Microsoft drives another nail in the coffin of its most hated product

Internet Explorer is so reviled, even Microsoft is turning its back on it.

Microsoft announced this week that its workplace chat software Teams will no longer be available on Internet Explorer as of November 30, and its 365 apps, including Office products, won’t work on IE beginning August 17, 2021.

It’s a momentous decision that adds yet another nail in the coffin of one of the most hated software products of all time. But IE isn’t going away just yet.

IE is miraculously still around after 25 years. Once the most-used web browser, Internet Explorer had been on a steady downward trajectory for years. Its share of the browser market fell below the 50% threshold in 2010 and now sits at about 4%, according to browser usage tracker NetMarketShare. Google’s Chrome is currently the browser leader, commanding a 71% share of the market.

Internet Explorer debuted in 1995 as part of Windows 95 and became an instant hit. It successfully killed off Netscape Navigator, and it achieved a virtual monopoly in the early 2000s. At its 2002 peak, Internet Explorer commanded 95% of the browser market.

But Microsoft failed to innovate, essentially leaving Internet Explorer 6 alone to gather dust and cobwebs for five years. That frustrated customers and sent them fleeing for greener pastures. Internet Explorer became synonymous with bugs, security problems and outdated technology.

Microsoft finally released IE7 in 2006, but the damage was done — Microsoft paved the way for Firefox and then Chrome to surpass it.

It wasn’t until Internet Explorer 9 in 2011 that Microsoft released a modern browser. Still, to this day, IE still doesn’t support extensions, it isn’t available on non-Windows devices, and it doesn’t sync with other devices by default — all mainstays of Chrome and Firefox.

Microsoft acknowledges that IE isn’t ideal for web browsing.

“Customers have been using IE 11 since 2013 when the online environment was much less sophisticated than the landscape today,” the company said in its announcement Monday. “Since then, open web standards and newer browsers — like the new Microsoft Edge — have enabled better, more innovative online experiences.”

That’s why, for the past five years, Microsoft has been trying — unsuccessfully — to kill Internet Explorer.

In an “Ask Me Anything” chat on Reddit in 2014, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer engineers acknowledged that the company was considering a name change to “separate ourselves from negative perceptions” about the browser.

Instead, Microsoft developed a whole new browser, releasing Edge in 2015. But Edge didn’t actually replace IE — Internet Explorer to this day is pre-installed on Windows PCs alongside Edge.

Microsoft has continued to ship IE with Windows to ensure that corporate apps keep functioning properly. Corporations tend to be very slow to adopt new browser versions, particularly if they custom build applications for them.

Most Windows 10 PC owners probably never noticed that IE is installed on their computers. Edge, a modern browser, is based on Google’s open source Chrome code, and has gained much more traction than IE.

Microsoft said this week IE isn’t going away just yet.

“We want to be clear that IE 11 isn’t going away and that our customers’ own legacy IE 11 apps and investments will continue to work,” Microsoft said.

But the company noted that its latest version of the Edge browser supports web apps built for IE so customers don’t have to keep switching between browsers. Maybe IE won’t last forever after all.

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