Remember this day, as Microsoft has officially retired IE, marking the end of a 26-year era for the once-dominant web browser. Microsoft will now automatically redirect the seven users still using Internet Explorer to its new Edge browser for the next few months. Support for IE has officially ended, and in its place is a prompt to use Edge instead. Eventually, a Windows update will permanently disable the formerly ubiquitous blue “e,” removing it from all PCs.
Most users won’t notice the difference unless a feeling washes over them that a key part of our digital past has changed forever. Internet Explorer arrived in 1995, first as an add-on package and eventually as part of the Windows 95 operating system. Bundled with Windows, IE quickly rose to fame, defeating Netscape in the browser wars before reaching a peak market share of around 95% in 2003.
Recent years haven’t been so kind to the browser. Rarely updated, lacking important features, and failing to meet international web standards, Internet Explorer faltered to Mozilla and rapidly lost favor with users when the simple and speedy Google Chrome entered the market. After a steep decline, IE would go from a market share of 65% as recently as 2009 to less than 1% today. It became a punching bag for jokes as the best web browser for downloading Chrome. In 2015, Microsoft pivoted away from Internet Explorer with the integration of Microsoft Edge into Windows 10. Explorer would continue to be supported for legacy users, but a countdown clock had begun.
Edge, originally known as Project Spartan, wasn’t an immediate success, failing to steal significant market share away from Chrome. Microsoft kept IE alive as a safety net for those who weren’t comfortable making the switch. When “legacy Edge” was replaced by the Chromium-based “new Edge,” Microsoft finally had a winning replacement.
Although IE lost mainstream relevance years ago, some businesses continue to rely on the browser for access to critical information. Nikkei Asia reports that government agencies, financial institutions, and manufacturing and logistics companies in Japan that operate websites that only run on IE are now desperately seeking help to port over to a modern browser. One rather shocking statistic based on a March survey from IT company Keyman’s Net found that 49% of respondents working at organizations throughout Japan said they use IE for work.
Microsoft’s new Edge browser is a major upgrade over what remained of Internet Explorer, but that doesn’t take away from the impact the shuttered browser had on the internet and those who used it growing up in the ‘90s and early 2000s. Social media is flooded with grievance and celebration as people remember the browser for both its influence and faults.
Though the browser itself is officially dead, remnants of Internet Explorer will live on through this decade. As The Verge reports, the Trident MSHTML engine powering IE will exist within “IE mode” in Microsoft Edge, a feature that lets users and companies access legacy sites through the new Edge browser. For a hit of nostalgia, when a site loads in IE mode, the now-retired logo still appears in the left-side navigation bar. Microsoft says it will support IE mode in Edge at least through 2029.
So, today we say goodbye to another key remnant of the web’s past. RIP, IE—thank you for shaping the web into what it is today.