What Is VBScript, and Why Did Microsoft Just Kill It?
On August 13, 2019, Microsoft disabled VBScript by default in Internet Explorer on Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 systems via a Patch Tuesday update. Microsoft released a similar update for Windows 10 on July 9, 2019. Now, on any supported Windows system with the latest updates installed, VBScript will be disabled by default.
VBScript was already mostly gone. Microsoft never supported VBScript in Microsoft Edge, which meant it was limited to Internet Explorer 11. Other browsers like Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Apple Safari never implemented VBScript, either.
VBScript was a scripting language modeled after Microsoft’s Visual Basic. Its full name is “Microsoft Visual Basic Scripting Edition.”
VBScript Wasn’t Just For Web Browsers
While this latest update is all about Internet Explorer, VBScript was for more than that. Microsoft’s Internet Information Services (IIS) web server could run server-side VBScript. The Windows Script Host (WSH) can run VBScript files, often with the .vbs file extension. It popped up in all sorts of places for example, Microsoft Outlook 97 used VBScript as its macro language, although it was the only Microsoft Office application to do so.
VBScript saw some use by Windows administrators for scripting outside the web browser, replacing batch files. But VBScript mostly fell out of fashion long ago. As Paul Thurrott points out, “by the turn of the century, Microsoft was transitioning to .NET, and VBScript was left behind. ”
System administrators who want to automate things with scripts will generally now use PowerShell instead of VBScript. Modern versions of Microsoft Office block VBScript controls.
Why Is VBScript Going Away?
This update isn’t a surprise. Back in 2017, Microsoft explained that it intended to disable VBScript by default in Internet Explorer in the future that future is now.
VBScript is too old even for Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer 11 will only show VBScript for web pages executed in a legacy document mode. Microsoft’s Edge browser team wrote that this was a “temporary solution.” Microsoft may be supporting Internet Explorer 11 for the foreseeable future, but the company isn’t supporting VBScript along with it.
Sure, Windows contains many old compatibility features, but VBScript is potentially dangerous. It’s a whole scripting language available to web pages in Internet Explorer, an already old web browser. Few web pages still use it, and no one is developing with it anymore. Disabling it by default is a no-brainer.
How to Re-enable VBScript (If You Absolutely Have To)
This change shouldn’t affect anything for the vast majority of people. If a website required VBScript, it would only work in Internet Explorer. Assuming you don’t use old IE-only websites, you’re fine. Even if you do, most of those old websites don’t use VBScript.
But, if you still need VBScript in Internet Explorer for some reason, there’s still a way to use it. System administrators can enable VBScript for specific security zones via a registry or Group Policy setting.
Microsoft hasn’t made this option easy to find. That’s because this feature really is for businesses that need it. Average people shouldn’t touch it.
In fact, Microsoft says it will offer these options only “for a limited time.” Expect to see them go away in a future version of Windows 10, completely removing VBScript support from Internet Explorer.
While this language had a long run, it’s been fading away for a long time. The recent Windows Update doesn’t change much. The vast majority of Windows users won’t notice VBScript has been disabled, and they’ll have no reason to care.