What is Internet Explorer?


Internet Explorer is Microsoft's integrated web browser. Known by its acronym IE, the program is referred to as an integrated web browser, rather than as a standard web browser, because of the heavy reliance between it and Microsoft's Windows operating system. IE components are used in Windows' file manager, help browser, integrated email client, and many other programs. Also, Internet Explorer has access to most of the Windows operating system's core files and functions. While marketed as a feature of previous versions of IE, this integration has been the subject of fierce criticism of the browser, as it introduces a host of stability and security problems.

Originally a rebranded version of Spyglass Mosaic, Internet Explorer was recoded by Microsoft for its v3.0 release, and given the familiar Windows interface. As Microsoft's licensing of the web browser from Mosaic stated that Microsoft was to pay a royalty on revenue earned from the sale of Internet Explorer, the software giant decided to bundle IE for free with Windows. Thus earning no direct revenue from the product, only the minimum quarterly fee was paid to Mosaic. This led to one of Microsoft's first lawsuits over the browser, which it settled with Spyglass out of court. The integration with Windows, however, led to the demise of the then-dominant web browser, Netscape. In fact, Microsoft reverse-engineered many of Netscape's proprietary features such as Javascript (which Microsoft calls Jscript) and the Netscape plugin architecture. With no need to install third-party software to browse the web, Windows users brought IE usage to its peak of 94% of the browser market around 2003. Since then, that figure has been reduced to about 80% of the market with public frustration regarding IE's security and awareness regarding alternative web browsers such as Opera and Firefox.

Internet Explorer has become notorious for its disregard of standards compliance and its horrible security record. While IE 3.0 was the first major browser to support CSS, the rest of its innovative features were proprietary Microsoft developments. As these features were rushed to market, they were implemented long before the W3C had the chance to standardize implementation details. Often, the recommended implementation of then-proprietary features was not compatible with Microsoft's development (or Netscape's, for that matter). As Microsoft developed its Frontpage web-authoring software which produced the non-standard code required to implement Microsoft's innovations, the company could not change Internet Explorer to conform to web standards while Frontpage did not. Thus, a tradition of non-standards compliance was instituted within IE development. Although standards non-compliance was not reason enough to interest people in finding web browser alternatives, IE's security record has caused many IT managers and even home users to seek alternatives. Internet Explorer has more security notices than all the other web browsers combined, and the severity of IE security issues is often very severe, given the tight integration between the web browser and the Windows operating system.

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