Can Internet Explorer make a Comeback?
From humble beginnings in 1995, Microsoft Internet Explorer reached its peak in popularity between 2002 and 2003, with staggering 95% market share. But such days are distant memory. Each year sees its market share getting further eroded, as browsers like Mozilla’s Firefox and Google; Chrome nip at the former giant heels. Once the pinnacle of browsing technology, internet Explorer is now the subject of almost-universal ridicule throughout the technology community. Now Microsoft is looking to reverse this negative momentum with Internet Explorer 9.
The Original Browser Wars
One cannot talk about Internet Explorer’s fall without mentioning how it came to prominence in the original browser wars. Internet Explorer wasn’t always the world’s most popular web browser. In the 90’s the distinction belonged to Netscape Navigator, a browser which introduced many of the features we take for granted today such as download progress indicators. So complete was Netscape dominance that few gave the young upstart out of Redmond any chance of taking the crown.
For years Microsoft had neglected the Internet, and Netscape took advantage of that opportunity, its name becoming synonymous with web browsing. But then came the infamous Internet Tidal Wave memo, the one that changed the face of web browsing forever. No less a figure than one William Gates III had realized there might be something to this Internet thing after all and set the sights of the world’s largest software company squarely on Netscape’s browser.
Netscape’s never knew what hit it. A sleeping giant had been awoken and updates were fast and furious. Microsoft had two aces up its sleeve. First of all, it happened to have a little operating system that was installed on almost every PC. So naturally, it started bundling Internet Explorer with Windows. And secondly it had deep enough pockets to so the unthinkable (at that time)- give away its web browser completely free. Netscape, on the other hand, actually needed to make money from its browser.
By its 3rd version, Internet Explorer was roughly equivalent with Netscape in terms of features. By version 4.0, it had pulled ahead, both in terms of features of users. By the time Internet Explorer 6 came around, the once ubiquitous Netscape was deemed dead and buried.
The Challenges to Internet Explorer’s Throne
Having conquered the web, Microsoft rested on its laurels from 220 to 2006. But people were becoming increasingly frustrated with Internet Explorer. Many a virus was able to Exploit IE’s security holes. So Mozilla began promoting the Firefox browser as a safer alternative, with unprecedented extensibility to boot, the technology world took notice. For the first time since the mid 90s, Microsoft had a credible did to its aging Goliath.
But Firefox isn’t the only Browser Microsoft has to worry about. Here are some of the others:
Opera: This Norwegian browser actually pioneered several features such as tabbed browsing but because of its licensing model, never really caught on.
Safari: Apple’s browser is the default on its popular consumer hardware devices including the ipod, iphone and ipad.
Chrome: Google’s offering prides itself on two things: speed and simplicity. Having the backing of the powerful web company doesn’t hurt either.
Microsoft’s Comeback Bid
Although Internet Explorer 7 and 8 were massive improvements over the version 6.0, Microsoft’s market share has continued to decline. In the 2 or so years it takes for Microsoft to release a new version of IE, its competitors are able to release several updates. Microsoft is trying to be more agile with its development with version 9, releasing frequent updates and involving the web development community at an unprecedented (for Microsoft...