Sticking a fork in IE

Today is the day that Microsoft officially stops supporting Internet Explorer. It’s about time! According to the article, it’s been around for 27 years. The “support” is a strange beast since it’s still got a compatibility mode in Microsoft Edge and there are various other versions that apparently will still be supported.

That brought back memories of some of the major struggles that I had with the Information Technology department when the concept of getting connected to the World Wide Web became a discussion and flash point for debate. To date things, when was the last time you actually heard someone talk about the World Wide Web? It even felt strange typing it.

The issue was over the deployment of browsing. We had just rolled out an intranet platform to access things that would be hidden from the general public. It was a delightful combination of letters and numbers with the occasional special character thrown in. No graphics or anything like that. We just needed to access all this lovely text very quickly.

On the other side (moi), we wanted to explore the potential of the internet in the classroom. that meant using the machines as more than glorified text readers. After all, we had the Lynx browser to do that sort of thing.

I had latched onto the Netscape Navigator and Firefox browsers as my browser of choices and it was the major source of discussion – like maybe we need to lock down Doug’s work computer. Anything worth reading was worth reading text. Who needs text and the necessary extra bandwidth for pictures and animations and stuff? We eventually reached a compromise after my superintendent attended a conference and saw the potential of the web. He couldn’t play along because he only had that on browser. We installed both browsers on the classroom computer image in a hurry.

I think another tipping point, at the time, was that Netscape and Firefox had a web editing side and we were really pushing for school and classroom websites. On the Microsoft side, you’d have to do the task with Frontpage. But, I believe that it was images and animations that was the tipping point. Of course, that was in the early days and both browsers played leap frog to stay on top of the latest features and also head into differnet directions hoping that people would follow.

I decided to give Internet Explorer just one more look. I wasn’t about to download it; supposedly it doesn’t work on Windows 11 anyway so I looked for an emulator and found one at oldweb.today. There were actually a lot of browsers and versions of browsers to play with. I chose IE5.

The simulation was sitting at a geocities site when I arrived which seemed somehow appropriate. When I launch the site, I got this old friend.

That brought a big grin to my face. We WANT that these days and expect it. I can’t believe that it was a big deal then and we needed to be warned against it. The website did launch. The old familiar interface with those big buttons appeared! Remember how it filled a 640 x 480 screen?!

I didn’t waste much time poking around. I had done my share at the time.

The other thing that I think is important to remember from all this is the difference between proprietary and open source code. There were those who chose to value code from one company and yet there were others that appreciated that everyone could read the code and make it better.

When I think back on the whole internet experience back then, it was pretty lame by today’s standards. We’ve got a slew of great browsers at our fingertips and we can do far more than ever before. Internet Explorer’s successor – Microsoft Edge is actually a pretty good browser. Some rank it as the best you can currently get. It in in my rotation of browsers, for sure.

Yet, on this day, even if we weren’t big Internet Explorer users, it’s worth a nod to a tool that has been one the inspirational things that took us on the path that we now mostly take for granted. They were truly building and crossing the bridge at the same time.

2 thoughts on “Sticking a fork in IE

  1. Hi Doug!

    You have a passion for web browsers, there’s no doubt about that! I’m surprised that you didn’t mention NCSA Mosaic/Netscape, as that was the original standard before IE came along. You will be able to correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Firefox is the outgrowth of the remnants of Netscape, isn’t it? It was forked off at some point, I think?

    I remember when the Microsoft monopoly issue was raised back when MS wanted to bake IE into the operating system, and they were told they weren’t allowed to do it – it needed to remain separate so that folks could have a choice of browser on Windows. That’s not unlike the current issue with Europe telling Apple they can’t limit themselves to the lightning port and have to move to USB-C. Sometimes there’s a fine line between innovating based on your company’s view of where technology needs to go and being accused of trying to shut out your competition. But I digress. (Before I leave this paragraph I will just note that folks seem to be fine these days with companies selling computer hardware that essentially runs not much more than a web browser).

    I don’t know if that MS monopoly concern is what prompted the love/hate relationship that some folks had with IE. For a while IE was synonymous with the WWW as PCs and Windows extended around the globe following the explosion that accompanied Windows 95+. For a while there really wasn’t much to compete with IE, and it held a significant majority market share. I remember when the iPhone first dropped and suddenly there was a huge upswing in Safari use because the iPhone was the only device on the market that truly enabled a full web browser experience on a phone. Although Safari had existed on the Mac platform, it was the huge popularity of the iPhone that suddenly caused a bite to be taken out of the IE market share.

    Then there were concerns about security, and MS proprietary and non-standard approaches to how webpages where evolving. Other browsers started to appear, either based on Apple’s WebKit or branched off of the bones of mMosaic/Netscape, And suddenly Microsoft wasn’t playing by the standards that everyone else were agreeing to. Chrome and Google Suite arrived and suddenly challenged the installed onboard software model that MS had thrived off of for years. Computer used rapidly shifted towards web-based apps and cloud storage. I think that signal the death knell of IE, and although Microsoft made a couple of attempts to rebrand iE to regain market share, they’ve not been as successful as they would like.

    Yes, there is the Edge browser, and there is Bing, but I think unless you are locked down to those as your only options within some kind of corporate environment, my sense is that they are not the standard that most people turn to.

    For those who like to have options, there always seem to be new browsers popping up, trying out new features in an attempt to woo people to their platform. I tend to stick to the Safari and Chrome standards on my Mac, phone, and iPad, as they sync up my bookmarks and passwords so that I can move fairly seamlessly between devices. I have a small number of extensions installed within them, but in no way customize them nearly as much as you do!

    So on this morning of June 15, 2022, I will hoist up an imaginary fork, and poke it into an imaginary Internet Explorer window floating in the air in front of me, and join you in sticking a fork in that piece of Internet history. Bye-bye, Internet Explorer!

    Like

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