For most of its life, Internet Explorer failed us. Today, it feels like we failed Internet Explorer.
Microsoft updated both Windows and its website today to mark the official death of Internet Explorer 26 years after it first graced our boxy, little Windows 95 PCs. If you try to download or use the browser, Microsoft will now nudge you towards Edge (its new default browser) instead.
The browser’s death is not a surprise nor is it especially inconvenient for a large majority of internet users in 2022. Microsoft started ringing the death knell for its old internet portal last year. Web analytics site Statcounter (as noted by The Verge) indicates that, by its death, IE usage had dropped to less than 1 percent of total browser market share. The world functionally decided it was dead long before Microsoft did.
Microsoft’s digital gravestone for Internet Explorer.
I’m not here to dance on Internet Explorer’s grave, though. Yes, for much of its existence, IE was one of the worst browsers you could use. Depending on the year and what you were doing with it, some sites wouldn’t even display correctly, or you’d get dozens of pop-ups, or even open up your Windows XP machine to a barrage of viruses. PC users of a certain age may recall loading up IE after a parent or grandparent used it to find seven illegitimate browser toolbars taking up half the screen because of malware.
Having said all that, though, it’s also worth remembering IE as the first door to the internet for a lot of people (if they didn’t use Netscape Navigator first) because it was pre-installed on every Windows PC from 1995 onwards. I had done a little bit of web-surfing using the awful built-in AOL browser as a kid, but once my family moved on from dial-up and the internet became accessible, IE was how I jumped into it. Watching early viral meme content on eBaum’s World before I understood that much of it was stolen without credit, playing RuneScape, or looking up cheat codes for video games (remember those?) were all formative experiences for me that were enabled by IE.
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And like a lot of like-minded individuals I knew at the time (read: nerds), we all realized IE kind of sucked and moved on to Firefox or Opera, and eventually Chrome. Internet users, collectively, didn’t owe IE anything. It died because of meritocracy, as even its parent company eventually released a much better browser in Edge.
Good memories aren’t an adequate substitute for good performance and security. But they are indicative of Internet Explorer’s cultural importance for people who grew up alongside the internet, watching it go from a digital Wild West to the all-encompassing cyber-hell we know and love today.
Rest in peace, you beautiful, broken browser.