Remember back when people spoke of Java as a "write once, run everywhere" environment sitting atop the operating systemany operating system? Java would, according to some, become more important than Windows. Java was supposed to run "the applications of the future" atop whatever OS the user chose. "Goodbye Windows!" Java proponents used to say, with more than a measure of gleeful malice in their voices.What a laugh all that turned out to be. Yes, Java has become a significant programming language, but Java-based applications are in no danger of taking over anybodys desktop. Not anybody I know, anyway.Web-based applications have been less successful than Java, at least in terms of overall visibility, but may have a better future. Sure, they should have been here in a big way three or four years ago, but Web-based apps continue to make steady, if slow, progress. Salesforce.com has demonstrated that if you build a great Web-based app, customers will come. So why make a big deal about the Browser Decade? Because flawed as it was and remains, the World Wide Web and the browsers that reveal it have done more to improve the global flow of information than anything since the invention of the printing press. We have Google, Amazon, blogs, podcasts, online libraries, some Web-based apps and millions of other sites all available at the click of a mouse, courtesy of browser software. That the software hasnt lived up to its full potential isnt surprising. That its not, even today, as secure as it ought to be, is reason to be unhappy. But, for all the things the browser isnt, the software has changed our world, and mostly for the better. So, with an appreciative nod to Mosaic, Netscape Navigator and all the other browsers, past and present, I say, "Happy Birthday, Internet Explorer!" Its been an exciting 10 years. I just hope were not having the same problems 10 years from now. Contributing editor David Coursey has spent two decades writing about hardware, software and communications for business customers. He can be reached at email@example.com. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.