IE9 to deliver "diminished experience" for Office 365 users from January 12

A current refresh of the System Requirements for Office 365 brings the news that IE9 users will face a diminished experience from January 12, 2016. In other words, things won't be quite as nice as they would be if you cared to use another browser. Such as Edge, because Microsoft's new Windows 10 browser is the only one that Office 365 apparently likes. But that's not true either because some things just don't work in Edge. We live in a complicated world...

Microsoft took the time recently to post an update for the System Requirements for Office 365 contained the interesting observation that “Beginning January 12, 2016, we are implementing changes across Office 365 workloads, which will result in a significantly diminished experience for Office 365 users on Internet Explorer 8 and Internet Explorer 9.”  (see Richard Hay's post for more information as to Microsoft's support policy for Windows browsers).

In other words, it’s about time you upgraded to Internet Explorer 11 or decide to switch to one of the other browsers supported by Office 365. In other words, Edge, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. At least, I think that these browsers are still supported, but can’t find any reference to them in the latest System Requirements for Office 365.

The omission of non-Microsoft browsers must be an oversight on someone’s part because other recent posts such as the October 2015 feature update describe features specifically designed for Chrome (an Office Online extension) and Macintosh and iPad users are unlikely to use anything but Safari.

[Update: Microsoft contacted me to say that the other browsers are still supported. If you go to the Plans section of the System Requirements for Office 365 page and expand that section, you'll get the following text:

"The current or immediately previous version of Internet Explorer; the current version of Microsoft Edge, Safari, Chrome, or Firefox. "

But if you never knew to expand that section, the fact that Office 365 supports third-party browsers remains hidden from view - even when the page is searched]

The same note proclaims “Office 365 is designed to work with the latest version of the Microsoft Edge browser.” This came as news to me as the Edge browser has never been particularly brilliant when used with Outlook Web App, the Office 365 Admin Center, or any of the other web-based interfaces across the service. That feeling is confirmed in the knowledge base article “Issues that occur when you use the Edge browser with Office 365” that tells of important details such as the lack of support of S/MIME with OWA. Edge also struggles to win user hearts because it doesn’t currently support extensions. Apparently that support is coming, but then again, so is Christmas.

The fact that Edge has some known issues doesn’t mean that everything is always perfect with the other browsers. Over the long time, it seems to me that Internet Explorer has probably been the most stable. Google updated Chrome in September 2014 and caused all manner of problems for OWA and the Office 365 Admin Center because dialogs stopped working.

It turned out that Microsoft dropped the ball in that case because Google had told developers beforehand that they were going to change the API, but it still took a couple of months before Microsoft was able to update their apps to make everything work again. My personal experience is that Chrome works well with Office 365 now and I flip-flop between Internet Explorer and Chrome without noticing any issues.

The Office 365 web clients are constantly being tweaked by Microsoft so apart from the advertised downgrading to the reach version of OWA, it’s hard to say exactly how diminished the experience will be in any other place in the service. Downgrading from the premium version of OWA should be quite enough to persuade those who use old versions of IE that it’s time to do something.

In two other pieces of Office 365 news, Microsoft yesterday announced that they have started to roll-out the Office 365 Planner application to First Release tenants. Planner makes heavy use of Office 365 Groups and it will be interesting to see how useful a lightweight project planning application turns out to be. Planner hasn't turned up in my E3 tenant yet, but I am looking forward to playing with it.

The second item concerns Delve Analytics. This is a major part of the functionality announced in the new Office 365 Plan E5 that's been available since December 1. I've seen some complaints from people who signed up for E5 and haven't been able to use Delve Analytics because Microsoft needs to provision the accounts first. Apparently, the provisioning is not just a matter of enabling an account. Behind the scenes, Delve Analytics has to be told to gather information about a tenant for four weeks before it can be switched on. I think this is reasonable as who would want to attempt to analyze anything based on zero data?

I’m sure Microsoft will clarify the matter of the full set of supported browsers for Office 365. In the meantime, it might be worth your while checking what versions of IE are in use as it would be horrible to wake up to a storm of user complaints on January 12.

Follow Tony @12Knocksinna

Discuss this Blog Entry 3

on Dec 15, 2015

A dirty little secret is that all (or almost all) the "Issues that occur when you use the Edge browser with Office 365" are applicable to Firefox and Chrome, too.

Yes, for all features in Sharepoint in particular, you need IE.

on Dec 22, 2015

True. Chrome and Firefox have their own issues, but at least you can shout at Microsoft if stuff doesn't work and you run the latest version of those browsers. Not that it might help much, except to reduce your blood pressure.

on Jan 4, 2016

Well, in theory, in just over a week all supported Windows computers will be using IE11 [well excluding Vista users but they are dwindling in usage]. In practicality...

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Tony Redmond is a senior contributing editor for Windows IT Pro. His latest books are Office 365 for Exchange Professionals (eBook, May 2015) and Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Inside Out: Mailbox...
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