Common criticisms of Internet Explorer

History of Internet Explorer

The following is a history of the Internet Explorer graphical web browser from Microsoft developed over 8 major software versions including 1.0 (1995), 2.0 (1995), 3.0 (1996), 4.0 (1997), 5.0 (1999), 6.0 (2001), 7.0 (2006), and 8.0 (2008). Internet Explorer has supported Microsoft Windows, but some versions also had a Apple Macintosh version, see Internet Explorer for Mac. For the UNIX version, see Internet Explorer for UNIX

1994-1997: Beginnings & Spyglass

The first Internet Explorer was derived from Spyglass Mosaic. The original Mosaic came from NCSA, but since NCSA was a public entity it relied on Spyglass as its commercial licensing partner. Spyglass in turn delivered two versions of the Mosaic browser to Microsoft, one wholly based on the NCSA source code, and another engineered from scratch but conceptually modeled on the NCSA browser. Internet Explorer was initially built using the Spyglass, not the NCSA, source code The license to Microsoft provided Spyglass (and thus NCSA) with a quarterly fee plus a percentage of Microsoft's revenues for the software.

The browser was then modified and released as Internet Explorer. Microsoft originally released Internet Explorer 1.0 in August 1995 in two packages: at retail in Microsoft Plus! add-on for Windows 95 and via the simultaneous OEM release of Windows 95. Version 1.5 was released several months later for Windows NT, with support for basic table rendering, an important early web standard. Version 2.0 was released for both Windows 95 and Windows NT in November 1995, featuring support for SSL, [cookie|cookies], VRML, and Internet newsgroups. Version 2.0 was also released for the Macintosh and Windows 3.1 in April 1996. Version 2 was also included in Microsoft's Internet Starter Kit for Windows 95 in early 1996, which retailed for 19.99 USD and included how-to book and 30 days of internet accesses on MSN among other features. Internet Explorer 3.0 was released free of charge in August 1996 by bundling it with Windows 95, another OEM release. Microsoft thus made no direct revenues on IE and was liable to pay Spyglass only the minimum quarterly fee. In 1997, Spyglass threatened Microsoft with a contractual audit, in response to which Microsoft settled for US $8 million. Version 3 included Internet Mail and News 1.0 and the Windows Address Book. It also brought the browser much closer to the bar that had been set by Netscape, including the support of Netscape's plugins technology (NPAPI), ActiveX, frames, and a reverse-engineered version of JavaScript named JScript. Later, Microsoft NetMeeting and Media Player were integrated into the product and thus helper applications became not as necessary as they once were. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) were also introduced with version 3 of Internet Explorer.

1997-2001:The browser wars

Version 4 released in September 1997, was shipped with the latest beta version of Windows 98 and was modified to integrate more closely with Microsoft Windows. It included an option to enable "Active Desktop" which displayed World Wide Web content on the desktop itself and was updated automatically as the content changed. The user could select other pages for use as Active Desktops as well. "Active Channel" technology was also introduced to automatically obtain information updates from websites. The technology was based on an XML standard known as Channel Definition Format (CDF), which predated the currently used web syndication formats like RSS. This version was designed to work on Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT, and could be downloaded from the Internet, free of charge. It supported Dynamic HTML (DHTML). Outlook Express 4.0 also came integrated into the browser and replaced the aging Microsoft Internet Mail & News product that was released with previous versions. Version 5 came out in March 1999, following Microsoft's release of Internet Explorer 5.0 Beta versions in late 1998 . Bi-directional text, ruby text and direct XML/XSLT support were included in this release, along with enhanced support for CSS Level 1 and 2. The actual release of Internet Explorer 5 happened in three stages. Firstly, a Developer Preview was released in June 1998 (5.0B1), and then a Public Preview was released in November 1998 (5.0B2). Then in March 1999 the final release was released (5.0). In September it was released with Windows 98. Version 5.0 was the last one to be released for Windows 3.1x or Windows NT 3.x. Internet Explorer 5.5 was later released for Windows Me in July 2000, and included many bug fixes and security patches. Version 5.5 was the last to have Compatibility Mode, which allowed Internet Explorer 4 to be run side by side with the 5.x. With IE6, there was a quirks mode that could be triggered to make it behave like IE5.5 Version 6 was released with Windows XP in August 27, 2001. It mainly focused on privacy and security features, as they had become customer priorities. Microsoft implemented tools that support P3P, a technology under development by the W3C.

United States v. Microsoft

In a legal case brought by the US Department of Justice and twenty U.S. states, Microsoft was accused of breaking an earlier consent decree, by bundling Internet Explorer with its operating system software. The department took issue with Microsoft's contract with OEM computer manufacturers that bound the manufacturers to include Internet Explorer with the copies of Microsoft Windows they installed on systems they shipped. Allegedly, it would not allow the manufacturer to put an icon for any other web browser on the default desktop in place of Internet Explorer. Microsoft maintained that integration of its web browser into its operating system was in the interests of consumers.

Microsoft asserted in court that IE was integrated with Windows 98, and that Windows 98 could not be made to operate without it. Australian computer scientist Shane Brooks later demonstrated that Windows 98 could in fact run with IE files removed. Brooks went on to develop software designed to customize Windows by removing "undesired components", which is now known as LitePC Microsoft has claimed that the software did not remove all components of Internet Explorer, leaving many dynamic link library files behind.

On April 3, 2000, Judge Jackson issued his findings of fact that Microsoft had abused its monopoly position by attempting to "dissuade Netscape from developing Navigator as a platform", that it "withheld crucial technical information", and attempted to reduce Navigator's usage share by "giving Internet Explorer away and rewarding firms that helped build its usage share" and "excluding Navigator from important distribution channels".

Jackson also released a remedy that suggested Microsoft should be broken up into two companies. This remedy was overturned on appeal, amidst charges that Jackson had revealed a bias against Microsoft in communication with reporters. The findings of fact that Microsoft had broken the law, however, were upheld. Seven months later, the Department of Justice agreed on a settlement agreement with Microsoft. As of 2004, although nineteen states have agreed to the settlement, Massachusetts is still holding out.

2001-2006: Hiatus and security troubles

Market Share for February, 2005
IE4 - .07%
IE5 - 6.17%
IE6 - 82.79%

In a May 7, 2003 Microsoft online chat, Brian Countryman, Internet Explorer Program Manager, declared that on Microsoft Windows, Internet Explorer would cease to be distributed separately from the operating system (IE 6 being the last standalone version); it would, however, be continued as a part of the evolution of the operating system, with updates coming bundled in operating system upgrades. Thus, Internet Explorer and Windows itself would be kept more in sync. However, a new standalone version, IE 7 was released since then.

New feature work did continue in 2003 during the development of Windows Vista; a preview release was released at the Professional Developers Conference in October 2003 which contained an updated Internet Explorer with a version number of 6.05. New features noted by reviewers included a Download Manager, pop-up blocker, add-on manager and a tool to clear browing history. With the exception of the download manager, which was eventually discarded, these features all appeared in builds of Internet Explorer included with preview builds of Windows XP Service Pack 2 a few months later.

Windows XP Service Pack 2, which was released in August 2004 after a number of delays, also contained a number of security-related fixes, new restrictions on code execution, and user interface elements that aimed to better protect the user from malware. One notable user interface element that was introduced was the "information bar". Tony Schriner, a developer on the Internet Explorer team, explained that the information bar was introduced to reduce the possibility that the user might mis-click and allow the installation of software they did not intend, as well as to simply reduce the number of pop-ups displayed to the user. Most reviews of this release focused on the addition of the pop-up blocker, as it had been seen as a major omission at a time when pop-up ads had become a major source of irritation for web users.

On December 19, 2005, Microsoft announced that it would no longer support Internet Explorer for the Macintosh, and recommended using other Macintosh browsers such as Safari.

2006 onwards: Versions 7 and 8

Browser Market Share Dec 2007
Internet Explorer, All Versions 55.9%
Internet Explorer 5.x 1.7%
Internet Explorer 6.x 33.2%
Internet Explorer 7.x 21.0%

By 2006 Beta versions of Version 7.0 were released, and version 7 was released that October (the same month as Firefox 2.0). Internet Explorer was renamed Windows Internet Explorer, as part of Microsoft's rebranding of component names that are included with Windows. It was available as part of Windows Vista, and as a separate download via Microsoft Update for Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1. Internet Explorer 7 can also be downloaded directly from Microsoft's website. Large amounts of the underlying architecture, including the rendering engine and security framework, have been completely overhauled. Partly as a result of security enhancements, the browser is a stand-alone application, rather than integrated with the Windows shell, and is no longer capable of acting as a file browser. The first security advisory was posted only one day after the day of release, but it turned out to be a security problem in Outlook Express, not in Internet Explorer 7. The first vulnerability exclusive to Internet Explorer 7 was posted after 6 days. By 2008 Version 8.0 was in development, with the first public beta release having been released on March 5, 2008. IE8 offered better support for web standards than previous versions, with plans for improved support for RSS, CSS, and Ajax, as well as full compliance for Cascading Style Sheets 2.1. It is also the first version to successfully pass the Acid2 test. In addition, Internet Explorer 8 includes new features such as WebSlices and an improved phishing filter.

Release history

Release history of Internet Explorer. Service packs are not included unless significant.
Color Meaning
Red Old release; unsupported
Yellow Old release; supported
Green Current release
Purple Test release
Blue Future release

Major version Minor version Release date Significant changes Shipped with
Version 1 1.0 August 1995 Initial release. Plus! for Windows 95
1.5 January 1996 Compatible with Windows NT 3.5
Version 2 2.0 Beta October 1995 Support of HTML tables and other elements.
2.0 November 1995 SSL, cookies, VRML, and Internet newsgroups. Windows NT 4.0
Windows 95 OSR1
Internet Starter Kit
2.01 Unknown Bug fix release.
Version 3 3.0 Alpha 1 March 1996 Improved support of HTML tables, frames, and other elements.
3.0 Alpha 2 May 1996 Support of VBScript and JScript.
3.0 Beta 2 July 1996 Support of CSS and Java.
3.0 August 1996 Final release. Windows 95 OSR 2
3.01 October 1996 Bug fix release.
3.02 March 1997 Bug fix release.
3.03 Unknown Bug fix release.
Version 4 4.0 Beta 1 April 1997 Improved support of CSS and Microsoft DOM.
4.0 Beta 2 July 1997 Improved support of HTML and CSS.
4.0 September 1997 Improved support of HTML and CSS. Windows 95 OSR 2.5
4.01 November 1997 Bug fix release. Windows 98
Version 5 5.0 Beta 1 June 1998 Support of more CSS2 features.
5.0 Beta 2 November 1998 Support of bi-directional text, ruby character, XML/XSL and more CSS properties.
5.0 March 1999 Final release. Last version supported on Windows 3.x and Windows NT 3.x. Windows 98 SE
5.01 November 1999 Bug fix release. Windows 2000
5.5 Beta 1 December 1999 Support of more CSS properties. Minor changes to support of frames.
5.5 July 2000 Final release. Last version supported on Windows 95. Windows Me
5.6 August 2000 Released for Windows Whistler build 2257. Windows Whistler
Version 6 6.0 Beta 1 March 2001 More CSS changes and bug fixes to be more W3C-compliant.
6.0 August 27, 2001 Final release. Windows XP
6.0 SP1 September 9, 2002 Vulnerability patch. Last version supported on Windows NT 4.0, 98, 2000 or Me. Windows XP SP1
6.0 SV1 "SP2" August 25, 2004 Vulnerability patch. Popup/ActiveX blocker. Add-on manager. Windows XP SP2
Windows Server 2003 SP1
Version 7 7.0 Beta 1 July 27, 2005 Support of PNG alpha channel. CSS bug fixes. Tabbed browsing. Windows Vista Beta 1
7.0 Beta 2 Preview January 31, 2006 More CSS fixes. RSS platform integration. New UI. Quick Tabs.
7.0 Beta 2 April 24, 2006 Feature complete. More CSS fixes. Application compatibility fixes.
7.0 Beta 3 June 29, 2006 Fixes rendering issues for CSS.
7.0 RC 1 August 24, 2006 Improvements in performance, stability, security, application compatibility and final CSS adjustments.
7.0 October 18, 2006 Final and current release. Windows Vista
Version 8 8.0 Beta 1 March 5 2008 CSS 2.1, Contextual Services
8.0 Beta 2 August 27 2008
8.0 Unknown


  • Microsoft Windows Family Home Page. Windows History: Internet Explorer History. Retrieved on May 12., 2005.
  • Microsoft Knowledge Base. How to determine which version of Internet Explorer is installed. Retrieved on November 6., 2005.
  • Index DOT Html and Index DOT Css. Browser History: Windows Internet Explorer. Retrieved on May 12., 2005.
  • IEBlog. Windows Vista & IE7 Beta 1 Available. Retrieved on July 27., 2005.
  • IEBlog. Standards and CSS in IE. Retrieved on July 29., 2005.
  • IEBlog. IE7 Is Coming This Month. Retrieved on October 9., 2006.
  • IEBlog. IE7 Platforms And Outlook Express. Retrieved on May 12., 2005.
  • Microsoft Press Pass. RSA Conference 2005 - Gates Highlights Progress on Security, Outlines Next Steps for Continued Innovation. Retrieved on May 12., 2005.


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