The full history of Internet Explorer

On June 15, 2022, Microsoft finally stopped the much-maligned Internet Explorer browser. However, despite its criticism, it introduced the internet to millions of people. In the 90s and 2000s, since Windows accounted for the vast majority of PCs, so did pre-installed browsers.

Over time, however, better alternatives like Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome have emerged. Finally, even Microsoft developed another browser called Microsoft Edge, replacing Internet Explorer as Window’s primary internet browser.

So, as one last hurrah, let’s go back in time and look at the app that was Internet Explorer (IE).

Internet Explorer 1 (1994 to 1995)


The first version of Internet Explorer was born in 1994, when Thomas Reardon used the source code of the Mosaic browser developed by Spyglass. Microsoft then licensed the software from Spyglass for quarterly fees and royalties on non-Windows sales.

Microsoft named this first version of Internet Explorer, including Microsoft Plus in Windows 95! Expansion pack. The original team of six then further developed the browser, releasing version IE1.5, which is now included free of charge in all Windows operating systems.

This led Spyglass to sue Microsoft for technically circumventing their contract. The latter settled the lawsuit for $8 million, while the former was content that they didn’t need to audit Microsoft to calculate their Windows sales.

Internet Explorer 2 (1995 to 1996)

This version is the second version Microsoft has released for its internet browser and the first to support Apple’s Macintosh and PowerPCs. Microsoft has also developed IE2 so it can support up to 24 languages, including Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

Some of the other features introduced with IE2 that we still use today include the SSL protocol, HTTP cookies, SMTP and POP protocols, and bookmarks.

Internet Explorer 3 (1996 to 1997)

Although IE1 and IE2 are available for free with Windows, Microsoft still can’t topple its top browser competitor, Netscape Navigator. However, the release of IE3 in 1996 finally brought a fatal blow to the latter.

This release begins to support Netscape’s plugin, allowing users to customize the browser to their needs. It was also the first Internet Explorer browser compatible with ActiveX and framework technologies, which we still use today.

Internet Explorer 4 (1997 to 1999)

The fourth version of IE was the first to combine the desktop experience with the Internet, enabling Window’s Active Desktop. This feature is similar to Windows 11’s Widgets, where users can add online content to their desktops via IE4.

During its release, the browser war first intensified, leading the U.S. government to sue Microsoft for monopolistic behavior, including bundling IE with Windows and making it difficult to install browsers from rivals like Netscape Navigator and Opera.

Although it lost the district trial and the judge ordered the dissolution of Microsoft, the company applied and was granted an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to mitigate the penalty. Microsoft then met with the Justice Department and reached a settlement on the case, with the government asking the former to share its API with a third-party company.

Internet Explorer 5 (1999 to 2001)

While IE5 doesn’t bring any new major features to browsers, it’s a gradual improvement over IE4. It is also the most widely supported Internet Explorer browser available for Windows 3.1, Windows NT 3.0, Windows 95, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 98, Mac OS, Mac OS X, Solaris, and HP-UX. It was originally included in Windows 98 SE, Windows 2000, and Window ME, but was soon phased out and switched to IE6.

Before the arrival of the new version, this browser had a market share of up to 80% in the browser.

Internet Explorer 6 (2001 to 2006)


This version of Internet Explorer became one of the most popular browsers ever, occupying 90% of the market. If you include other versions of IE during peak periods, Microsoft offers 95% of the world’s browsers, thus consolidating its victory in the first browser war.

Still, this version is where cracks first began to appear in its façade. Internet Explorer 6 has a number of security issues that require multiple patches. Although these issues are not unique to IE, it is the most affected browser due to its huge market share.

It also has some bugs that make it less capable than other competing browsers. Some of these issues are so serious that if you write some code on your website, it will cause IE to crash. All of these problems led to the rise of Mozilla Firefox in 2004 as a better alternative, and since then it has been a long-term rivalry with Microsoft.

Internet Explorer 7 (2006 to 2009)

As Mozilla Firefox introduced hashtags to major browsers, Internet Explorer has also introduced hashtags in its seventh edition. But this time, you can also manage tabs by dragging and dropping, and preview all open tabs.

Microsoft has also improved security by reducing the integrity of IE, thereby limiting its read-write capabilities to user profiles. This ensures that undiscovered or unresolved security issues do not have a significant impact on users.

IE7 is also the first browser to have a delete browsing history feature that clears your cache, history, cookies, saved data and passwords in one click. Then, if you are using a public terminal, you can easily use it to clear your information on your browser.

Internet Explorer 8 (2009 to 2011)

This version of IE is compatible with Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Windows Vista. It is also included in Windows 7. The browser further enhances stability, privacy, and security by introducing several new features.

These include InPrivate browsing, which allows you to leave no trace in the browser while surfing the web, and Automatic Tab-Crash Recovery, which ensures that only specific tabs are affected when a web page crashes, not the entire browser window.

It also has some incremental improvements that make the user experience more perfect, including accelerators, favorites bar, smart screen filters, and more.

Internet Explorer 9 (2011 to 2012)

This is another short-lived version of Internet Explorer that was only released for a year until the next version replaced it. Still, it brings some improvements. These improvements include a leaner interface, a faster JavaScript engine, improved CSS support, compatibility with various HTML5 components, and layered malware protection.

IE9 dropped support for Windows XP, but retained compatibility with Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Internet Explorer 10 (2011 to 2013)

IE10 is primarily designed for Windows 8 and its Metro design language. However, it is still compatible with Windows 7, but Windows Vista is no longer supported.

This is another incremental upgrade to the previous IE version with few new features. However, a standout feature of this release is the inclusion of Adobe Flash, which allows for smoother performance, reduced power consumption, and enhanced security when a website has Flash content.

Internet Explorer 11 (2013 to 2015/2022)


IE11 was the last ever version of Internet Explorer, and although it still didn’t add any new important features, its performance improved significantly. Although many users consider IE Browser to be slow and lagging, mainly because of the poor performance of IE6, it has improved since then.

In a 2013 SitePoint benchmark, IE11 outperformed the Chrome 30 and Firefox 26 in three of the four tests. Another SitePoint benchmark in 2015 compared IE11 to Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox. This time, IE11 ranked last in two of the three tests, but still ranked second in the third, although IE is no longer actively developing, but supports Microsoft Edge.

Although IE was no longer actively developed when Microsoft Edge was released in 2015, the company announced that it would retain IE until 2022. That’s because some enterprise customers struggle to upgrade their systems, so Microsoft had to support it for seven years, giving them plenty of time to switch to Microsoft Edge.

It’s time to say goodbye

Internet Explorer has been running for an astonishing 28 years and is installed on a variety of Windows operating systems, from Windows 3.1 to Windows 10. While Internet browsers are now in a bad name, this is largely due to the failure of IE6 in its heyday, so we can’t ignore its enormous impact.

This browser introduces a number of technologies that are still in use today, including cookies, ssl protocols, automatic tag crash recovery, and more. Despite its failures, we cannot fail to acknowledge that at least three generations have discovered the Internet through Internet Explorer.