Wordpress Considers Dropping Internet Explorer 11

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WordPress earlier announced that it is seeking feedback on dropping Internet Explorer 11 support to gain considerable improvements to development and performance.

WordPress has announced that it is considering discontinuing support for Internet Explorer 11. Dropping support means better WordPress performance, a better user experience, and a lighter load for developers.


High Maintenance for Developers

Maintaining WordPress code compatibility with Internet Explorer 11 adds extra work for developers in order to support a rapidly dwindling user base.

Rather than wasting resources supporting a small number of users, WordPress will relieve developers of the burden of supporting IE 11.

There would also be advantages for WordPress users and visitors to WordPress websites.


The announcement from WordPress listed the benefits:

"Stripping support would result in smaller scripts, less maintenance, and faster build times."

For example, a recent investigation... discovered 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 of up to 60%, with an average reduction of 24%.

This is due to the heavy reliance on transpilers, as explained by Jason Miller, Web DevRel at Google.

Furthermore, dropping support would eventually render WordPress' currently included polyfill script obsolete, reducing the enqueued scripts size by 102kB. Smaller downloads would benefit all users, particularly those on slower networks or computing devices. We anticipate that dropping support for IE11 will improve performance for the vast majority of users."


Disadvantages of Dropping Support

Dropping support for Internet Explorer 11 isn't all good news. There may be people in other countries who are forced to use IE 11 for legal or other reasons.

"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," according to the discussion.

This emphasizes the importance of developing a policy that considers both a data-driven approach and the impacted user bases, as well as the potential benefits for the wider web.

This discussion about dropping Internet Explorer 11 is part of a larger conversation that began 16 months ago when a developer ticket was opened and it was decided to implement a nag screen to encourage publishers to upgrade their browser.

It was decided to implement a nag screen to warn users that they were using an insecure browser and to prompt them to update it.


"Maintenance 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," according to the opening discussion. I believe we should include a disclaimer to discourage its use."

Another member of the development team mentioned that government clients were required to use Internet Explorer 11 at the time:

"After discussion at the accessibility meeting on November 29, 2019, we agree that encouraging this is a good idea – we're happy to encourage people off IE 11 if they have the option to change."

However, we want to be clear that this is distinct from the end of support for Internet Explorer 11. As long as Microsoft supports it and screen reader users use it, Internet Explorer 11 is a required platform for government clients.

Nag must consider the possibility that people will not be able to change, will be permanently dismissible, and will be filterable."


WordPress is looking for feedback.

They are looking for feedback, according to the announcement. There has been no decision to discontinue IE 11. WordPress is simply bringing the topic up for discussion and soliciting feedback from the WordPress community at this time.

"This is a difficult decision to make, and we want to hear from as many voices across the community as possible."

Once we've gathered feedback, we'll consolidate and make a decision on the policy."

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