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Happy Birthday Internet Explorer!

A year is a long time in technology. Although it feels like it’s been around forever, Facebook is just six years old. YouTube is even younger, having turned five in February. So we can be forgiven for thinking that Internet Explorer must be a fully paid-up member of AARP by now. Surely we started using Microsoft’s flagship browser right around the time Regan left office?

Not quite. Internet Explorer officially turned 15 on Monday – old by technology standards but young enough to be able to keep pace with a constant stream of Web-driven innovation.

The first version of IE appeared in August 1995, a month after Microsoft released Windows 95. (By the way, Bill Clinton was just half way through his first term!) At first, the browser was not part of the operating system. Microsoft would later spend years in court and millions of dollars in legal fees trying to bundle IE with Windows against a non-stop barrage of antitrust accusations.

But first, Microsoft had to battle Netscape, another stand-alone browser. Through sheer persistence, an overwhelming advantage in R&D spend – and more than a helping hand from computer and notebook manufacturers – Microsoft eventually saw off its major competitor and IE enjoyed years of dominance, as Web-based computing grew in importance at work and at home.

More recently, IE has endured a second phase of “browser wars”, this time against much better funded opposition. Although it still retains over 60 percent market share, it has ceded ground to Mozilla’s Firefox (23 percent), Google’s Chrome (7 percent) and Apple’s Safari (5 percent). IE is now firmly embedded into Windows and is part of Microsoft’s continuing bet on the future relevance of the PC.

Of course, it’s unlike Microsoft to rest on its laurels. Although Internet Explorer 8 is less than 18 months old, a new release is expected in beta version later this year, with a final release date sometime in 2011. Improvements are expected to include better handling of text and graphics and updated tools to handle the overwhelming amount of Web-based video.

Whatever the future, Internet Explorer has demonstrated tremendous staying power. We suspect that the computing landscape and the Web will look very different in another 15 years, but don’t bet against Explorer still being around to help show us the way!        

Comment by Cassandra_IE_Team, posted 8/17/2010, 11:39 AM:

Thanks for recognizing Internet Explorer's 15th Birthday! And, yes, 15 is a long time by technology standards :)

The beta release of IE9 that you mentioned is set to go live on September 15, 2010. For updated information about the beta, be sure to follow us at www.twitter.com/IE.

IE Outreach Team
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