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Internet Explorer has been at the forefront of people's web browsing experience for years. Its many versions triumphed in one browser war, but what followed was a slow and painful decline.
After more than 25 years on the Internet, Microsoft officially put an end to its default browser, the iconic Internet Explorer. In August 2020, the tech giant announced its plans to phase out IE and replace it with its younger and sleeker sibling, Microsoft Edge.
This one counts as the most significant of the browser’s many deaths over the years. Internet Explorer 11, its final version, will no longer receive security updates and support and will gradually be removed from Windows 10 computers through an update in the future. In fact, Windows 11 PCs didn’t have them installed at all.
Though some of you weren’t there to experience Internet Explorer firsthand, many remember the frustrating yet entertaining and unforgettable memories it’s given us. These were the days of shared family computers and the buzzing sounds of a dial-up modem.
It’s impossible to forget the Internet Explorer’s freezing web pages and the discovery that it takes more time to open a new window than to close one. Add in the long loading time of a simple site or a single web search.
We all had to keep up with windows freezing and slow loading times because Internet Explorer was at its peak capacity. Though competitors like Opera and Firefox existed, Internet Explorer had a 95% share of web browsing, giving only a microscopic market share to the rest. Google Chrome can’t even match that percentage today.
NCSA Mosaic is a discontinued web browser that was one of the first made available worldwide. It popularized the browser we know today with its user-friendly interface and inline-image support.
While combining images and text on one page may seem like a minute task now, it was once considered revolutionary at the time. It just goes to show how far exploring the Internet has come.
Mosaic inspired competitors like Netscape Navigator, and other projects were its direct offshoots that used its trademarks and source codes. Who would have thought this would become the rise of Internet Explorer?
Internet Explorer’s first few versions weren’t exactly groundbreaking. In fact, it spent most of its development period catching up with its direct competitor, Netscape. It also had to offer support for various platforms.
The browser’s first version was launched on August 16, 1995. It was slightly more than a megabyte in size, and there wasn’t much you could do with it.
A year after IE 2’s release, IE 3 offered Internet Mail, played audio files, and displayed graphics. It was also the first version to be bundled with Macs. While it was still trying to catch up with Netscape, it was taking steps to be ahead of its competition, such as adding support for Active X, CSS, and frames.
By this time, menus expanded, and images were draggable. It added support for Active Desktop, where users can have HTML content on their desktop.
This version ironed out some kinks in the previous version. Some notable features include AutoComplete, offline favorites, and History Explorer Bar. It also supported bi-directional text, which benefited international users who read from right to left.
IE 6 lasted until 2006 and was the first version not available for Mac. It underwent a redesign as it was released before Windows XP. During its tenure, it was the most widely used web browser, peaking from 2002 to 2003 and attaining a total market share of almost 90%.
This version focused more on security by adding a phishing filter and more robust encryption. A “delete browsing history” option was also included to delete private data quickly. Besides security, IE 7 improved the user experience by introducing tabbed browsing.
Microsoft continued to revolutionize how we browsed the web by introducing more security and privacy features, namely InPrivate Browsing and SmartScreen phishing protection.
IE 9 didn’t coincide with any new Windows release but introduced notable features like CSS3 and HTML5, which we still use today.
IE 10 was launched alongside Windows 8 and was confusing for many users because it had two different builds: a regular desktop IE and a Metro app version. On the upside, it was the first to have Adobe Flash installed and not merely suggested as an add-on.
The last version of its iconic run, IE 11, focused on improvements and support for high-DPI displays.
After decades of dominating the world wide web, shaping our browsing experience, and having a massive market share, Internet Explorer put the final nail in the coffin with a tremendous decline to just 1.2% share of the browser market in August 2020.
We’ve seen how it continued to add features that improved user experience and security. But what happened that led to its unlikely demise?
Many consider Apple the prime suspect. In 1997, Microsoft rescued its future nemesis Apple with a $150 million investment in exchange for non-voting shares, commitment to supporting Office for Mac Microsoft, and Apple making Internet Explorer for Mac its default browser.
However, as soon as those five years were up, Apple quickly developed its own browser Safari, which was built on top of the open-sourced browser engine called WebKit. Microsoft ceased all development of IE for Mac as a counterattack.
Google turned to WebKit as it began developing its own browser. While Safari and Firefox made a dent in IE’s otherwise pristine run, Chrome completely shattered its record. Chrome reached its peak during Google’s “Don’t be evil” era in 2008. By the end of 2011, it had overtaken Firefox, and in 2012, it had dethroned Internet Explorer as the most-used web browser.
While Microsoft continued to make minor improvements to its browser, it just couldn’t match the general progress of the web. The company also couldn’t fight the dominance established by Android and iOS in the smartphone and tablet markets. In fact, their Windows Phone platform never caught on, resulting in IE’s mobile version failing to stick its landing.
To regain relevance, Microsoft launched Edge, a new cross-platform browser based on Google Chrome’s codebase. The company states that Edge is a “more secure and more modern browsing experience than Internet Explorer.”
By adopting Chrome’s codes and system, Edge managed to find a foothold in the long-lasting browser wars. It slipped by Firefox for third place in market share and beat Safari for second place in desktop usage.
Discovering problems and developing solutions to improve the user experience is a never-ending cycle. It’s either you learn to adapt, or you get left behind.
The former happened to Google Chrome, which emerged as a frontrunner because of its constant innovation. But now, we say goodbye and thank you to Internet Explorer. Your journey to the top was truly inspiring.
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