Microsofts Internet Explorer Turns 15: A Look Back

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Microsofts Internet Explorer Turns 15: A Look Back

by Nicholas Kolakowski

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Microsoft rolled out Internet Explorer 1.0 with its Windows 95 Plus! Pack, with the browser installed as part of the Internet Jumpstart Kit (subsequently replaced by the Internet Connection Wizard).

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Internet Explorer 1.0 allowed users to browse the Web but couldn't display graphics or newsgroups.

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In November 1995, Microsoft released Internet Explorer 2, which supported newsgroups, cookies, Javascript, frames and SSL (Secure Socket Layer).

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Microsoft released Internet Explorer 3 in August 1996. It featured support for .gifs and .jpg files, as well as MIDI sound files and streaming audio. This release is also notable for the first appearance of the Internet Explorer "Blue E" logo.

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Included with Windows 98, Internet Explorer 4 (released in 1997) touted multimedia features such as Microsoft Chat 2.0, Web Publishing Wizard and Netshow. By this point, Internet Explorer's market share began to rise sharply, crowding out that of Netscape.

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In 1998, Microsoft found itself faced with antitrust action over the bundling of its Web browser with Windows. Microsoft argued that browser and operating system were mutually dependent and eventually reached a settlement with the Department of Justice in 2001. Bill Gates didn't seem all that happy to testify.

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Microsoft included Internet Explorer 5 with Windows 98SE and shipped Internet Explorer 6 with Windows XP. Internet Explorer 7 marked a larger development leap, however, with features such as tabbed browsing.

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Internet Explorer 8 included still more features, including InPrivate Filtering, which gives users more granular control over how their information is shared with Website providers. Internet Explorer 8 has seen an increase in user adoption, while the respective market shares for Internet 6 and 7 continue to decline.

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Despite its baked-in user controls, Internet Explorer 8 has faced some controversy over its privacy policy. An Aug. 1 Wall Street Journal article, for example, alleged that Microsoft executives killed an attempt to create tracking-tool-countering software, for fear it would interfere with selling online ads.

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Internet Explorer 8's Developer Tools offer the ability to tinker under the proverbial hood.

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Later versions of Internet Explorer included more robust security features. Internet Explorer 5.5 was the first browser version to ship with 128-bit standard encryption strength. By Internet Explorer 8, a SmartScreen Filter was in place to assist in blocking malware.

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Microsoft will launch its public beta of Internet Explorer 9 on Sept. 15, in a high-profile event in San Francisco. After years as the dominant Web browser, Microsoft now finds itself challenged by a variety of strong competitors such as Firefox and Google Chrome.

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Microsoft claims Internet Explorer 9 will feature improved browser performance, greater compatibility and compliance with standards, and enhanced HTML5 support.

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