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Farewell Internet Explorer - the now-dead browser that once powered the Internet

Farewell Internet Explorer - the now-dead browser that once powered the Internet
16 Jun, 2022
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Microsoft's iconic internet browser is finally shutting down, 27 years after it was launched.

The company announced on the Windows blog that it will no longer support its internet browser — Internet Explorer (IE). This would mean that important security updates and bug fixes for IE will no longer be rolled out.

That said, the nearly three decade-old application now joins BlackBerry phones, Orkut, dial-up modems and Palm Pilots in the backyard of tech history. But IE's demise was certainly not a surprise. Twenty-seven years is a long time in the technology universe, say experts. 

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Moreover, in August 2020, it was reported that Microsoft was putting an end to IE the very next year, pushing users to its Edge browser, which was launched in 2015. The company thus made clear then it was time to move on. The killing was rather slow and the final date announced was June 15, 2022.

Nonetheless, IE will occupy an important place in tech history as those who used IE in the initial days have gazillion memories associated with the browser. In fact, in the 1990s, it was one of the most popular web browsers that was loved and adored by multitude of web surfers (and some even hated it).

It needs to be mentioned that IE’s history is full of bumpy roads. Microsoft released the first version of IE in 1995, at a time when web surfing was dominated by Netscape Navigator. The launch of IE perhaps signalled the end of Navigator. Microsoft packaged IE and its ubiquitous Windows operating system so tightly that many people simply used it by default instead of Navigator.

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The tech giant developed eleven versions of IE for Windows from 1995 to 2013. The logo also has an interesting back story. The very first IE logo was designed in 1995 and depicted an image of the Earth with a "Microsoft IE" wordmark. In the logo, the Earth was drawn in a calm blue, white and grey colour palette. However, the logo evolved over the years with little tweaks and colour change. 

The going was good. But only two years after its launch, the US Justice Department sued Microsoft in 1997, saying it violated an earlier consent decree by requiring computer makers to use its browser as a condition of using Windows.

After a prolonged battle, what was known as the first real antitrust battle faced by bigtech in 2002, Microsoft agreed to settle the antitrust case over its use of Windows monopoly to squash competitors. It imposed no financial penalty, but forced them to disclose more technical information and barred anti-competitive agreements on Microsoft products. The US tech major also had a brawl with European Union (EU) regulators who said that tying IE to Windows gave it an unfair advantage over rivals such as Mozilla's Firefox, Opera and Google's Chrome.

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Meanwhile, many users complained that IE was slow, prone to crashing and vulnerable to hacks. Faster internet speeds and better user interfaces offered by other competitors caused IE's popularity to decline. It was unable to keep up with the competition. 

IE's market share, which in the early 2000s was over 90%, began to fade as users found more appealing alternatives. Today, the Chrome browser dominates with roughly a 65% share of the worldwide browser market, followed by Apple's Safari with 19%, according to internet analytics company Statcounter. IE's successor, Edge, lags with about 4%, just ahead of Firefox. Until now, just 0.45% of internet users continued to use the IE browser. 

In 2015, Microsoft for the first time confirmed to shun IE and said that it will use a new name for its upcoming browser successor, codenamed 'Project Spartan'. That very year, Microsoft announced that Microsoft Edge would replace IE as the default browser "for certain versions of Windows 10". 

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“Not only is Microsoft Edge a faster, more secure and more modern browsing experience than IE, but it is also able to address a key concern: compatibility for older, legacy websites and applications,” Sean Lyndersay, general manager of Microsoft Edge Enterprise, wrote in a May 2021 blog post.

Microsoft 365 ended support for IE on August 17, 2021 and Microsoft Teams ended support for IE on November 30, 2020.

While IE is now dead as Microsoft officially withdraws support for even the latest IE 11 version, users will still receive IE 11 support if they are using Windows Server 2022 or an earlier OS release with a long-term service extension, but this marks the effective end of software updates for most people.

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Microsoft said, it will start rolling out a new prompt over the coming months that redirect those still using IE over to Microsoft Edge. Eventually, IE will be permanently disabled as part of a future Windows update.

Microsoft reportedly spent over $100 million per year on IE in the late 1990s, with over 1,000 people involved in the project by 1999.