It’s hard for me to objectively appraise IE. It is Microsoft’s browser. Microsoft is a behemoth company. If a device is prepackaged with a Microsoft operating system, it almost undoubtedly also has Microsoft’s browser. As the default browser on so many computing devices, a person can’t help but wonder. Certainly only the “cheap” one comes for free, right? And “cheap” isn’t necessarily best, or even good. Even if it is made by the behemoth, Microsoft, which also made the operating system in the machine you are using.
Also, by now, IE is over 20 years old. This makes it something of an old fogey in the tech world, and “old” doesn’t really mesh with modern expectations for speed and versatility. Sure, they’ve come out with new versions – all the way up to 11, but is IE really still nimble and clever for what I want to do?
However, for me, the most important consideration is that IE remains the browser of choice for interacting with certain government agencies and functions.
Government software doesn’t get rewritten (updated) very frequently, which means it can feel clunky, awkward, or even slow. Yes, it’s generally true that the government sites very kindly tell me which version(s) of IE it works with, and caution me against using anything else. It’s also true that this bothers me on some crazy subatomic level. It may be that limitations on browser access cuts down on perceived security threats, but the perception that the software I’m going to work with is archaic and stodgy…and s l o w, is just off-putting. And who are they to tell me which browser to use? Sorry.
IE had a good run, though. Initially released in 1995, after trouncing Netscape in what is sometimes called The First Browser War, it dominated the browser scene until 2004 when Mozilla introduced Firefox. In fact, in the very early ‘00s, its usage stats were up around 95%. Mid 2016, it’s still holding around 32% for PC’s.
But the future of IE is hard to gauge. In early 2015, Microsoft put a stake in IE’s heart with the announcement that Edge would be its new default browser for all future Windows 10 releases.
IE’s symbol was a lower case “e” with a particular flourish. I expect finding a way to continue the lower case “e” symbol was probably a factor in the name. Edge works closely with Microsofts’s Cortana, also a default feature of Windows 10, but way out of scope for this article. (Maybe later.) By jumping all the way to a new name, Microsoft signified they weren’t just retooling the old browser yet again, but that they’d built a whole new browser product from the ground up. Kind of takes care of some of those earlier objections, doesn’t it?
So here we are with state and federal governments dependent on a browser that is being phased out and replaced with something more modern than anything otherwise currently available. I have to ask, who’s paying for this? And is it any wonder the antitrust lawsuits couldn’t get any traction? Just how many archaic government offices and websites are tied in with IE? And in how many countries? I seriously don’t think IE is going away anytime soon. Or that Edge is going to suddenly take over as browser of choice. It’s still too early for decent stats, but the monthly trends don’t look promising.