Internet Explorer shutdown to cause Japan problems ‘for months’

Microsoft said farewell to Internet Explorer on June 16, stirring a sense of panic among many businesses and government agencies in Japan that waited to update their websites until the last minute.

Since April, Tokyo-based software developer Computer Engineering & Consulting (CEC) has been inundated with requests for help.

Those customers are mostly government agencies, financial institutions and manufacturing and logistics companies that operate websites that are only compatible with Internet Explorer.

“Could you please do something so we won’t have any problems?” one customer pleaded.

“They have known [about the phaseout] for a long time, but they must have postponed taking actions,” said a CEC official, who expects the chaos among the procrastinated customers to last for “a few months”.

This article is from Nikkei Asia, a global publication with a uniquely Asian perspective on politics, the economy, business and international affairs. Our own correspondents and outside commentators from around the world share their views on Asia, while our Asia300 section provides in-depth coverage of 300 of the biggest and fastest-growing listed companies from 11 economies outside Japan.

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Microsoft officially halted support for Internet Explorer on June 15 after 27 years of service. Many users are transitioning to Google Chrome.

A March survey by information technology resource provider Keyman’s Net revealed a large number of organisations in Japan relied on Internet Explorer, with 49 per cent of respondents saying they used the browser for work.

They said the browser was used for employee attendance management, expenses settlement and other internal tools. In some cases, they had no choice but to use Internet Explorer because of clients’ systems used to handle orders. More than 20 per cent of these respondents did not know or had not figured out how to transition to other browsers after Internet Explorer’s retirement.

Government agencies are particularly slow to respond. The portal site for information on government procurement and bidding switched its recommended browsers to Microsoft’s new Edge and Google Chrome on June 16. But for Japan Pension Service, notices concerning online applications must be viewed in Edge’s Internet Explorer mode. The website of a government-backed mutual aid corporation for private schools still listed Internet Explorer as its only recommended browser.

The Information Technology Promotion Agency has been urging Internet Explorer users to transition to other browsers and revise content promptly.

Released in 1995, Internet Explorer became the global standard after beating Netscape in the browser wars and enjoyed a 65 per cent market share as recently as January 2009. But its share began to steadily slide in the late 2000s, plummeting to less than 1 per cent recently, according to web analytics company StatCounter.

One reason for the decline is that Internet Explorer did not follow the international standards for web technologies.

“It didn’t work well with JavaScript and other programming languages that are necessary for creating interactive websites,” said Yota Egusa, chief information security officer at computing service provider Sakura Internet.

The demise of Internet Explorer coincided with Chrome’s rapid rise. Launched in 2008 with Google’s open-source project as its base, Chrome attracted users with applications such as maps and email that run on the web and dominates the market today with a 65 per cent share.

Chrome “is fast, and its frequent software updates mean security holes and bugs are addressed quickly”, said Masato Saito of ExaWizards, a developer of AI-enabled services.

A version of this article was first published by Nikkei Asia on June 15 2022. ©2022 Nikkei Inc. All rights reserved

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