The Legacy Internet Explorer Leaves Behind

More than 25 years of shaping the internet

Key Takeaways

  • Microsoft has retired its Internet Explorer as of June 2022. 
  • In its heyday, Internet Explorer was the most widely used browser and released 11 versions over the years. 
  • Experts say its legacy includes positives like innovation in Document Object Models (DOM), but also negatives like its slow latency.
Closeup of an address bar in a web browser

Adam Gault / Getty Images

Microsoft has officially decommissioned Internet Explorer after 25 years of creating internet firsts. 

In May of 2021, Microsoft announced that June 15, 2022, would be Internet Explorer’s final day. Even though the once-popular browser has had its ups and downs over the years, experts say its legacy will last beyond its expiration date. 

"Much like Hoover was a brand that became just as widely used as the term vacuum, it is likely that Internet Explorer will keep having this impact long after the tool itself is put to rest," Alex Magnin, the former head of revenue strategy at GIPHY, wrote in an email to Lifewire. 

The End of an Era 

As a sign of our more high-tech and high-speed times, Microsoft said the reason behind shutting down Internet Explorer is so it can focus on the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser

"With Microsoft Edge, we provide a path to the web’s future while still respecting the web’s past. Change was necessary, but we didn’t want to leave reliable, still-functioning websites and applications behind," Microsoft wrote in a blog post

Microsoft created Internet Explorer in 1995 as a free add-on to Windows. According to Britannica, there were 11 versions of Internet Explorer between 1995 and 2013 and each respectively brought new additions to the browser. 

For many, [Internet Explorer] was our introduction to a web browser, so its legacy will live on, but ultimately, its lack of reliability and much-maligned speed problems brought about its rapid downfall.

"When Microsoft launched IE as a free product, our perception of web browsers changed forever; it set an expectation that nobody ever needed to pay for a browser ever again," wrote Eoin Pigott, a business development associate at Wisetek, to Lifewire in an email. 

"It’s also been a harbinger of firsts, with IE V.3 being the first to offer commercial support for CSS."

According to the BBC, Internet Explorer reached its peak popularity in 2003 when it was the most widely used web browser with 95% of people using it.

However, it currently sits in sixth place of the most popular internet browsers. According to Statcounter GlobalStats, Google Chrome is the most popular internet browser in the US, followed by Apple’s Safari, and then Microsoft Edge. 

A Long-Lasting Legacy

In its 25 years of service, experts say Internet Explorer was able to shape the internet as we know it. Olivia Tan, the co-founder at CocoFax, said that especially in terms of Document Object Models (also known as DOM, a cross-platform and language-independent interface that treats an XML or HTML document as a tree structure), Internet Explorer led the pack. 

"There was a time when users could only access certain elements on a web page through JavaScript," Tan told Lifewire in an email. "Internet Explorer 3 and Netscape 3 only allowed programmatic access to form elements, images, and links." 

Tan added that Internet Explorer (specifically, Internet Explorer 4) introduced users to innerHTML, which allows Javascript code to manipulate a website being displayed. 

Closeup of someone typing on a laptop computer.

Poike / Getty Images

"It seems that Microsoft realized what a pain it was to build up a DOM programmatically and afforded us this shortcut, along with outerHTML," she said. "Both of which proved to be so useful that they were standardized in HTML5."

Other experts say that CSS is Internet Explorer’s most memorable contribution to web building and internet systems. "Most people forget that CSS was first employed in Internet Explorer 3," wrote Alina Clark, the co-founder and marketing director at CocoDoc, to Lifewire in an email. 

"Even though the use of CSS was limited to font and other stylistic issues, it opened the doorways to other CSS-based innovations like text-overflow, word breaks, and word wrapping."

However, over the last few years, users have come to know Internet Explorer as the lesser of our browser options and vastly outdated in terms of speed and usability. Pigott said that Internet Explorer would be remembered for being a browser so clunky and so slow that it eventually led to its own demise.

"For many, [Internet Explorer] was our introduction to a web browser, so its legacy will live on, but ultimately, its lack of reliability and much-maligned speed problems brought about its rapid downfall," he said.

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