After 27 years, Microsoft has finally said goodbye to the Internet Explorer web browser and will redirect Explorer users to the latest version of its Edge browser.
Effective June 15, Microsoft ended support for Explorer on several versions of Windows 10 – meaning no more productivity, reliability, or security updates. Explorer will remain a working browser, but will not be protected if new threats emerge.
Twenty-seven years is a long time in computer science. Many would say that this step is long overdue. Explorer has long outperformed its competitors, and years of poor user experience have made it the butt of many Internet pranks.
How it started?
Explorer was first introduced in 1995 by Microsoft Corporation and bundled with the Windows operating system.
To its credit, Explorer has introduced many Windows users to the joys of the Internet for the first time. After all, it wasn’t until 1993 that Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the web, issued the first public web browser (appropriately called WorldWideWeb).
By providing Explorer as the default browser, much of Windows’ global user base would experience no alternative. But this came at a price, and Microsoft ended up dealing with several antitrust investigations exploring its monopoly in the browser market.
Still, even though a number of other browsers (including Netscape Navigator, which predated Explorer), Explorer remained the default choice for millions of people until around 2002, when Firefox was launched.
How it ended?
Microsoft has released 11 versions of Explorer (with many minor revisions along the way). It added different functionality and components with each release. Despite this, it lost consumer trust because of Explorer’s “legacy architecture”, where poor design and inertia†
It seems that Microsoft was so comfortable with its monopoly that it let the quality of its product slip just as other competitors entered the battlefield.
Even if we only consider the cosmetic interface (what you see and interact with when you visit a website), Explorer was not able to provide users with the authentic experience of modern websites†
In terms of security, Explorer showed its fair share of weaknessesthat cyber criminals easily and successfully exploit.
While Microsoft may have fixed many of these vulnerabilities in different versions of the browser, the underlying architecture is: still considered vulnerable by security experts. Microsoft itself has recognized this one:
† [Explorer] is still based on technology that is 25 years old. It is an outdated browser that is architecturally outdated and incapable of meeting the security challenges of the modern web.
Explorer’s failure to win over the modern audience is further evident in Microsoft’s continued efforts to push users to Edge. Edge was first introduced in 2015, and since then Explorer has only been used as a compatibility solution.
What was Explorer up to?
In terms of market share, more than 64% of browser users currently use Chrome. Explorer has dropped to less than 1% and even Edge only represents about 4% of users. What has given Chrome such an edge in the browser market?
Chrome was first introduced by Google in 2008, on the open source Chrome projectand has been actively developed and supported ever since.
Being open source means that the software is publicly available and anyone can inspect the source code behind it. Individuals can even contribute to the source code, improving software productivity, reliability, and security. This was never an option with Explorer.
Plus, Chrome is multi-platform: it can be used in other operating systems like Linux, MacOS, and on mobile devices, and supported a range of systems long before Edge was even released.
Under the hood
Microsoft’s Edge browser uses the same Chrome open source code that Chrome has used since its inception. This is encouraging, but it remains to be seen how Edge will compete with Chrome and other browsers to gain users’ trust.
We wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft fails to encourage customers to use Edge as their browser of choice. The latest stats suggest that Edge is still far behind Chrome in terms of market share.
The fact that Microsoft took seven years to retire Explorer after the initial release of Edge also suggests that the company hasn’t had much success launching Edge.
Web browsers play a vital role in creating privacy and security for users. Design and convenience are important factors for users when choosing a browser. So in the end, the browser that can most effectively balance security and ease of use will win users over.
And it’s hard to say if Chrome’s current popularity will last over time. Google will no doubt want it to continue as web browsers are important sources of income†
But Google as a company is becoming less and less popular due to massive collect data and intrusive advertising practices. Chrome is an important part of Google’s data collection engine, so it’s possible that users are slowly turning away.
As for what to do with Explorer (if you’re one of the few people who still have it meekly on your desktop) – just remove it to avoid security risks.
Even if you don’t use File Explorer, all you need to do is install it could present a threat to your device. No one wants to be the victim of a dead browser cyber attack!
Mohiuddin AhmedLecturer Informatics & Security, Edith Cowan University† M Imran Malikcybersecurity researcher, Edith Cowan Universityand Paul Haskell-Dowlandprofessor of Cyber Security Practice, Edith Cowan University
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