Internet Explorer no longer exists.
On Wednesday, Microsoft (MSFT) officially ended support for its OG browser, Internet Explorer.
For many people, myself included, Internet Explorer represents the beginning of the web. This lowercase Gatorade-colored logo is associated with my earliest memories of the internet, from the virtual pet site Neopets to that utterly terrifying maze game.
However, nostalgia aside, the demise of Internet Explorer has been in the works for years – the browser space has grown considerably more competitive since the launch of Internet Explorer in 1995, from the rise of Mozilla Firefox, which began in 2002, to the increasingly popular open-source Brave browser that came out in 2019.
Internet Explorer’s rise was rooted in competition, as was its downfall. The Browser Wars, as they were called, saw Microsoft and Internet Explorer mired in an existential stalemate with Netscape. Microsoft may have lost a government antitrust lawsuit, but in the markets the company beat Netscape as the company was sold to AOL and the browser itself went bankrupt in 2008.
“[Internet Explorer] it was one of the first browsers that came to prominence because it was on every Windows machine,” Ari Lightman, a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University, told Yahoo Finance.
But with the release of Firefox in 2002 and the success of other open source browsers, Microsoft began to lag behind.
“You have open source and you say, ‘Hey, if you want to see how this is developed, great, we’ll show you,” he said. “It was this new paradigm that I don’t think Microsoft gravitated to quickly enough.”
Justin Cappos, professor of computer science and engineering at New York University, agrees. Because Microsoft existed before proving that open source was a viable business model, the company didn’t adapt quickly.
“They took a long time to open source because piracy was a big problem and a big problem for them,” he told Yahoo Finance. “I think early in their corporate culture they equated open source with free and piracy, which was a big problem on Windows.”
The launch of Google Chrome in 2008 marked the official beginning of the end of Internet Explorer, as the brilliant new cross-platform browser grew to dominate the market. Chrome was the result of all-out pressure from researchers looking to improve web browsers over the past few decades. Microsoft’s latest browser, Microsoft Edge, also benefited from this research — the source code that’s in Chrome is also in Edge, according to Cappos.
“It is necessary,” he said. “Internet Explorer needs to go. One of the hardest things when you’re successful is that you eventually have to take users off the old technology… We’ve learned a lot about how to better architect browsers since then.”
Mostly dead is a little alive
There is an important nuance here. Internet Explorer, to quote Billy Crystal’s famous line from “The Princess Bride”, is “just barely alive.” See, the browser isn’t dying completely – it will live in Edge, where users can open websites that require Internet Explorer 11 in so-called IE Mode.
Microsoft has invested heavily in Edge, which the company launched in 2015. The move to focus exclusively on Edge has been a long-standing and largely a security shift, Microsoft told Yahoo Finance. Internet Explorer simply wasn’t built to the same modern security and privacy standards as contemporary browsers, the company added in background conversations.
“If there is one thing I want to emphasize, it is that although [moving on from Internet Explorer] can seem daunting and challenging for organizations, the key word is feeling,” said a Microsoft spokesperson. “There are many resources available and we are here because we promise to offer compatibility support at no cost. We want the move to Microsoft Edge with IE mode to be seamless.”
Internet Explorer has long been a favorite browser for hospitals and healthcare organizations, as well as other industries such as manufacturing. So, in creating Edge, Microsoft was interested in addressing pain points that IT administrators often encounter, from security to optimizing the design for businesses and everyday users, the company said. That view is consistent with Microsoft’s longstanding identity as the enterprise-focused tech giant, Lightman said.
“Microsoft has always been very enterprise focused, while Google has always been very consumer focused,” he told Yahoo Finance. “Most of the time, when you’re searching for personal reasons, or sometimes for research purposes, all this data is collected to determine consumer behavior patterns and that sort of thing. Google uses all of this from an advertising perspective. , but Microsoft’s business isn’t really about advertising – it’s more about software and hardware sales.”
So if you really need Internet Explorer, you can still visit it from Microsoft Edge.
“There’s a big difference between most dead and all dead,” said Miracle Max of Crystal in “The Princess Bride.” “Mostly dead is a little alive.”
Allie Garfinkle is a senior technology reporter at Yahoo Finance. Find her on twitter @agarfinks.
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