The tech essential that just faded away

Michael Nelson, a computer science professor at Old Dominion University, said that Microsoft’s decision to shut down Internet Explorer and move users to its newer browser, Edge, “marks the end of an era”.

Internet Explorer’s inclusion in the ubiquitous Windows operating system and the requirement that it be used on certain government websites made the browser an inescapable part of daily life for millions, he said.

It also hastened the demise of Netscape Navigator, the world’s first commercial web browser.

“Internet Explorer was certainly not the first browser, but its inclusion in Windows back in the mid-1990s really helped bring the web to a very large user base” and made the internet more widely accessible, Nelson said.

Even so, he said, “It was never a great browser.”

“If you wanted to do high-performance stuff or you were on the cutting edge, anything from Microsoft was like driving around in your mom’s Toyota Camry,” Nelson said. “It did the job but nobody got excited about a really low-performance, unlovable browser.”


In a blog post about the retirement of the browser, Sean Lyndersay, general manager of Microsoft Edge Enterprise, said on Wednesday that, despite its remarkable role in the evolution of the web, “Internet Explorer’s reputation today is, deservedly, one of a product from an older era – quirky in behaviour and lacking the security of a modern browser.”

Over the next few months, users who open Internet Explorer will be redirected to Microsoft Edge with “IE mode”, he wrote.

“Eventually, Internet Explorer will be disabled permanently as part of a future Windows update, at which point the Internet Explorer icons on users’ devices will be removed,” he wrote. He called Edge a “faster, more secure and more modern browser”.

In the 1990s, Microsoft was forced to defend Internet Explorer in a major antitrust case brought by the Justice Department. In 2001, the department announced that it would no longer seek to split the company in two or contend that Microsoft had illegally tied Internet Explorer to its Windows operating system.

In the years since, many Internet Explorer users switched to Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari, finding them faster, safer and less likely to crash. When Babino downloaded Chrome in 2015, he said, he found that it offered more features and extensions and that it was “more aesthetically pleasing”.

He never clicked on Internet Explorer again.

“It just faded out,” he said.

The New York Times

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