In 1995, I got my first PC with Windows 95 and my first web browser, unbeknownst to me at the time, was Internet Explorer 1.0. I dialed my computer into AOL checked my mail, checked my favorite chat rooms, but I soon learned the Internet I wanted existed outside the in-app silo of America Online. I wanted to surf and create content on the information super highway. Through Angelfire and AOL Pages, I stayed up late creating my own worlds on the World Wide Web.
In 1998, I went to college and was peer pressured to use Netscape by my roommates. Netscape had an exciting atmosphere about it, and its move to open source turned fellow Computer Science nerds into gleeful converts. That move to open source would be a critical change in the life of Netscape but also in the life of the Web and in the story of Internet Explorer.
In 2000, I used my student discount to get a copy of FrontPage 98. FrontPage had all these cool DHTML effects like “glow” using proprietary ActiveX controls. I liked the effects so much, I switched back to using Internet Explorer 5. The year 2001 would bring us IE6 on Windows XP with a brand new aesthetic that made Netscape feel ancient. During these years I built websites for college groups like my ultimate frisbee team and was blissfully ignorant of the fact that they didn’t work the same in non-IE browsers. This is some foreshadowing of the problems with IE’s monopoly.
In 2003, I saved enough money through my first fulltime job to buy my first Macbook Pro. OS X 10.1 was new at the time and Safari didn’t exist yet so I used Internet Explorer 5.5, which took the “Aqua” aesthetic to heart and had a cool feature that would ping a list of your favorite sites to check for updates; a weird precursor to RSS. Later in 2003, Apple released Safari and —Apple fanboy that I was— I switched to that.
In 2006, I started doing web development as a job. I read Zeldman’s Designing for Web Standards and became passionate about web standards. IE6, in a web of web standards, earned a bit of a bad rap among developers due to its bespoke box model and lack of updates (compared to Firefox, Safari, and soon Chrome). IE7 did come out, then IE8. Each one better than the one before but still with their own quirks that left them with a bad feeling. IE became the butt of every conference joke. “What about IE?” became the bane of every person talking about new web features. We put “Upgrade your browser” or “Try Firefox” banners on our sites. We collectively tried to eradicate it.
In 2011, Nishant Kothary invited Jason Santa Maria, Frank Chrimero, Naz Hamid, and Paravel to work on a project called “Lost World’s Fairs” to celebrate the launch of IE9 and highlight its newfound support of WOFF web fonts. A celebration of the Web and what browsers can do. IE9 was a massive improvement and it seemed like the gears of change were turning. For sure one of the funnest projects I’ve ever worked on where I got to flex my skills.
In 2012, in part due to the work on the Lost World’s Fair site, Paravel was able to work on the Microsoft.com homepage, right around the launch of Windows 8 (featuring the short-lived Internet Explorer 10). Gruber liked it and I heard Steve Ballmer himself gave it a thumbs up. Pretty cool.
In 2015, I switched back to Windows for #davegoeswindows. Part of the unpaid deal was to try and use Edge, the successor to IE, as my daily browser. It’s still impressive what the original Edge team did in an attempt to salvage a browser and its reputation. Pivoting from the old Trident rendering engine to EdgeHTML, rearchitecting its security principles, and building something modern and fast. There were leftover IE bits in Edge (e.g., F12 Developer Tools), but I got used to it and experienced using “not the most cutting edge” browser as my daily driver. The #davegoeswindows experiment was one of the most educational stunts I’ve ever done.
This week on June 15th, 2022, Internet Explorer reached its end of life and is no longer supported by Microsoft. I think this is something to celebrate. It’s the end of non-evergreen browsers. While “Evergreen” does not mean immediately available and saying “IE is dead” doesn’t mean someone out there isn’t using it, my hope is those people don’t become a gigantic strawman like “the boss who uses IE” did. It’s important to celebrate that outdated software licenses for governments and enterprise IT departments forcing legacy browser usage no longer control our industry or our collective conscious. That is life-changing.
Internet Explorer has been a part of my entire online life; equal parts thrill, shame, joy, and pain… well, a smidge more pain. Over the years, IE crossed the boundaries from being a tech beacon (the first browsers with CSS), to becoming a villain we all raged against, to becoming a technical liability. The full circle. Hearing IE jokes from late night talk show hosts is surreal and noteworthy; IE sits in the cultural seat for a public roasting, the razzing of an old friend, the popularity of a celebrity death.
Though I may sound sentimental, I’m happy to say goodbye. I already feel the new allocations as sections of my brain used for remembering browser quirks get garbage collected. And in some ironic twist… the browser I’m reading this article on today is a browser from Microsoft. The spiritual successor to that old friend and foe. While IE is dead, its legacy lives on.