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Microsoft retires Internet Explorer and ends support

Microsoft Corp. President Bill Gates announced a new version of Microsoft Internet Explorer for Windows XP and that Microsoft would include Windows AntiSpyware technology at no additional cost, during his keynote address at RSA Conference 2005 in San Francisco, on Tuesday, February 15, 2005. The two new improvements will lead to safer web browsing according to Gates.

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Microsoft dropped support for the Internet Explorer web browser on Wednesday, indicating the end is near for a 26-year-old brand with baggage that includes an antitrust case, security flaws and lagging performance. Instead, users will be directed to Microsoft’s new Edge browser.

Although Microsoft does not derive its revenue directly from browsers, Edge uses the company’s Bing search engine by default, through which the software and hardware maker generates advertising revenue. This category accounts for about 6% of Microsoft’s total revenue, at nearly $3 billion in the first quarter.

Microsoft won’t offer technical support or security updates to customers as it focuses more on Edge, a browser available on mobile devices, Macs and even Linux, rather than just Windows. Microsoft released Edge as part of Windows 10 in 2015, to exist alongside Internet Explorer as something new and efficient but similar to what Windows users already knew.

However, Internet Explorer still has a small following, in part because it’s still the only way to access certain enterprise web applications. It will not disappear yet, even if it is being removed.

“Over the next few months, the opening of Internet Explorer will gradually redirect users to our new modern browser, Microsoft Edge with IE mode,” Sean Lyndersay, the company’s chief executive, wrote in a blog post. “Users will still see the Internet Explorer icon on their devices (such as on the taskbar or in the Start menu) but if they click to open Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge will instead open with easy access mode. IE. Eventually, Internet Explorer will be permanently disabled as part of a future Windows update, in which case the Internet Explorer icons on their devices will be removed.”

A “Reload in IE mode” button will appear in the Edge toolbar, and the browser will ask people if they want to open a page in IE mode next time, Lyndersay wrote.

“Microsoft Edge will also check with the user every 30 days to ensure they still need IE mode for the site,” he wrote. “As more sites are updated to modern standards, users will need to use IE mode less and the modern rendering engine more.”

A brief history of Internet Explorer

In 1995, the Web quickly became a priority for Microsoft. Bill Gates, then CEO of Microsoft, said in a note that web developments “will set the course of our industry for a long time to come”. Microsoft provided Internet Explorer for free in the Windows 95 operating system. It caught on quickly.

Internet Explorer has taken a huge lead in the browser market thanks to its inclusion in Windows, the most widely used PC operating system in the world. The strategy helped Microsoft undermine Netscape Communications’ then-booming Navigator browser.

When the US Department of Justice filed its landmark antitrust case against Microsoft in 1998, the federal agency described the bundling of Internet Explorer in Windows 95 as an “illegal bond”. The company changed the terms of its agreements with device makers to allow them to remove browser icons from Windows if they want to display other browsers.

Other issues are also damaging Internet Explorer’s reputation. A security expert said in 2004 that it was “foolish” to use the browser. The Washington Post published an article under the title “Internet Explorer not secure for 284 days in 2006”. In 2014, following the disclosure of a flaw, the US Department of Homeland Security said those who cannot follow Microsoft’s advice for mitigation should consider using a different browser.

Internet Explorer has not always provided the best performance. Chrome’s speed particularly impressed observers when it first appeared in 2008. That was by design. When Google came up with Chrome’s values, it chose three S’s: speed, stability and security, said Aaron Boodman, a former Chrome engineering manager.

The performance difference with Internet Explorer is clear so far. Its handling of the widely used HTML5 markup language cannot keep up with Apple’s Chrome, Edge or Safari.

Digital preferences have changed in a quarter of a century. The smartphone has become the companion of billions of people, and in 2012 Google took the upper hand in the browser war with Chrome.

In 2020, Microsoft released a new version of Edge that builds on Chromium, the open source project behind Google’s Chrome browser, and it came with Internet Explorer mode, allowing company employees to access to websites designed for Internet Explorer in Edge. Last year, Microsoft advised consumers to switch from Internet Explorer to Edge. Now the company is further diminishing the presence of its native browser.

Now Microsoft wants to make sure people who are still using Internet Explorer will switch to Edge, which has about 4% of the share, according to data from private company StatCounter. The company will move Internet Explorer favorites, passwords and settings to Edge, Lyndersay wrote. Edge is, he says, “the best browser for Windows.”

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