Trying out Windows 10 Technical Preview & IE 11

I finally got around to installing Windows 10 Technical Preview in one of my VMs. I had downloaded it about a month ago and even attended an MVA session last month that talked about the new features. Unlike past versions Windows 10 is very much enterprise geared and that’s one reason I want to be in the know-how about it; in my view, Windows 10 is what most enterprises will upgrade to from Windows 7. Not that I hate Windows 8; in fact, unlike most people I love Windows 8 and its start menu, but I know from an end user point of view Windows 10 is the logical upgrade in terms of the UI. It retains the traditional start menu but combines it with the metro UI and apps.

Anyways, it’s been a good experience so far. After installing I upgraded to the latest Preview Build and also registered for the Insider Program. The version of Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 10 seems to be different from Windows 8.1. Both are called version 11 but the former seems faster and I am quite enjoying it actually. (Never thought I’d say I am enjoying IE, ever!) The MVA session too talked a lot about IE in Windows 10 (click this link for a “High MP4” download of the IE section).

The new IE seems to be big on interoperability and defaults to something called “Edge” mode (which was introduced in IE 8 but considered experimental so far). In the past IE had various document modes. IE 8 & IE 9 were versions where Microsoft rewrote most of the browser to support modern standards (the so called “modern web”) so they had to introduce “document modes” to support the older websites. Websites could ask to be shown in the “Edge” mode, which tells IE that the website is designed with modern standards and IE can behave accordingly; or the websites could asked to be shown in “legacy” modes, which tells IE the website is designed for one of the older version of IE and it will behave accordingly. However – if a website doesn’t specify which mode it wanted to be in, IE assumes it should be in “legacy” mode. This is reason why many websites appear broken in IE. The website may support modern standards, but because it doesn’t specify a mode IE assumes its legacy.

With IE 11 Microsoft is defaulting to “Edge” mode, which means that it will ignore whatever a website tells it and display it assuming its built for modern standards. Further, “Edge” mode is the final mode from Microsoft – unlike previous versions there’s no “IE 10” mode, “IE 9” mode, and so on. Just “Edge” mode, which is the latest and greatest always. To take care of Enterprises – which could contain websites where the document mode needs to be honored, IE 11 introduces an “Enterprise” mode. When in “Enterprise” mode IE 11 behaves like IE 8 in Compatibility View. So when IE 11 is in “Enterprise” mode and it encounters a website asking to be displayed in a certain mode, it will honor that, and if the website does not specify a mode it will display it in IE 5 “Quirks” mode.

The neat thing here is that for all home users IE 11 on Windows 10 should start displaying the Internet as it’s meant to be. And in the Enterprise side of things IT pros still use their legacy websites by taking advantage of the “Enterprise” mode and Compatibility View list etc as usual! So you get the best of both worlds.

(Although no relation to Windows 10, I came across this blog post from the IEBlog that shows how Microsoft is updating IE 11 in Windows Phone 8.1 Update to support more websites out of the box. Ironic, in a way, how Microsoft is now having to tweak its behavior and User Agent strings to make more websites display correctly in it. I remember a long time ago when it was the “other” browsers such as Mozilla and Opera that had to implement such tricks).

That’s all for now!