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Looking Back at Internet Explorer (What Went Wrong)

Soon, Internet Explorer will be a footnote in history. Recently, Microsoft has stopped supporting versions 7,8,9 and 10 of Internet Explorer for the majority of operating systems, the biggest move its made towards closing the book on a piece of software that has been among the most controversial ever written.

When Microsoft introduced its Edge browser in March, it began to separate itself from Internet Explorer, but IE isn’t dead yet. Since Edge only runs on Windows 10, a couple of Internet Explorer versions will continue to be available for aging operating systems Microsoft still supports. Regardless, it’s a large departure. In the past, Microsoft has maintained a few Internet Explorer versions current for each new version of Windows. But now, it only supports the most recent version of Internet Explorer that can run on any given operating system. There will no longer be security patches available for the old versions, which leaves anyone who chooses not to upgrade open to attacks or new hacks.

How Internet Explorer could still affect the industry

Internet Explorer not supported y Microsoft

This could be very problematic for establishments that use applications custom-built to run properly on a specific older version of the browser. On the upside, it may be beneficial for designers and web developers who still work to make high-quality websites on old browsers. While the newer web browsers have their own eccentricities, and web pages may appear different in one browser versus another, that’s nothing in comparison to the mangling websites experienced at the hands of IE from the end of the ‘90s into the early 2000s.

Microsoft insisted on forging its own direction instead of following conventional standards, shaping web design by years. This may have driven many would-be web developers into occupations that didn’t involve solving why images were spaced differently from one browser to the next. The mess was only made worse by having too many old browsers available. Luckily, now we can move forward.

Since Internet Explorer disregarded the established guidelines set by World Wide Web Consortium, the group that determines web technology standards, it frequently displayed websites in a manner that made them appear completely different from their competitors, like Opera, Netscape, or later on, Firefox. Frantic designers scraped together methods for making web pages successful across several browsers, but if a layout was complex it would require multiple workarounds. Additionally, Internet Explorer 6 was infamous for safety susceptibilities that Microsoft was often unhurried to patch.

Reasons behind Internet Explorer’s popularity

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If the browser was so bad though, why was it used so widely? It was largely due to Microsoft’s policy of have Internet Explorer pre-installed with Windows beginning in 1997, contributing to a long antitrust suit. Many users had no idea other browsers were available, and computer vendors were prevented from selling PC’s with alternate browsers pre-installed due to bulk licensing agreements. In this way, Microsoft pushed out any competition.

That’s not the complete story, however. Even today, Microsoft includes Internet Explorer with Windows but by most methods of measure, Google Chrome has become the most popular browser world-wide. This is partially due to developers and designers spending years to encourage users to download other browsers. But at the height of its popularity, innumerable sites had a “best viewed on Internet Explorer” banner proudly displayed.

Douglas Crockford, an IE critic and JavaScript expert, has said that now, many have forgotten the period of time where Internet Explorer 6 was the best web browser world-wide, and continued as the best for numerous years. However, he notes that other organizations are now the leading browser makers.

The history behind Internet Explorer

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This isn’t exactly true though. Opera 5 and Netscape 6, both excellent browsers, were released before IE 6. But it is true that Microsoft and Internet Explorer were a step ahead of the pack for several years. Those who preferred Netscape waited 3 years between the 1997 arrival of Netscape Navigator 4 and the release of Netscape Navigator 6 in 2000. Releasing a Navigator 5 was skipped so the company could rewrite the software entirely. At the same time, while Internet Explorer didn’t comply to industry standards, it quickly added new features during this period. Developers wanting to remain on the cutting edge of design and features for interactivity had no choice but using Internet Explorer and persuading their users to follow suit.

When Mozilla, a company founded by previous employees of Netscape, arrived on the scene with the first release of Firefox in 2004, Internet Explorer was the one that seemed terribly outdated.

Internet Explorer history

In 2006, Internet Explorer 7 was finally released, proving to be better than the previous version, but still not compliant with standards, causing designers to jump through hoops in order for pages to render correctly. It wasn’t until 2009, with Internet Explorer 8, that Microsoft offered a browser that could pass the standards test Acid2, a tool used widely to determine how compliant browsers were to the standards of the time. Meanwhile, the company dragged its feet implementing other standards like WebGL 3D graphics technology. Once Microsoft could finally compete at the same level as the rest of the market, Internet Explorer’s reputation was already damaged.

For Microsoft, the largest problem was the tenacity of IE 6. Big corporations that had spent considerable amounts of money creating custom applications that would only work on Internet Explorer’s older versions rejected upgrading. Numerous customers had no idea, or operated on copies of Windows that were pirated and therefore were unable to download updates. All this resulted in Microsoft continuing to support Internet Explorer 6 up until April of 2014, over a decade after it first came out.

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