The end of Internet Explorer is long overdue
Internet Explorer is no more.
On Wednesday, Microsoft ( MSFT ) officially ended support for its OG web browser, Internet Explorer.
For many, including me, Internet Explorer represents the dawn of the Internet. That Gatorade-colored lowercase 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 end of Internet Explorer has been years in the making. The browser space has become significantly more competitive since Internet Explorer originally launched in 1995, from the rise of Mozilla Firefox starting in 2002 to the increasingly popular open. The original Brave browser, which appeared in 2019.
Internet Explorer’s rise was driven by competition as well as its fall. The browser wars, as they were called, saw Microsoft and Internet Explorer locked in an existential showdown with Netscape. Microsoft may have lost antitrust case brought by the government, but the company beat Netscape as a company in the markets has been sold to AOL and the browser itself is gone under in 2008.
“[Internet Explorer] was one of the first browsers to go mainstream because it was on every Windows device,” Ari Lightman, a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University, told Yahoo Finance.
But when Firefox launched in 2002 and the success of other open source browsers grew, Microsoft began to fall behind.
“You have open source that comes out and says: “Hey, if you want to see how this works, great, we’ll show you,” he said. “It was this new paradigm that I think Microsoft didn’t pursue fast enough.”
New York University computer science and engineering professor Justin Kappos agrees. Because Microsoft existed before open source was proven to be a viable business model, the company did not adapt quickly.
“They were slow to open source because piracy was a big problem and a big problem for them,” he told Yahoo Finance. “I think early on 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 shiny new cross-platform browser dominated the market. Chrome was the result of a full court press by researchers studying how to improve web browsers. Microsoft’s new browser, Microsoft Edge, also benefited from this research; The source code available in Chrome is also in Edge, according to Cappos.
“It’s necessary,” he said. “Internet Explorer has to go. One of the hardest things when you’re successful is that you eventually have to move users away from the old technology… We’ve learned a lot about how to better architect browsers.”
Basically, the dead is somewhat alive
There is an important nuance here. Internet Explorer, to quote Billy Crystal’s famous line from The Princess Bride, is “just mostly dead.” You see, the browser isn’t dying completely, it will be running on Edge, where users can open websites that require Internet Explorer 11, called IE mode.
Microsoft has invested heavily in Edge, which the company launched in 2015. The move to focus exclusively on Edge was long overdue and, in large part, a security move, Microsoft told Yahoo Finance. Internet Explorer simply wasn’t built to the same modern security and privacy standards as modern browsers, the company added in background chatter.
“If there’s one thing I want to emphasize, it’s that though [moving on from Internet Explorer] can feel intimidating and difficult for organizations, the key word is emotion,” said a Microsoft spokesperson. “There are many resources to turn to, and we’re here because we’ve promised to offer compatibility support for free. We want the transition from IE mode to Microsoft Edge to be seamless.”
Internet Explorer has long been used by hospitals and Healthcare entities as well as other areas such as production. So when building Edge, Microsoft wanted to address pain points IT administrators often face, from security to optimizing design for both business and everyday users, the company says. This view is consistent with Microsoft’s long-standing identity as a technology giant that focuses on enterprises, Lightman said.
“Microsoft has always been enterprise-focused, while Google has always been consumer-focused,” he told Yahoo Finance. “A lot of times when you’re searching for personal reasons or sometimes for research purposes, all this data is being collected to determine consumer behavior patterns and things like that. Google uses it all from an advertising perspective, but Microsoft’s businesses are not “It’s not really about advertising, it’s more about selling software and hardware.”
So if you really need Internet Explorer, you’ll still be able to access it through Microsoft Edge.
“There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead,” says Crystal’s wonder Max in The Princess Bride. “Mostly the dead are somewhat alive.”
Allie Garfinkle is a senior technology reporter at Yahoo Finance. Find him on Twitter @agarfinks:.
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