If you somehow missed the news (and the nonstop nagging to upgrade) here's something that should make just about any long-time web user happy: Internet Explorer is on its way out. After 20 years of running off the same basic web rendering engine, Microsoft has released a brand new, totally rebuilt browser for its Windows 10 OS, called Edge.
And for everyone who's torn their hair out trying to adapt their websites to work with IE's poor standards support and idiosyncratic implementations, the bigger good news is that Edge is far more standards-friendly. And as Windows 10 continues to roll out, increasing numbers of people will undoubtedly start using Edge in the months ahead.
Will this have any significant impact on your SEO and marketing? Let's take a look...
What Microsoft Edge Means For Your SEO
Microsoft has clearly faced the cold reality that they no longer own the browser market, and haven't in a number of years. Edge is intended to be rigorously adherent to existing web standards, with Microsoft even maintaining a platform status page detailing which standards are already included, and which ones they're working on or thinking about.
And they're looking towards the future, with relatively new standards like HTTP2 and asm.js already supported.
How far does this go? Microsoft doesn't even want Edge attempting to render IE code. The user string in Edge actually masks itself as Safari\Webkit via UserAgent strings to guarantee it receives standards-compliant code. Microsoft has stated it considers any discrepancies between Edge and Webkit rendering to be a bug, which will be fixed.
So they've gotten onto the standards bandwagon in a big way, and that's going to be great news for your programmers. It'll make their lives far easier.
The Impact On Your SEO Coding Going Forward
This will all mean good things for your SEO, given that Google prizes fast-loading and well-coded sites.
Among the elements you'll be able to eliminate from your code:
- IE conditional comments for differentiating CSS
- <code><span> or <div> tags working around CSS problems
- Specifying legacy document modes
- Anything involving quirks mode
Basically, we're talking about tighter, neater, faster-loading, and more easily-maintained code which should (hopefully) be standardized across every platform you'll be supporting.
The other issue that matters to your coders is that Microsoft has promised that Edge will receive updates far more frequently. Rather than waiting a year or two for major IE releases to add features, Edge will be updated in a rolling fashion. New standards should make their way into Edge much more rapidly, which will further decrease any angst over supporting so many different platforms.
But Don't Toss Your IE Code Just Yet
Now, here's the bad news: Edge usage doesn't seem to be keeping pace with Windows 10 adoption. Whether you're looking at install bases or in-the-wild browser usage there just aren't that many people on Edge.
Chrome, of course, is still by far the most-used browser.
And despite trying very (very) hard to push users to upgrade, there's still a lot of people sticking to older versions of Windows, which means they can't use the Windows10-only Edge. IE 8, 9, 10, and 11 all have significantly higher user numbers, and those are customers you probably can't ignore unless you have a very tech-focused market.
Granted, this is muddied somewhat by Edge identifying itself as Safari, but even then, there's still a lot of people on older IE versions. Until a substantial chunk of them upgrade, you're going to have to keep maintaining that old kludgy IE code.
If you do regular customer surveys, you might ask your patrons whether they have upgraded or are planning to upgrade to Windows 10. That would give you insight into when you could drop legacy support for older IE browsers.
Will Edge Be A Game-Changer?
It's honestly hard to say what impact -if any- Edge will have on SEO and marketing in the long run. Microsoft is facing a serious usage gap between their browser and the other major competitors. By waiting so long to replace IE, they may have simply cemented Chrome's dominance for the foreseeable future.
In the best-case scenario, though, within a year or so you should be able to implement a major code cleanup that could yield substantial boosts to both your search placement and your user satisfaction.
But until more people adopt it, we can only wait and see.