Can you believe it’s been five years since Microsoft started trying to push people away from Internet Explorer? Considering they still haven’t been completely successful, that’s impressive. Yet, here it is right on screen, my article from 2015 telling people that all versions of IE up to version 10 were obsolete.
A look back
Internet Explorer premiered in 1995 as part of an optional upgrade to Windows95. Before that, if you wanted to get on the internet, you had to get your hands on something like Mosaic or Netscape, manually configure everything, and hope there was a dial-up number near you.
Internet Explorer didn’t immediately solve most of those problems, and it would take until the release of Windows98 for internet configuration to get baked into the operating system. It’s true, Internet Explorer had a rocky start but when it took off, it really took off.
Internet Explorer was popular because it was free, because it was there, and because it worked well with Windows. At one point it was so dominant that the government sued Microsoft for antitrust violations. Internet Explorer kinda was the way to see the internet for a while.
And that was the problem
Internet Explorer was massively popular, but it wasn’t 100% compatible with major internet standards. This meant that if you wanted your page to look good on Internet Explorer, it wouldn’t always work on other browsers. And if you wanted it to be compatible with standards, it wouldn’t always work on Internet Explorer.
People gradually tired of Internet Explorer, of course. Free alternatives like Firefox and Chrome began to take over. You can see from this video:
that Internet Explorer enjoyed a massive market share throughout the 2000s, at one time having close to 90% of the browsing traffic. It stayed dominant until 2012 when Chrome broke out into the lead.
But, those older pages written for Internet Explorer just hung on. And as a result, so did Internet Explorer.
Edge, AKA the browser you use to download Chrome
In 2015, Microsoft released Edge, written from the ground up to be more compatible with standards. It was the hope that it would unseat Chrome and return the crown back to Microsoft. Instead, most people used Edge precisely once… to download Chrome. In a sort of “if you can’t beat ’em” move, Microsoft again rewrote its browser to base it on the open-source Chromium codebase, which is closely related to Chrome.
So far this hasn’t really gotten them a lot of market share. It has gotten a few tech journalists to say that Edge isn’t really that bad. I’ve used it myself on more occasions lately than ever before, because it does look and behave like Chrome. I use it as a way to have more than one account loaded on the same site. I could use private browsing on Chrome for the same thing but I’d lose access to saved passwords.
Will Internet Explorer ever really die?
Some will tell you it’s already dead, but there are still a lot of older sites, specifically internal corporate sites, that need it. Corporate intranets are slow to change and many still look much as they did in the 2000s. Without the need to attract viewers, there’s no need to change.
Microsoft keeps releasing very minor updates to the latest version, Internet Explorer 11. Although that version has been around since 2013, it keeps getting minor upgrades so it’s not a complete security risk. Microsoft itself has stopped supporting Internet Explorer on its online 365 products, but they haven’t announced an end date for support. Instead they seem willing to keep patching it forever.