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Internet Explorer's original logo

The following is a history of the Internet Explorer graphical web browser from Microsoft developed over 8 major software versions including 1.0 (1995), 2.0 (1995), 3.0 (1996), 4.0 (1997), 5.0 (1999), 6.0(2001), 7.0 (2006), and 8.0 (2009). Internet Explorer has supported Microsoft Windows, but some versions also had an Apple Macintosh version, see Internet Explorer for Mac. For the UNIX version, see Internet Explorer for UNIX. For mobile versions such as Pocket Internet Explorer and versions for Windows CE see Internet Explorer Mobile.


1994-1997: Beginnings & Spyglass

The first Internet Explorer was derived from Spyglass Mosaic. The original Mosaic came from NCSA, but since NCSA was a public entity it relied on Spyglass as its commercial licensing partner. Spyglass in turn delivered two versions of the Mosaic browser to Microsoft, one wholly based on the NCSA source code, and another engineered from scratch but conceptually modeled on the NCSA browser. Internet Explorer was initially built using the Spyglass, not the NCSA source code[1] The license to Microsoft provided Spyglass (and thus NCSA) with a quarterly fee plus a percentage of Microsoft's revenues for the software.

The browser was then modified and released as Internet Explorer. Microsoft originally released Internet Explorer 1.0 in August 1995 in two packages: at retail in Microsoft Plus! add-on for Windows 95 and via the simultaneous OEM release of Windows 95. Version 1.5 was released several months later for Windows NT, with support for basic table rendering, an important early web standard. Version 2.0 was released for both Windows 95 and Windows NT in November 1995, featuring support for SSL, cookies, VRML, and Internet newsgroups. Version 2.0 was also released for the Macintosh and Windows 3.1 in April 1996. Version 2 was also included in Microsoft's Internet Starter Kit for Windows 95 in early 1996, which retailed for 19.99 USD and included how-to book and 30 days of internet accesses on MSN among other features.[2]

"Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 adds many new features which are great for HTML authors and demonstrates our accelerating commitment to W3C HTML standards."
—Microsoft (1996)[3]

Internet Explorer 3.0 was released free of charge in August 1996 by bundling it with Windows 95, another OEM release. Microsoft thus made no direct revenues on IE and was liable to pay Spyglass only the minimum quarterly fee. In 1997, Spyglass threatened Microsoft with a contractual audit, in response to which Microsoft settled for US $8 million.[4] Version 3 included Internet Mail and News 1.0 and the Windows Address Book. It also brought the browser much closer to the bar that had been set by Netscape, including the support of Netscape's plugins technology (NPAPI), ActiveX, frames, and a reverse-engineered version of JavaScript named JScript. Later, Microsoft NetMeeting and Media Player were integrated into the product and thus helper applications became not as necessary as they once were. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) were also introduced with version 3 of Internet Explorer.

1997-2001:The browser wars

Internet Explorer 4.0

Version 4 released in September 1997, was shipped with Windows 95 OSR (OEM Service Release) 2.5, and the latest beta version of Windows 98 and was modified to integrate more closely with Microsoft Windows. It included an option to enable "Active Desktop" which displayed World Wide Web content on the desktop itself and was updated automatically as the content changed. The user could select other pages for use as Active Desktops as well. "Active Channel" technology was also introduced to automatically obtain information updates from websites. The technology was based on an XML standard known as Channel Definition Format (CDF), which predated the currently used web syndication formats like RSS. This version was designed to work on Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT, and could be downloaded from the Internet, free of charge. It supported Dynamic HTML (DHTML). Outlook Express 4.0 also came integrated into the browser and replaced the aging Microsoft Internet Mail & News product that was released with previous versions. Version 5 came out in March 1999, following Microsoft's release of Internet Explorer 5.0 Beta versions in late 1998 . Bi-directional text, ruby text and direct XML/XSLT support were included in this release, along with enhanced support for CSS Level 1 and 2. The actual release of Internet Explorer 5 happened in three stages. Firstly, a Developer Preview was released in June 1998 (5.0B1), and then a Public Preview was released in November 1998 (5.0B2). Then in March 1999 the final release was released (5.0). In September it was released with Windows 98. Version 5.0 was the last one to be released for Windows 3.1x or Windows NT 3.x. Internet Explorer 5.5 was later released for Windows Me in July 2000, and included many bug fixes and security patches. Version 5.5 was the last to have Compatibility Mode, which allowed Internet Explorer 4[5] to be run side by side with the 5.x.[6][6][7] With IE6, there was a quirks mode that could be triggered to make it behave like IE5.5 [8] Version 6 was released with Windows XP in August 27, 2001. It mainly focused on privacy and security features, as they had become customer priorities. Microsoft implemented tools that support P3P, a technology under development by the W3C.

United States v. Microsoft

In a legal case brought by the US Department of Justice and twenty U.S. states, Microsoft was accused of breaking an earlier consent decree, by bundling Internet Explorer with its operating system software. The department took issue with Microsoft's contract with OEM computer manufacturers that bound the manufacturers to include Internet Explorer with the copies of Microsoft Windows they installed on systems they shipped. Allegedly, it would not allow the manufacturer to put an icon for any other web browser on the default desktop in place of Internet Explorer. Microsoft maintained that integration of its web browser into its operating system was in the interests of consumers.

Microsoft asserted in court that IE was integrated with Windows 98, and that Windows 98 could not be made to operate without it. Australian computer scientist Shane Brooks later demonstrated that Windows 98 could in fact run with IE files removed.[9] Brooks went on to develop software designed to customize Windows by removing "undesired components", which is now known as LitePC. Microsoft has claimed that the software did not remove all components of Internet Explorer, leaving many dynamic link library files behind.

On April 3, 2000, Judge Jackson issued his findings of fact that Microsoft had abused its monopoly position by attempting to "dissuade Netscape from developing Navigator as a platform", that it "withheld crucial technical information", and attempted to reduce Navigator's usage share by "giving Internet Explorer away and rewarding firms that helped build its usage share" and "excluding Navigator from important distribution channels".[10]

Jackson also released a remedy that suggested Microsoft should be broken up into two companies. This remedy was overturned on appeal, amidst charges that Jackson had revealed a bias against Microsoft in communication with reporters. The findings of fact that Microsoft had broken the law, however, were upheld. Seven months later, the Department of Justice agreed on a settlement agreement with Microsoft. As of 2004, although nineteen states have agreed to the settlement, Massachusetts is still holding out.

2001-2006: Hiatus and security troubles

Internet Explorer 6.0 SV1 ('SP2')
Market Share for February, 2005 [11]
IE4 - 0.07%
IE5 - 6.17%
IE6 - 82.79%

In a May 7, 2003 Microsoft online chat, Brian Countryman, Internet Explorer Program Manager, declared that on Microsoft Windows, Internet Explorer would cease to be distributed separately from the operating system (IE 6 being the last standalone version);[12] it would, however, be continued as a part of the evolution of the operating system, with updates coming bundled in operating system upgrades. Thus, Internet Explorer and Windows itself would be kept more in sync.

New feature work did continue in 2003 during the development of Windows Vista; a preview release was released at the Professional Developers Conference in October 2003 which contained an updated Internet Explorer with a version number of 6.05. New features noted by reviewers included a Download Manager, pop-up blocker, add-on manager and a tool to clear browsing history.[13] With the exception of the download manager, which was eventually discarded, these features all appeared in builds of Internet Explorer included with preview builds of Windows XP Service Pack 2 a few months later.

Windows XP Service Pack 2, which was released in August 2004 after a number of delays, also contained a number of security-related fixes, new restrictions on code execution, and user interface elements that aimed to better protect the user from malware. One notable user interface element that was introduced was the "information bar". Tony Schriner, a developer on the Internet Explorer team, explained that the information bar was introduced to reduce the possibility that the user might mis-click and allow the installation of software they did not intend, as well as to simply reduce the number of pop-ups displayed to the user.[14] Most reviews of this release focused on the addition of the pop-up blocker, as it had been seen as a major omission at a time when pop-up ads had become a major source of irritation for web users.[15]

On December 19, 2005, Microsoft announced that it would no longer support Internet Explorer for the Macintosh, and recommended using other Macintosh browsers such as Safari.

2006 onwards: New Competition

IE market share overview
According to Net Applications data

— February 2010[16]

Browser As % of IE As % of All Browsers
Internet Explorer 8-
Compatibility Mode
[note 1]
5.89% 3.63%
Internet Explorer 6[note 1] 34.39% 21.18%
Internet Explorer 7[note 1] 22.91% 14.11%
Internet Explorer 8[note 1] 36.70% 22.60%
Other[note 2] 0.10% 0.06%
All variants 100% 61.58%
  1. ^ a b c d Includes Maxthon, Tencent Traveler, and TheWorld Editions.
  2. ^ Other mostly consists of an unnumbered IE version and IE versions 5.0 and 5.5.

From 2006 to 2009 Internet Explorer market share slowly declined, and the policy change (announced in 2003) of only releasing new versions with new versions of the Windows operating system was reversed with plans for IE7. Five years after the 2001 release of IE 6, in 2006, beta versions of Version 7.0 were released, and version 7 was released that October (the same month as Firefox 2.0). Internet Explorer was renamed Windows Internet Explorer, as part of Microsoft's rebranding of component names that are included with Windows. It was available as part of Windows Vista, and as a separate download via Microsoft Update for Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1.[17] Internet Explorer 7 can also be downloaded directly from Microsoft's website.[18] Large amounts of the underlying architecture, including the rendering engine and security framework, have been completely overhauled. Partly as a result of security enhancements, the browser is a stand-alone application, rather than integrated with the Windows shell, and is no longer capable of acting as a file browser. The first security advisory was posted only one day after the day of release,[19] but it turned out to be a security problem in Outlook Express, not in Internet Explorer 7.[20] The first vulnerability exclusive to Internet Explorer 7 was posted after 6 days.[21] Since 2009 Version 8.0 was released, with the first public beta release having been released on March 5, 2008. IE8 offered better support for web standards than previous versions, with plans for improved support for RSS, CSS, and Ajax[22][23], as well as full compliance for Cascading Style Sheets 2.1[24]. It is also the first version to successfully pass the Acid2 test.[25] In addition, Internet Explorer 8 includes new features such as WebSlices and an improved phishing filter.



  1. ^ Memoirs From the Browser Wars, May 12, 2005 In 1995
  2. ^ Microsoft Internet Explorer Web Browser Available on All Major Platforms, Offers Broadest International Support
  3. ^ MS IE3 release document archive
  4. ^ Paul Thurrott (January 22, 1997). "Microsoft and Spyglass kiss and make up". Windows IT Pro. Penton Media Inc.. Retrieved 2007-02-25. 
  5. ^ KB197311
  6. ^ a b MS History
  7. ^ MS Article ID 237787
  8. ^
  9. ^ How to remove Internet Explorer from Windows 98, May 12, 2005
  10. ^ U.S. v. Microsoft: Court's Findings of Fact, May 12, 2005
  11. ^ Market share for browsers, operating systems and search engines
  12. ^ Microsoft to abandon standalone IE, January 23, 2006
  13. ^ Brewer, Matt (December 12, 2003). "New Internet Explorer on Longhorn 4051". OSNews. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  14. ^ Tony Schriner (March 21, 2004). "IE in XP SP2 (Part 2): Information Bar - Stopping the modal dialog madness". MSDN Blogs. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  15. ^ Lake, Matt (August 13, 2004). "Microsoft Windows XP SP2 (CNet review)". CNet.,239029558,240000749,00.htm. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  16. ^ "Browser Version Market Share". Net Applications. 2010-03-01.*Explorer*%27&qpfiltertitle=Browser+Version+%3d+%22*Microsoft%20Internet%20Explorer*%22. Retrieved 2010-03-01. 
  17. ^ Automatic Delivery of Internet Explorer 7, Retrieved on 2006-09-22
  18. ^ Internet Explorer: Automatic Updates Distribution Process
  19. ^ Internet Explorer 7 'mhtml:' Redirection Information Disclosure
  20. ^ IE7 Vulnerability already? Not really
  21. ^ Internet Explorer 7 Window Injection Vulnerability
  22. ^ LaMonica, Martin (2007-05-03). "Microsoft hints at general plan for IE 8". CNET Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  23. ^ Reimer, Jeremy (2007-05-02). "Microsoft drops hints about Internet Explorer 8". ars technica. Retrieved 2007-05-02. 
  24. ^ "How do I make my site light up in Internet Explorer 8?". Retrieved 2008-03-07. 
  25. ^ "Internet Explorer 8 and Acid2: A Milestone". Retrieved 2008-03-07. 

See also

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