A Complete History of Internet Explorer


On June 15, 2022, Microsoft finally killed the much maligned Internet Explorer. However, despite his criticism, he introduced the Internet to millions. As Windows took the lion’s share of personal computers in the 90s and 2000s, so did the preinstalled browser.

However, over time, better alternatives like Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome have emerged. Eventually, even Microsoft developed another browser called Microsoft Edge, supplanting Internet Explorer as Windows’ primary internet browser.


So, as a last hurray, let’s go back in time and look at the application that was Internet Explorer (IE).

Internet Explorer 1 (1994 to 1995)

The first version of Internet Explorer was born in 1994 when Thomas Reardon used the Mosaic browser source code developed by Spyglass, Inc. Microsoft then licensed this software to Spyglass, Inc. for a quarterly fee and royalties on its unpaid sales. Windows.

Microsoft named this first version Internet Explorer, included with the Microsoft Plus! extension pack for Windows 95. The initial six-person team later developed the browser to release Internet Explorer 1.5, which is now included free with all Windows operating systems.

This led Spyglass to sue Microsoft since this decision technically circumvented their contract. The latter settled the lawsuit for $8 million, while the former was convinced that it didn’t need to audit Microsoft to count its Windows sales.

Internet Explorer 2 (1995 to 1996)

This release is Microsoft’s second release for its Internet browser and was also the first release to support Apple Macintosh and PowerPC. Microsoft has also developed Internet Explorer 2, so that it can support up to 24 languages, including Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

Some other features introduced with IE2 that we still use today include SSL protocols, HTTP cookies, SMTP and POP protocols, and bookmarks.

Internet Explorer 3 (1996 to 1997)

Although IE1 and IE2 are free with Windows, Microsoft could not dethrone its main competitor, Netscape Navigator. However, the 1996 version of IE3 finally dealt a fatal blow to the latter.

This version started supporting Netscape plugins, allowing users to customize their browser to suit their needs. It was also the first IE browser to support ActiveX and frames, technologies we still use today.

Internet Explorer 4 (1997 to 1999)

The fourth version of IE was the first to integrate the desktop experience with the Internet, thus enabling the Windows Active Desktop. This feature is similar to Widgets in Windows 11, where users can add online content to their desktop through IE4.

Upon release, the browser wars initially heated up, leading to the US government suing Microsoft for its monopolistic practices, which included bundling IE with Windows and making it harder to install browsers competitors like Netscape Navigator and Opera.

Although it lost the case at the district trial, with the judge ordering Microsoft’s dissolution, the company sought and was granted an appeal by the United States Supreme Court for a lesser sentence. Microsoft then spoke to the DOJ and settled the case, with the former being required by the government to share its API with third-party companies.

Internet Explorer 5 (1999 to 2001)

Although IE5 did not bring any major new functionality to the browser, it was an incremental improvement over IE4. It was also the IE browser that had the widest support, where it was available for Windows 3.1, Windows NT 3.0, Windows 95, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 98, Mac OS, Mac OS X, Solaris, and HP-UX. It was also initially included with Windows 98 SE, Windows 2000, and Window ME, but was soon dropped in favor of IE6.

This browser claimed up to 80% market share in browsers just before the release of the next version.

Internet Explorer 6 (2001 to 2006)

This version of Internet Explorer became one of the most popular browsers of all time, capturing 90% of the market. If you include other versions of IE at its peak, Microsoft provided 95% of all browsers used in the world, cementing its victory in the early browser wars.

Despite this, it was in this version that cracks began to appear on its facade. Internet Explorer 6 had many security issues, requiring several fixes. Although these issues are not unique to IE, it was the most affected browser due to its massive market share.

It also had several bugs, which made it perform worse than other competing browsers. Some of them were so bad that if code was written on a website, it would crash IE. All of these issues led to the rise of Mozilla Firefox as the best alternative in 2004, which has continuously competed with Microsoft since then and released its 100th version in May 2022.

Internet Explorer 7 (2006 to 2009)

Along with Mozilla Firefox introducing tabs to mainstream browsers, Internet Explorer also introduced it with its seventh version. But this time, you can also manage tabs by drag and drop and preview all your open tabs.

Microsoft also improved security by reducing the integrity of IE, thus limiting its read-write capabilities to the user profile. This ensures that undetected or unaddressed security issues will not significantly affect the user.

IE7 is also the first browser to offer Clear Browsing History, which clears your cache, history, cookies, saved data, and passwords with a single click. You can then use it to clear your browser information if you use a public terminal or Internet cafe.

Internet Explorer 8 (2009 to 2011)

This version of IE is compatible with Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Windows Vista. It is also included in Windows 7. The browser further improves stability, privacy, and security by introducing several new features.

Some of them include InPrivate Browsing, which allows you to surf the Internet without leaving traces in your browser, and Automatic Tab-Crash Recovery, which ensures that only the specific tab is affected when a webpage crashes, and not the entire browser window.

It also features several incremental improvements, enabling a seamless user experience, including accelerators, favorites bar, SmartScreen filters, and more.

Internet Explorer 9 (2011 to 2012)

This is another short-lived version of Internet Explorer, released for only one year until the next version replaces it. Nevertheless, it brought several improvements with it. These include a more streamlined interface, faster JavaScript engine, improved CSS support, compatibility with various HTML5 components, and layered malware protection.

IE9 dropped support for Windows XP but retained compatibility with Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Internet Explorer 10 (2011 to 2013)

IE10 is primarily designed for Windows 8 and its Metro design language. However, it is still compatible with Windows 7, but Windows Vista is no longer supported.

This is another incremental upgrade from the previous version of Internet Explorer, with few new features. However, the main feature of this release was its incorporation of Adobe Flash, thus allowing for smoother performance, lower power consumption, and enhanced security when websites have Flash content.

Internet Explorer 11 (2013 to 2015/2022)

IE11 is the last version of Internet Explorer ever released, and while it still hasn’t added any significant new features, its performance has definitely improved. Although Internet Explorer is considered sluggish and sluggish by many users, mainly due to the poor performance of IE6, it has since improved.

In a referral by SitePoint in 2013, Internet Explorer 11 beat Chrome 30 and Firefox 26 in three out of four tests. Another one SitePoint Reference in 2015 compared IE11 with Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. This time, IE11 came in last in two out of three tests, but it still came in second in the third, despite IE no longer being actively developed in favor of Microsoft Edge.

Although Internet Explorer was no longer actively developed when Microsoft Edge was released in 2015, the company kept IE alive until 2022. This is because some enterprise customers are having difficulty upgrading their systems. So Microsoft had to support it for seven years, giving them more than enough time to switch to Microsoft Edge.

It’s time to say goodbye to Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer has had an astonishing 28-year lifespan, installing it in various Windows operating systems from Windows 3.1 to Windows 10. Although the Internet browser now has a bad reputation, mainly due to failures of IE6 when he was at his peak, we cannot ignore the immense impact of his legacy.

This browser introduced several technologies that are still used today, including cookies, SSL protocols, automatic tab recovery on crashes, and more. And despite its flaws, we cannot ignore that at least three generations discovered the Internet with Internet Explorer.


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