Internet Explorer came to life in 1995 as part of Plus!, an add-on package available for Windows 95. From those humble beginnings it grew into a powerhouse, pre-installed and begging to be your default browser on all Microsoft PCs. In 2002-2003, Explorer reached an impressive peak usage share of 95%. But since the arrival of faster, more customisable and compatible browsers like Mozilla Firefox and later, Google Chrome, IE has become the subject of ridicule.
According to research by Adobe, Chrome overtook Explorer last year (although some studies say Chrome took the lead back in 2012), having the highest number of visits to US-based websites overall. Interestingly, though, Chrome isn't the most popular browser on desktop or mobile devices individually - those titles belong to IE and Apple's Safari, respectively. These figures reflect most people's willingness to use pre-installed browsers. Windows operating systems still dominate PCs, and IE is pre-installed on all of them. In the same way, iPhones are some of the most popular mobile devices, and they all come with Safari. Chrome managed to surpass them both because it is more than moderately popular on both PCs and mobile devices, whereas IE has a minimal share on mobile devices and Safari has little share on desktops, especially after becoming Mac-only in recent years.
For those in the IT or graphic design industries, or even those with a casual interest in any form of web design or browsing experience, Chrome overtaking Explorer as the most popular browser will come as no surprise. Microsoft's flagship browser gained a reputation for being laggy, cluttered, impersonal and vulnerable to security breaches. It became the subject of a long running joke: Internet Explorer, the browser that you only use to download other browsers. (A lot of businesses do insist on still using IE, which forces web-developers to keep the browser around, purely to ensure that their sites are compatible. We at Rhye Media have fondly nicknamed it Internet Exploder due to our own encounters with its display and security issues.)
In 2012 Microsoft conceded that the product needed an image overhaul, but weren't quite ready to let Explorer go. They came up with a series of ad campaigns about "the browser you loved to hate" to directly rebut comments about IE's failings on social media. Despite their best efforts, it appears that by then the damage was irreversible. After accepting blame for IE's stagnation in 2006, Microsoft's former Internet Explorer Chief Dean Hachamovitch retired last December, signalling an end to the browser's era.
While the campaign obviously wasn't as successful as they'd hoped and Explorer can't seem to shake off its unreliable image, Microsoft itself isn't struggling too bad. Spartan is just a codename for the new browser during its development phase, but it looks like Microsoft are going to brand IE's successor with their name after Chrome users in the UK showed preference for names such as "Microsoft A" over "A" by itself, or even "Internet Explorer 12".
Whatever its name, the new browser is aiming to be the primary way for Windows 10 users to browse the web. It's going to feature a simplified interface and run a new rendering engine, named Edge. Users will have the ability to annotate web pages, sync them to OneNote and share them with others. This can be done with a stylus, like more 'traditional' note-taking, or by clicking anywhere on the page and adding comments. Another new feature for Microsoft is known as Reading Mode. When activated, this feature strips away the unnecessary clutter of web pages and makes the experience more like reading a book. While a similar feature is already available in Safari across all Apple devices, it's nice to see it becoming more well known and available on another browser. Cortana, Microsoft's superior personal assistant, will also be available in Spartan, ready to keep track of all your calendar entries and reservations, and to help streamline online booking processes by providing all the relevant information in one click.
The ultimate goal appears to be to create a browser in the same vein as Chrome - compatible across all devices and with automatic syncing of browsing history and bookmarks - but next generation, with bits and pieces sourced from Safari and Firefox. Perhaps this is why Microsoft is so eager to get Chrome user's opinions on the browser's new name.
IE is not disappearing entirely, though! It's still going to exist in some versions Windows 10, but purely for compatibility reasons. Due to some stubborn businesses refusing to update, Microsoft recognise the fact that some people rely on "older technologies designed only for Internet Explorer, such as custom ActiveX controls and Browser Helper Objects," as IE's program manager Jason Weber said.
As well as the announcement about dropping the Internet Explorer brand, Capossela also spoke at the Microsoft Convergence about Microsoft's future, and new ways they're engaging users on social media in an attempt to improve brand perception. If reclaiming their market share is the goal, it certainly looks like they're taking big strides in the right direction by burying Internet Explorer.
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