Internet Explorer: Finding life in declining market share

In 1995, the mass media and popular culture were catching on to this new technology called the internet. What many people took for granted was the fact that there was a lot going on behind the scenes once they double clicked on their internet icon. At that time, 80% of people clicked on Netscape Navigator for their internet. The alternative was a program with the name of Mosaic, which was widely used among business and laboratories. These companies would go directly to Mosaic and licence a custom version of the internet to fit their needs. There were actually many internet browsers at that time, but the rest of these made up less than 1% of the browsing market. One of the companies who came knocking on Mosaic’s door was Microsoft, and licensed version of their browser and called it Internet Explorer. And with its birth, Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator began duking it out on the main stage, with everyone’s personal computing decisions on the line. Internet Explorer 4 turned the tides of war when it was bundled with Windows for free, and many IT professionals claimed that using another browser was disadvantageous because it was simply already present. People listened to their computer professionals, and the masses clicked cancel on their Netscape Download screens.

Netscape was still winning, but their lead was slowly decaying. Microsoft claimed that 90% of all computers nation wide sported their OS, and most of this 90% was first time computer owners who were not well versed in or had extensive practice with Internet Browsing. Since most people had not even seen Netscape or knew that there were sound alternatives to that “e” icon on their desktop, they felt that there was no need to tamper with the preloaded software in their new and expensive piece of computing equipment. All of the anti-trust lawsuits associated with the Internet Explorer and Windows bundling aside, Netscape eventually declared defeat and and was eventually acquired by AOL who eventually became a competitor with Internet Explorer themselves. In 2002, Internet Explorer had peaked with 96% (larger than Netscape ever was) of all internet users turning to IE for their browsing experience. After its peak in 2002, IE had no major competitors, and then Microsoft did the unthinkable: nothing. Until 2006, Internet Explorer had no updates or new releases, only very minor additional features that mostly went unnoticed. During this dormant period, many people took to finding security holes and new ways to compromise another person’s computer with these faults in their browser.

While Microsoft was sitting on their hands, Netscape had a secret child and was preparing to emerge on the scene for one last attempt to avenge its father’s removal from the throne. When Netscape had failed, it had quietly open sourced its browser code to the non-profit Mozilla Foundation. Their new project had become a community-driven project to form a more perfect browser for the advancing on the Netscape bloodline. In 2004, on the wake of people finding out that their systems had been compromised because Microsoft had not made an attempt to patch security holes in their internet browser, Mozilla Firefox was released to the public, complete with tabbed browsing and embedded search bars. After seeing the lack of interest in advancing IE, many people had no qualms about disobeying their IT professionals of old and opening a new door for access to the internet.

In response to Firefox’s viability in the market, Microsoft released a new version of their internet explorer in IE 7. This came complete with tabbed browsing and an integrated search bar and came with every computer running Windows XP. People who had previous versions of windows were not willing to pay to upgrade their browser software, and were willing to upgrade with a free version of Firefox. Again, IE late to the party, responded later by making their software free to download. In 2008, Microsoft had made a new version of Internet Explorer that met all of the newly held standards that the people believed were necessary to maintain an adequate browsing experience, but the damage had already been done. Microsoft’s carelessness cost them their dominance over the internet browsing market, and still today they are feeling the heat from Firefox only a few percentage points behind them. With the addition of Google Chrome, which is gaining massive popularity, and Safari, which is dominantly used for mobile browsing on iPhone and iPad, the market for Internet Browsing is certainly approaching an equilibrium that will not be dominated by IE, but rather shared between the major players who are using their own competition to stay true and release better products in the future.

Internet Explorer 9 has been recently released and has had very promising reviews. While it has no really innovative features, it has taken variations on the best themes from its colleagues Firefox and Chrome. It has adopted a very minimalist style which actually utilizes less space than the very skinny Google Chrome and outperformed both Chrome and Firefox in the majority of benchmark tests. Internet Explorer is not on the path to its permanent death, nor will its share of the market slow in its decline. Recently, IE’s use on a new computer has been a tool to download a browser to serve as its replacement. In the next couple of years, perhaps within the next two releases of a new version of Windows, Internet Explorer will have a place on our desktops. This place will not be because of its assumed dominance due to lack of competition, but because it is a solid internet browsing tool that is differentiated because of its innovation.

Which browser is your favorite? Would you consider using IE9? Let us know with a comment below!