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A look back at classic Windows browsers
Microsoft’s confidence in its web browser was once so absolute the icon for the very first Internet Explorer referred to it simply as “The Internet”.
But the days of Microsoft ruling the web are no more, with the firm seemingly ready to drop its latest Edge browser and fall in line behind Google’s all-conquering Chrome.
This gallery walks you through Microsoft browsers through the years, dating right back to the very first Internet Explorer and the days of squealing 28.8K dial-up internet.
Internet Explorer 1 - August 1995
Designed to challenge the dominant Netscape Navigator browser, Internet Explorer 1 looks impossibly basic by today’s standard but at that time simple things like having a browser that worked and let you search the nascent web were reward enough.
Websites were generally little more than text, icons and photos, so there wasn’t much to render, but basic browser features like the History and Cache were present.
One nice flourish was the animated Windows flag, which fluttered as pages were loading (which could take a rather long time).
Overall Microsoft browser usage at launch: ~2.9%
Internet Explorer 2 - November 1995
Released for Windows and Mac, it ushered in support for good and bad aspects of the modern web, such as Secure Socket Layer, cookies and newsgroups via NNTP.
Lookswise it was very similar to IE1, save for the addition of a print and email icons.
Overall Microsoft browser usage at launch: ~20%
Internet Explorer 3 - August 1996
Websites got a lot more stylish with IE3, with the addition of support for CSS, but also rather more annoying, with the ability to display GIFs and play MIDI sound files.
The interface is much improved, with chunky buttons that say what each one does and whose basic layout, with the Forward and Back buttons in the top left corner, still exists to this day.
The fluttering flag was out for this release, replace by an animated Blue e logo.
Overall Microsoft browser usage at launch: ~20%
Internet Explorer 4 - September 1997
Bundled with Windows 1998, IE4 gave more prominence to the buttons on the toolbar and divided them into sections, while Microsoft also added support for Channels, dynamic websites that could be viewed offline.
The top right icon changed back to a Windows flag once more, only this time smaller and set against a black background.
Within the options menu, Microsoft made it easier to clean the Cache and browser History.
Overall Microsoft browser usage at launch: ~39%
Internet Explorer 5 - May 1999
Released with Windows 98 Second Edition, IE5 could run richer and more diverse content, thanks to support for XML, XSL and a broader range of CSS.
The Go button is added to the right of the address bar for the first time, and with the release of IE5.5 in September 2000, the icons take on a chunkier, more 3D appearance.
This is also the first version to ship with support for 128-bit encryption.
Overall Microsoft browser usage at launch: ~68%
Internet Explorer 6 - October 2001
Shipping with Windows XP, this is an altogether more colorful Internet Explorer, with a light blue border, 3D shaded icons and revamped flag.
While the base version introduced auto-image resizing and print preview, a more significant addition came with Windows XP SP2, which introduced a pop-up blocker.
Behind the scenes, the Internet Options gained a Privacy tab, and the ability to remove cookies was added to the General tab.
Overall Microsoft browser usage at launch: ~82%
Internet Explorer 7 - October 2006
After a long hiatus, Microsoft rather belatedly released IE7, alongside the ill-fated Windows Vista.
The default look was more minimal, with icons squashed down to the bare essentials and a glassy sheen fashioned after Vista’s Aero desktop style.
The release saw the long-awaited addition of tabbed browsing, page zoom, an anti-phishing filter and built-in support for RSS feeds.
Favorites and History also got a redesign to be more intuitive for the user, while the Internet Options dialog was also rearranged.
However, after reaching more than 95% market share in previous years, Internet Explorer’s fortunes were starting to reverse, with Mozilla’s Firefox quickly gaining new users.
Overall Microsoft browser usage at launch: ~86%
Internet Explorer 8 - March 2009
Internet Explorer was rapidly losing market share to Firefox at this point, despite Microsoft now picking up the pace of development.
IE8 saw the introduction of various new features, including a smarter address bar, visual search–allowing users to preview search results–and accelerators, which brought up a context menu when users highlighted a word or phrase.
Web Slice was also an interesting idea, allowing users to turn certain web pages into an icon that would be highlighted when that page updated.
IE8 was significant for developers too, with the introduction of dedicated tools.
Overall Microsoft browser usage at launch: ~49%
Internet Explorer 9 - March 2011
IE9 may have had a cleaner look, new features, and improved performance, but it also had a lot to prove.
While still dominant, Internet Explorer was now losing share both to Firefox and the fast-rising Google Chrome.
Notable new features included the ability to drag out a tab to make a new Window, pinned sites, a combined search and address box, and the History and cookie wiping InPrivate Browsing option.
Overall Microsoft browser usage at launch: ~56%
Internet Explorer 10 - February 2013
Internet Explorer with a touchscreen-friendly makeover, promising compatibility with the latest websites.
This came courtesy of much broader support for web standards, including HTML5, CSS3, DOM, Web Performance, and Web Application specifications.
More privacy was also built-in, with the browser enabling the Do Not Track option by default–although this would quickly be ignored by online advertisers.
Internet Explorer was holding onto market share at this point, against competition from Firefox and Chrome.
Overall Microsoft browser usage at launch: ~55%
Internet Explorer 11 - October 2013
With its clean and minimal stylings, IE11 looked the part on release but would prove to be Microsoft’s last shot at Internet Explorer.
IE11 supported a much broader range of video, 2D and 3D graphics via WebGL, Canvas 2D L2 extensions, fullscreen API, encrypted media extensions and media source extensions.
It also included an Enterprise Mode for emulating older versions of IE and Enhanced Protected Mode for safeguarding online data.
Internet Explorer was enjoying a slight resurgence in popularity at this stage, and remained the dominant browser in terms of market share.
Overall Microsoft browser usage at launch: ~58%