RIP Internet Explorer, 1995 — 2023

RIP Internet Explorer, 1995 — 2023

It’s official: Internet Explorer is dead. Microsoft confirmed as much on Tuesday with an update to the Internet Explorer desktop app support page: “The retired, out-of-support Internet Explorer 11 desktop application has been permanently disabled through a Microsoft Edge update on certain versions of Windows 10.” Ouch.

Anyone who has been paying attention to Internet Explorer, and the world of internet browsers in general, saw this coming a mile away. Microsoft has been pouring support into its current web browser, Edge, since 2015, leaving the legacy IE browser to the wayside. But it’s more than that: In 2021, Microsoft announced it would be putting Internet Explorer out to pasture, slowly transitioning away from the program until June 15, 2022, when the company planned to officially drop support for it.

In case you haven’t checked a calendar lately, June 15, 2022 was eight months ago, meaning Microsoft retired Internet Explorer more than half a year ago. And yet, retired does not mean dead. While the company made using the outdated browser more difficult than simply switching to Edge, it was still technically possible to browser the web with IE. It wasn’t recommended, of course — aside from the fact that Internet Explorer’s age made it a terrible browser to use in 2022, the absence of support turned it into a security risk. Still, Internet Explorer lived on, if you can call it living.

Which brings us to Tuesday, Feb. 14. Valentine’s Day, only, not for anyone who still loved Internet Explorer. Rather than leave the app to a long and happy retirement, Microsoft decided to go nuclear, disabling it permanently on Windows 11 and throughout some versions of Windows 10. In many cases, you won’t be able to use it at all.

Internet Explorer used to run the world wide web

Internet Explorer was once the way to browse the web. If you were on the internet in 2003, for example, you were probably using IE, since the browser claimed a whopping 95% of the market. That was in part thanks to Microsoft’s aggressive integration of the app into Windows, which made it difficult to consider other options, such as the then-popular Netscape. In fact, Netscape’s parent company, AOL, filed a lawsuit against Microsoft for the monopolistic practice…and won. But it didn’t matter: Internet Explorer was too many people’s choice — whether that choice was conscious or not.

But success wouldn’t be Internet Explorer’s story for long. Other browsers, like Firefox and Chrome, started to gain popularity thanks to features Internet Explorer lacked. It quickly became apparent Microsoft’s browser couldn’t compete in the new internet, with slow-loading pages and elements that wouldn’t load at all. In the digital age, it doesn’t matter whether you were once the go-to choice for almost every internet user in the world: If you can’t keep up, you die. Internet Explorer 11 was the last new version of the browser, released way back in 2013. To call it old is a gross understatement in computing terms.

For most of us, Internet Explorer hasn’t been a legitimate part of the web conversation in years. But it had its place. Microsoft’s chief reason for keeping it around as long as it did was for legacy websites that weren’t supported in modern browsers. While Chrome or Firefox wouldn’t connect you to the ageing parts of the internet, the outdated Internet Explorer still could. It was especially important for companies using specific services that require Internet Explorer, and cannot be updated to something newer.

But even that purpose escaped IE quickly. Microsoft added “Internet Explorer Mode” to Edge, which meant its new browser could do both, and robbing Internet Explorer of any remaining relevance.

So, yes, Internet Explorer was old, outdated, and irrelevant. Very few still used it, and, those who did, could simply switch to Edge and use the built-in Internet Explorer mode to carry on. While permanently disabling an app might be an extreme step, it’s an understandable one.

Will history repeat itself?

Think about the apps and services that have a chokehold on the public today. The iPhone is immensely popular in the United States because of iMessages and FaceTime; Google is most people’s default search engine. Sure, these things have been true for a while, but will they continue to be? Maybe Apple will finally be forced to offer its proprietary chat functions on Android, and totally disrupt the smartphone market of the U.S. Maybe Microsoft’s (or another company’s) ventures into AI search will make their search engine the new king.

Only one thing’s for sure: No one wants to be the next Internet Explorer.

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