Friday, Aug 19, 2022

Microsoft’s Not-So-Fast Browser, Internet Explorer, Dies A Slow Death

The death of Internet Explorer is indeed the end of an era, but the sad part is, it is not just the modern internet users, but even those who the Explorer served for years, had already considered it dead

Microsoft Internet Explorer Browser
Microsoft Internet Explorer Browser

27 years is a long time in the world of technology and surviving this long while staying relevant is nothing short of a miracle.

The 27-year-old Internet Explorer (IE), did manage to survive as Microsoft kept it alive some way or the other, but it's no secret that the once-popular browser had lost its relevance way back.

Now, the browser that once dominated the Internet, is set to become history.

The death of one of the first web browsers -- the Internet Explorer -- has been slow and painful.

“Internet Explorer 11 desktop application will be retired and go out of support on June 15, 2022, for certain versions of Windows 10,” Microsoft said in a blog post.

For the uninitiated, the browser was well alive so far, and it's going to die officially on June 15.

There was hardly a flicker of hope for the forgotten browser and its misery became fodder for memes and viral posts on the modern internet.

Interestingly, the same popular accounts or pages on Instagram and Twitter bid adieu to the good old Internet Explorer with full respect, dedicating a post filled with nostalgia.

The death of the browser was already on the cards as the world moved to Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and other browsers.

Amid this, Internet Explorer became just a medium for people to download other browsers.

Even Microsoft accepted it and tried to use it to rebrand the browser. Much to everyone's surprise, in 2012, the tech giant came up with 'The Browser You Loved to Hate' promotional campaign which said the old versions of IE were good for only one thing: "downloading another browser."

How this self-mockery fared for the tech giant and the browser is evident as the revival seemed a long shot; the damage was done.

Making its debut in 1995 as part of Windows 95, Internet Explorer was quick to rise and pitted against 90's dominant browser Netscape Navigator for the top spot in the first browser war.

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

The browser peaked during 2002 and 2003, with about 95% share.

But then, its fortune began to dwindle as usage share declined with the launch of Firefox (2004) and Google Chrome (2008). The rise of mobile operating systems such as Android and iOS that do not support Internet Explorer also added salt to the wounds of the browser.

Internet Explorer's market share fell below 50% in September 2010. In May 2012, Google Chrome left Internet Explorer behind to become the most used browser worldwide.

Why Chrome flourished while Explorer perished could be gauged from the fact that Google aggressively updated its browser more than 50 times since 2008 while Explorer saw few updates.

In the war of browsers, the new players carved their niche; Chrome became a hit among most with features such as Incognito, Firefox remained the favourite for those who love tech and prefer security features. Even Apple's Safari started gaining attention. Internet Explorer did not have much to offer and lacked the appeal modern browsers had.

At the same time, mobile web browsing saw steady growth and in 2016 it overtook desktop browsing for the first time worldwide, accounting for 51.3% versus the desktop’s 48.7%, according to web analytics firm StatCounter.

With Google Chrome and Apple's Safari as key browsers in Android and iOS devices, there was little chance for Explorer to find takers. The windows phone, launched around 2007, could have given the browser some edge but failed to compete with Apple and Android phones.

Microsoft may have pulled the plug earlier from its browser but its usage share is still around 0.38 percent. Edge, meanwhile, enjoys a 4 per cent market share. New feature development for the browser was discontinued in 2016 in favor of the new browser Microsoft Edge.

Google Chrome was neck and neck with Internet Explorer by mid-2012, and then it left behind Explorer and other browsers.

To fill its place, Microsoft has positioned its newer browser—Microsoft Edge, which debuted in 2015—as its replacement.

“We are announcing that the future of Internet Explorer on Windows 10 is in Microsoft Edge,” Sean Lyndersay, the company’s program manager for Edge, said in a blog post last month.

“Not only is Microsoft Edge a faster, more secure, and more modern browsing experience than Internet Explorer, but it is also able to address a key concern: compatibility for older, legacy websites and applications," he added.

To announce the inevitable, the company last year said full support for Internet Explorer would be discontinued on June 15, 2022, after which, the alternative will be Microsoft Edge with IE mode for legacy sites.

Google Chrome is now the leading browser, holding a 64% share of the global market, according to browser tracker StatCounter, while Edge users sit at under 4%.

The lack of innovation created the perfect environment for modern browsers to dominate the market and defeat the good old Internet Explorer.

The death of Internet Explorer is indeed the end of an era, but the sad part is, not just the modern internet users, but even those who the Explorer served for years, had already considered it dead, despite it still holding a 0.62 per cent browser usage.

It remains to be seen if Microsoft Edge could take on the mighty Google Chrome in the future but with a 4 per cent market share, it's a long road ahead for the browser.

Perhaps a perfect epitaph for the Explorer would be 'The browser that helped people download other browsers.'