Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 includes hundreds of enhancements for Internet Explorer 11

WP 8.1 Update 1 | WP 8.1

Earlier this week, Microsoft revealed that Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 would be released soon and that those of you in the Preview for Developers program would get the update starting next week, possibly on Tuesday.

Part of the update includes enhancements to Internet Explorer 11 - hundreds of enhancements, in fact. Microsoft says that, based on feedback that they have received, they have pursed a web experience that matches that of iOS and Android. The full quote is below:

We pursued a web experience for IE users consistent with what is available on iOS and Android devices – even where this meant we would be adding non-standard web platform features. We believe that this is a more pragmatic approach to running today's less-standardised mobile web.

This statement seems rather baffling and raises a few questions; for example, what type of experience were they pursuing before this, and why did it not work out? Anyways, Microsoft is saying that their web experience is now closer to that of Android and iOS which will make the mobile browsing experience even better.

According to their data, they tested the updated IE11 on 500 of the top mobile websites and found that on more than 40% of the sites, the update to the browser on Windows Phone improved the browsing experience.

If you want to read all the details about the underlying changes, you can hit the source link below but know that they are mostly affecting development of mobile sites, rather than end-user features. While they may not be new features to show off to mom and dad, they do support the browser and make it better for surfing the web, so they are certainly welcome.

Source: Microsoft

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39 Comments

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Is it just me or is the constant use of the word "experience" and its variants quickly becoming tiresome? MS is running this newest of buzzy buzzwords into the ground in record time.

During WP8.0 GDR1-GDR2 I had near-0 times when IE crashed. I really mean in 6-8 months I experienced maybe 4-5 IE crashes, seriously. Since the the WP8.0 GDR3 I started to face IE crashes sometimes (still not terrible, but noticeable increase). Since DP 8.1, I can more or less reliably crash the IE11 under 5 minutes browsing: on youtube mobile page I can do this in 2-3 mins during scrolling. On other websites sometimes I can browse for 5-10 mins before dropping me to the start screen, other times a 2-3 second browsing kills the IE. I really hope this will improve next week, as currently its worse than I had on Windows 98 with IE4.0 (and I can tell you guys, that sucked very very very much in those days).

apple and google have non-standards compliant browsers and Microsoft was trying to comply to the standards... now they are just saying to screw that.

You know. I encourage everyone to read the MS' article. This article can be misinterpreted as if MS didn't go with standards and they showed a broken experience.

"Article"
This statement seems rather baffling and raises a few questions; for example, what type of experience were they pursuing before this, and why did it not work out?

Let's see:

"Microsoft Web Site"

Faulty browser detection not recognising IE as a mobile browser and giving the desktop experience
Using only old webkit-prefixed features that have been replaced by standards
Using proprietary webkit-prefixed features for which there is no standard
Using features that IE does not support with no graceful fall-back
Running into interoperability bugs and implementation differences in IE

To be honest, these are very important aspects that we need to take into consideration.

I've seen that the main problem MS has had to fix is browser detection. That's why people are encouraging Responsive Websites (With mobile-designed first), so this kind of crap can be stopped. Seems that many many websites are iOS oriented, braking the experience for non-iOS devices.

What I am inferring, with the article MS has posted, is that they have had to hard code several webkit-iOS features that are at the developer's fault for not expanding the user base.

"article"
We found a small number of non-standard features popularised by Apple on the iPhone in widespread use.

So yeah. IE 11 enhancements are actually pieces of code that Web Sites should have added in the first place, that MS is hard coding into it.

After reading this, I"ll also be more careful when deploying several sites via web and check that IE 11 mobile is supported too.

This is huge... HUGE!

A large portion of the unwashed masses of mobile users skip apps and still use browsers to get to their favorite sites. This is how they learned the internet on their desktop and it translates to how they use their phones. This update equalizes the experience for those users and makes Windows Phone an option.

Can you blame them though when people like londan above seem to think it's Microsoft's fault when a non-standard website doesn't render correctly in IE.

Jose_49 said,
Scrap this. MS website explains the reasons behind this. Very valid ones!
Valid as in web devs who are running around the web bitching about IE not being standards compliant don't realize that IE is incredibly standards compliant... so much so they're having to violate that idea to accommodate these web devs who have just "made stuff work" just like Internet explorer back in the day.

MrHumpty said,
Valid as in web devs who are running around the web bitching about IE not being standards compliant don't realize that IE is incredibly standards compliant... so much so they're having to violate that idea to accommodate these web devs who have just "made stuff work" just like Internet explorer back in the day.

Pretty soon, we are going to need to start a support group. I feel your pain.

MrHumpty said,
Valid as in web devs who are running around the web bitching about IE not being standards compliant don't realize that IE is incredibly standards compliant... so much so they're having to violate that idea to accommodate these web devs who have just "made stuff work" just like Internet explorer back in the day.

Indeed. Old dark days of hacking Internet Explorer have begone since IE 9 (or 10).

-adrian- said,
If they would just sync the tracking protection lists and implement them in IE11 in Windows Phone
That would be glorious

This is my biggest gripe with WP - WebPages that just don't work (including this one when trying to sign in and comment).
I've been preying for this for a long time. 8.1 did a lot but still didn't fix the problems with ads, parallax backgrounds and sites that 'jump' all over the place (oxm)

majortom1981 said,
I log into this website all the time on my lumia 1020 running 8.1 with no problems.

It may depend upon how you log into Neowin. I was glad to see the Microsoft Account integration but I constantly have to select the control panel, select log in, select Microsoft Account, select the link to the Microsoft Account and then select Continue from the Microsoft Account page to actually log into Neowin. Then, I have to browse to the same article in the same browser session to actually comment. If I changed the browser to accept all cookies, that would probably help but I'm not going to do that for the sake of this site. It wouldn't surprise me if Neowin is guilty of using non-standards based prefixes or API's for their mobile site. I just don't comment here very often because it is such a PIA to log in.

As web developer, I feel I can shed a little light on this. Microsoft has actually been taking a great route with newer versions of IE. They've been trying to follow the W3C's specifications, and doing a great job of it. I actually really like IE10+. Even 9 wasn't bad.

I take this statement to mean they'll be implementing things that aren't officially approved. For example, there's a non-standard CSS feature "position: sticky" that both Safari and Android support, that IE doesn't. Additionally, they may be implementing support for the -webkit- vendor extension, although I really hope they're not, as vendor prefixes serve an important purpose in pre-release features (each browser can handle these non-standard things differently, so vendor-specific prefixes are very helpful).

Still, I'm glad to see them keeping up the pace with IE. I've switched to IE as my main browser because of all the great improvements they've made in the last few years.

revxx14 said,
As web developer, I feel I can shed a little light on this. Microsoft has actually been taking a great route with newer versions of IE. They've been trying to follow the W3C's specifications, and doing a great job of it. I actually really like IE10+. Even 9 wasn't bad.

I take this statement to mean they'll be implementing things that aren't officially approved. For example, there's a non-standard CSS feature "position: sticky" that both Safari and Android support, that IE doesn't. Additionally, they may be implementing support for the -webkit- vendor extension, although I really hope they're not, as vendor prefixes serve an important purpose in pre-release features (each browser can handle these non-standard things differently, so vendor-specific prefixes are very helpful).

Still, I'm glad to see them keeping up the pace with IE. I've switched to IE as my main browser because of all the great improvements they've made in the last few years.

From what I read they're doing two things, first they're looking at the webkit only prefixed content that IE actually supports but doesn't get sent (because these web devs want to be silly about it and only support webkit) and mapping those to IEs standards implementation so that it works like it should.

The non-standard stuff that Apple supports with Safari is a bit of an issue but for now they have to support those or they get a subpar experience, as most of these mobile sites only look to supporting the iPhone and little else.

As they say in their post,

"We found a small number of non-standard features popularised by Apple on the iPhone in widespread use. These features are not currently on a standards track but browsers that don't support them can't provide a good experience for top sites on the mobile web. One example is -webkit-appearance, which allows a page to modify the styling of an element to match native applications. As Mozilla points out, "not only is it non-standard, but its behavior changes from one browser to another." Unfortunately, without some level of support for these non-standard proprietary features, web sites are more difficult to use."

Can't do anything about this for now unless these web developers change their ways.

Agreed. Not sure why @Brad found Microsoft's statements "baffling" - they do pretty clearly spell out the fact that they had to accommodate a bunch of non-standard HTML features popularized by other browser vendors (surely not!) and mimic those features or provide decent fall-backs.

While many sites are trying to stick closely to the evolving W3C HTML5, CSS3, etc. standards, the mobile web is a little more wild, wild west.

Net-net, what this tells us is that Apple and Google have now taken over from Microsoft when it comes to releasing browsers that broadly support (if not promote) the use of non-standard HTML/CSS/etc. features rather than actually sticking to the damn spec.

Whodathunkit?

Bitcrazed said,
Agreed. Not sure why @Brad found Microsoft's statements "baffling" - they do pretty clearly spell out the fact that they had to accommodate a bunch of non-standard HTML features popularized by other browser vendors (surely not!) and mimic those features or provide decent fall-backs.

While many sites are trying to stick closely to the evolving W3C HTML5, CSS3, etc. standards, the mobile web is a little more wild, wild west.

Net-net, what this tells us is that Apple and Google have now taken over from Microsoft when it comes to releasing browsers that broadly support (if not promote) the use of non-standard HTML/CSS/etc. features rather than actually sticking to the damn spec.

Whodathunkit?

Exactly! There are developers who actually claim that Microsoft doesn't support web standards because they don't use webkit.

While it is great they made those enhancements, they shouldn't be necessary in the first place, Google realy should fix thee mess they made with Webkit...

Studio384 said,
While it is great they made those enhancements, they shouldn't be necessary in the first place, Google realy should fix thee mess they made with Webkit...

Doesn't look like they are, instead they're forking it now with Blink and are going to make even more changes. Chrome is the new IE6 as time goes on it looks like.

George P said,

Doesn't look like they are, instead they're forking it now with Blink and are going to make even more changes. Chrome is the new IE6 as time goes on it looks like.

You get a gold star for this comment.

George P said,

Doesn't look like they are, instead they're forking it now with Blink and are going to make even more changes. Chrome is the new IE6 as time goes on it looks like.


They are, actually. Blink is doing away with prefixes and instead they're going to implement experimental features with standard tags and flags that have to be set in the browser's chrome://flags.

I definitely love IE11 mobile over the Opera and Chrome on iOS/Android. It's much more intregrated into the OS and faster I find.

I think the biggest update included in Update 1 that will really enhance the experience is how they changed the user agent string... because so many lazy web developers keep putting non-standard code and old IE code that the standard-compliant IE11 doesn't render that old code anymore. So I'm glad this will fix it.

Based on the Images, IE tries to Interpret browser-specific content for firefox and safari where web-devs only thought to implement one or two of the mobile browsers because they were too lazy. It's sad that many people say that firefox-rendering or safari-rendering is like the w3c standard would do. Microsoft has shown multiple thousands of testcases that didn't render right in firefox/chrome but would render perfectly well in ie. Just because there are some popular sites that have a few features that ie can't render, you can't say that ie is bad. For example often there are vendortags in front of functions that any browser could do if it wasn't so polite as to skip that part of the code to let a consistent standard to be developed by w3c. I know of a site that you can't use because it implements browser sniffing to block ie users. The code behind it is in bad html 4 with no features that were not present in ie 6 (or even 5).

But of course all non-technical users will only see the site not rendering well in ie and using other browsers / smartphones.

bogas04 said,
This is kind of sad for web. Good for consumers (still sad in disguise)

Yeah, having to work around all the webkit only prefix properties is a joke, what about web standards guys???

Agreed. From direct experience with developers though, IE11s current 'web standards approach' seems to backfire in terms of share of mind. Every Dev hates <IE8 because they have to make work arounds. Similarly they balk when I show a mobile site not working in IE11 (WP8.1), the feeling seems to be that IE always needs work arounds.

Sad because, as I understand it, it's WebKit that's made workarounds but has the biggest market share.

Chrome/Safari/Opera are the new IE6 people! I just hope Firefox never gives up on Gecko and continues to push open web ahead!
I am pretty sure some of the things which work on Chrome still won't on other webkit browsers coz Google ISN'T evil!

Update 1, though small compared to 8.1 itself, is still a good update it sounds like. I'm starting to think more and more that MS should use the same versioning others do, I mean 8.1 is version 8.10.12400 (iirc) so why not have this be 8.11.xxxx for example? That'd make it simple at least.

They can't through. Apple and Google use an X.Y.Z versioning system, Microsoft uses X.Y.BBBB. They can't just change this system, that will require changes to Windows NT, huge changes. Windows Phone 8.1 was supposed to be version 8.1.12400, 7.5 was supposed to be 7.5.xxxx and Microsoft wanted 7.8 to be named 7.8.xxxx, however, due to limitations, they had to pick x.10 for all 3 those updates.

Studio384 said,
They can't through. Apple and Google use an X.Y.Z versioning system, Microsoft uses X.Y.BBBB. They can't just change this system, that will require changes to Windows NT, huge changes. Windows Phone 8.1 was supposed to be version 8.1.12400, 7.5 was supposed to be 7.5.xxxx and Microsoft wanted 7.8 to be named 7.8.xxxx, however, due to limitations, they had to pick x.10 for all 3 those updates.

It's something they should work on/fix then, it'd help when pushing out new updates and the whole naming bit people keep bringing up. Just have this be 8.11.12500 or whatever the final build number will be, and then update 2 can just be 8.12.12600 and so on.

George P said,

It's something they should work on/fix then, it'd help when pushing out new updates and the whole naming bit people keep bringing up. Just have this be 8.11.12500 or whatever the final build number will be, and then update 2 can just be 8.12.12600 and so on.

They can keep the internal version numbers as whatever they want. They should just use something original like cat names for the OS. Windows Phone 8.1 would be Leopard and 8.12.491825 can be Tiger.