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Whatever happened to baby IE?

Internet Explorer is maturing into a real browser. I went to a Microsoft sponsored event the other night and was amused to see the marketing team wearing their "We have standards!" t-shirts. Great! Welcome to the party. We do hope you will enjoy yourselves...

Internet Explorer was originally written to compete with (and destroy) a competing application on the Microsoft platform. Microsoft did not care about the web page as a medium or the web browser as a piece of technology. But they would be damned if they would let another company own such an important piece of infrastructure on their platform.

Once they won the first browser war they moved on and stopped caring. It would be 5 years and 2 months after the release of IE6 that Microsoft released IE7.

Forever is a long time

2014, the present day. Microsoft is no longer defending applications on its platform against interlopers. Instead it is desperately trying to stop its platform from going away. It is so concerned about being able to sell something to the users of the platforms of the future (Android, and iOS) that it just took the drastic step of releasing Office on them.

But what will become of Internet Explorer? Chrome and Firefox are cross platform browsers. They have been designed to work consistently anywhere. IE is the opposite. Heavily tied to Windows APIs. It would be a herculean effort to port it. And what would motivate anyone to do the huge amount of work needed to port IE12+ to any other platforms? Why would anyone want it? Are you going to install IE13 on your Android tablet?

Microsoft obviously need a browser on their tablets. If only to defend against Google owning them completely. But does it need to develop one itself? Does it need to develop the rendering engine itself?

No, I think IE is finished. It will die alone on the burning platform that is Desktop windows.1 There might be something called Internet Explorer in the future. But it will be a skin over an open source rendering engine. And it will finally have standards. Despite all the best efforts of Microsoft it is still not a browser that people want to use. It is a browser that people use if they do not know any better. Which was how they won the first browser war. In April 2014 IE (all versions) has 23% of users. While Chrome now has 44%. On mobile, the future, they have nothing. A mere 2%. A statistical blip.

Blanche: You wouldn't be able to do these awful things to me if I weren't still in this chair.

Jane: But you are, Blanche! You are in that chair!

Exactly right Blanche. But, thankfully, in 2014 nobody2 is stuck in that chair anymore.

UPDATE 22/01/2015: MicroSoft are indeed creating a new browser, and throwing away the IE rendering engine. Though still persisting in writing it themselves. It is a break with the past in that they are not attempting to make this backwards compatible. Phew!

  1. Okay, that is a bit hyperbolic. Microsoft will always be with us, like IBM. But the brief technology environment blip that allowed it to take over the world is finished.  

  2. Yeah yeah, I am aware that legacy business customers exist, and I feel just as sorry for them as they feel for themselves.  

Hansel - 11/04/2014