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Internet Explorer, the love-to-hate-it web browser, has died at 26

Microsoft is officially pulling the plug on Internet Explorer in June 2022.
Alexander Hassenstein
/
Getty Images
Microsoft is officially pulling the plug on Internet Explorer in June 2022.

Updated June 15, 2022 at 8:52 AM ET

After long years of palliative care, Internet Explorer has reached the end its life, Microsoft says.

The much-reviled 26-year-old web browser once dominated the internet, but never shook its reputation as the slow, buggy net-surfing option.

Explorer, preceded in death by similarly reviled Microsoft icons Hotmail and Clippy, is survived by Microsoft Edge, the next-generation browser Microsoft first put out in 2015.

Microsoft announced Internet Explorer's nearing death in June 2021, saying that Microsoft Edge was faster, more secure and compatible with early-internet websites — qualities its predecessor was maligned for lacking.

At the time on social media, people familiar with Explorer paid tribute to the flawed browser. "Internet Explorer being reliably unreliable, what a legacy," wrote Twitter user Adriana Figueroa.

Other members of the family, including Microsoft 365, the company's subscription-based app bundle, and the video-conferencing platform Microsoft Teams, have already said their goodbyes to Internet Explorer.

The ghost of Internet Explorer will live on for those who choose to believe: Edge offers a built-in Internet Explorer mode.

Though it might seem strange to young people whose internet experiences never revolved around the blue "e" icon, Explorer once was seen as an unavoidable cornerstone of a big tech monopoly.

When Windows introduced Explorer in August 1995, the browser's success killed off the once-leading Netscape Navigator. At its height in the early 2000s, Explorer controlled 95% of the browser market.

But Microsoft failed to keep pace with competitors, and Internet Explorer began to lose respect among users for its poor security, bungled renderings of web pages and sluggishness.

Still, Explorer refused to retire, and Microsoft tried to revitalize its image by acknowledging the browser's bad rap. In 2012, it launched a playful ad campaign rebranding Explorer as "the browser you loved to hate."

Indeed, its lousy image has served as meme fodder: a browser too slow to load the news of its demise, or the best browser to use to download a superior one.

In a 2014 "Ask Me Anything" discussion on Reddit, Microsoft engineers who worked on the browser said the company had debated renaming Explorer, to "separate ourselves from negative perceptions that no longer reflect our product today."

But it was too late – the damage to Internet Explorer's reputation was done. Frustrated users had already had flocked to Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome. When Edge came online in 2015, AdWeek's Kristina Monllos told NPR that an departure date for the embattled Explorer was overdue.

Google Chrome is now the leading browser, holding a share of nearly 65% of the global market, according to browser tracker StatCounter, while Edge sits at under 4%.

NPR's Christopher Dean Hopkins contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.