Internet Explorer (all versions)

On Jan. 12, 2016, Microsoft officially gave up on versions 8, 9 and 10 of Internet Explorer (IE) after years of steady decline in the browser's overall market share.

IE’s downfall came as competitors, like Google and Apple, released browsers that were easier to use and more reliable for web developers. But what led millions of people to go to the trouble of downloading new browsers, rather than sticking with the default in Windows?

The trouble started with IE6. After its release in mid-2001, it quickly became the web’s most-used browser. It also became the target of viruses and adware, slowing down computers and filling screens with pop-ups.

Eventually, the easiest solution was to install Mozilla Firefox, a new, more functional browser. It seemed immune to ad-attacks, and offered a thrilling new feature: tabbed browsing. By 2007, use of IE6 was in decline.

IE7, released in beta in mid-2005, didn’t overtake IE6 until the end of 2008. It had tabbed browsing and other improvements, but by this point, many people had already switched to Firefox, and Internet Explorer was stuck with a bad reputation due to so many years of IE6.

By the time IE8 was released in 2008, Internet Explorer was notorious for failing to support newer web technologies. For consumers, websites viewed in IE would often look jumbled and broken. For web developers, supporting IE meant many extra hours of hacking and customization.

A new alternative, Google Chrome, worked better for many websites and was starting to gain momentum.

When Internet Explorer versions 9 and 10 were released, IE was no longer the dominant browser. The combined market share of Firefox and Chrome, as well as other non-IE browsers like Safari, had finally overtaken Microsoft. The newer versions of IE, while better than previous ones, still often displayed web pages incorrectly, and continued to take up extra development time. Despite Microsoft’s efforts to revamp IE’s image, it seemed the browser would finally die.

Microsoft’s latest browsers, IE11 and Edge, are more on-par with browsers like Chrome and Firefox. But the damage is done, and consumers have learned to avoid the IE brand. Perhaps Edge, the new brand, will find a place on the web once more users upgrade to Windows 10. But so far its adoption rate is low.

The retirement of IE versions 8, 9, and 10 marks the end of an era. Internet Explorer has been around for more than 20 years; it was the browser that guided us into the internet age. While consumers may shrug and developers may cheer at its demise, few will forget the little blue e.