewing these statistics in the context of WordPress, these percentages represent tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of users that could potentially be left behind if support for IE11 is dropped,” Prieto said.

Most of the people still using IE11 are doing so because of forces outside their control. They may not have the ability to simply download an alternative browser. This is more common for users working inside major institutions like banking, government, and education.

At this point in WordPress’ history, the benefits for the web seem to heavily outweigh the negative impacts on a small percentage of users who might be affected by lack of IE11 support. Improving the performance of the editor is one driving factor in this decision. Prieto shared stats from an exploration by Gutenberg developer Riad Benguella, where he measured the impact of dropping IE11 support, demonstrating an 84.9 kB (7%) reduction in Gutenberg JavaScript build files.

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

“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.”

Most of those participating in the discussion on WordPress.org are strongly in favor of dropping support for IE11, but a few cautioned that it must be done in a controlled way, with an EOL date announced months in advance. There are some institutions that selected WordPress for their projects based solely on the fact that it offers IE11 support, and they need time to plan a transition.

“I can see the crowd cheering for finally getting rid of IE and trust me I’ll be the first to pop champagne when that day has finally come,” WordPress developer Thomas Kräftner said. “Still I believe we need to make sure this is done in a slow, controlled and careful way so the effort saved for not supporting IE doesn’t backfire with extra, even more hellish work for those that don’t yet have the choice to drop IE.”

Approximately 16 months ago, Riad Benguella proposed WordPress add a notice to discourage Internet Explorer usage. Shortly thereafter, the Browse Happy API was updating to consider all versions of Internet Explorer as insecure. In the most recent conversation on WordPress.org, contributors suggested taking it a step further and change the notice to state that IE11 support will be dropped in WP-Admin by the end of year. Many shared additional benefits not outlined in the proposal.

“There’s lots of things we can’t use right now because of the IE11 constraint: CSS Variables, CSS grid, Modern JS are just the 1st things that come to mind,” Ari Stathopoulos commented. “We would be able to ship smaller files to 40% of the web, so the environmental impact of this change would be quite big, a huge win for our sustainability efforts! 99% of WP’s userbase has suffered enough already because of the IE limitation, and removing support for it can really make a dent and urge the few remaining IE users to use a better/newer browser.”

Prieto said the initial proposal was just to get the conversation started and was not meant to go into technical implementation details. WordPress contributors are invited to offer feedback about the proposal in the comments before March 18.

Source: WP Tavern

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