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The End of IE?

May 26, 2003

Well now… there’s a rumour going around that Microsoft may stop development of Internet Explorer, to focus on MSN instead. See the comments in Craig Saila’s post on CSS flubs in IE.

This makes sense from a business standpoint. The browser war is long won, so it’s time to stop offering a free product and begin making money on monthly services. Consider the Mac OS situation — MSN for Mac OS X was released last week, when we haven’t seen an update for Mac IE5 in how long now? I’d be willing to wager that, with Safari and Chimera on the radar, and given the average Mac–head’s disdain for Microsoft, one isn’t forthcoming either.

It’s tough to predict long–term strategy from the outside, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we only see one or two more revisions of IE for the PC before it’s left behind. Which gives the average PC user three choices — pay for MSN service, download an alternate browser, or simply don’t upgrade.

Given how Microsoft won the browser wars, guess which one my money is on?

Reader Comments

Adam says:
May 27, 09h

Dune: “He who controls the spice, controls the universe”. The browser is still very important as it is the conduit to information, the primary tool people use to access the web.

I too would like to see more effort put into streamlining Mozilla’s installation, but seeing as it’s a volunteer project, we should put our marketing ideas where our mouths are right?

Dan’s why use Firebird page is a great start, but it needs to be integrated throughout. No doubt when it hits a 1.0 things should be cooking.

It’s not necessarily the end of IE, rather the end of the accelerated development phase. Hopefully that means consolidation.

Dave S. says:
May 27, 09h

Good points Adam. Up till now I’ve been using IE6 myself because it’s so damn fast. I honestly tried to make the switch to Netscape 7 or Mozilla, but I just couldn’t get around how sluggish they were in comparison.

You gave me a push. I just downloaded Firebird, something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. (good call on streamlining the installation, it’ll only catch on when everything’s automatic and the end user just has to push ‘Yes’ buttons).

Lee says:
May 27, 10h

I don’t agree.

I really can’t predict what MS will do with IE either, but just because MS won the browser wars does not mean that the War is actually over.

It’s an evolving thing. Now, the issue will be CSS XHTML XML support. It still behooves MS to be the window to this world on the desktop.

I guess the real question is “Will the browser still be relevant in the near future?”

If “yes,” then Microsoft will want to be in the lead.

If “no,” that’s when it get’s interesting.

Chris says:
May 27, 10h

Microsoft is about having control. As long as they continue to produce the most used OS on the planet, why would they want give users a REASON not to use IE? It just doesn’t make sense. Sure the browser wars have begun again and IE is falling behind. I don’t think Mr Gates is going to be happy with that for long.

Dave S. says:
May 27, 11h

My thinking is that this isn’t about standards at all, or even the browser.

Does Microsoft really care about supporting the latest and greatest standards if a) they can maintain 90% of the browser share, and b) they can make money off of MSN?

I’m all for further compliance to the W3, but Microsoft virtually owns the browser market right now. What incentive do they have to continue development of a free product, when they can increase use of their paid service? It’s not going to take much to do that. Most users don’t care about their browser or how well it supports web standards, they care about the user experience of getting on the web. If Microsoft’s marketing budget is being spent on promoting the cool new features of MSN and making people want it, people will get it.

Mozilla ain’t gonna change this without a significant shift in strategy, because it’s still too hard for the average user to download a browser. This is not about which product is better. We all know the answer to that. But better technologies don’t always win. Beta/VHS, anyone?

Who knows. It’s all moot anyway if IE’s life cycle doesn’t end in a year or two. But I speculate because I can see grains of logic in that rumour.

June 02, 01h

(Cross-posted – sorry)

Joel writes, “Microsoft has settled the lawsuit with AOL, agreeing to pay AOL $750,000,000 in a complicated deal that allows AOL to continue to use Internet Explorer for several years. I’m not sure why the second part is interesting.”

In light of the recent news that “IE6 SP1 is the final standalone installation”, I think this could be an interesting way of lulling AOL into complacency.

Let’s say that the rumors are true, and IE development is at a standstill. What’s to prevent Microsoft from putting a ton of resources into the MSN browser and zooming past a totally unprepared AOL?

This would leave AOL with some poor options:
* stick with the vanilla IE6, long surpassed by a superior MSN, or
* get Mozilla/Netscape/Phoenix/Firebird to the point where it could be comfortably used by existing AOL users


Dave S. says:
June 02, 06h

Joe, I just about missed this. It would have been relevant in one of the more recent threads too, but you may miss my reply if I move it, so…

I don’t know there’s much need to speculate anymore. The whole ‘building it in to the OS’ talk is a euphemism for saying “sure, you’ll get basic browser support for Windows alright, but you’ll want to pay us for our internet services to get the latest and greatest, MSN.” Time may prove me wrong, but I think Internet Explorer is now dead. It may get the odd kick in the ribs to keep it breathing, but MSN is where all future development is going to go.

So your what-if scenario is far closer to a now-what? AOL is hemmorhaging cash, but can they afford to sit back and rest on IE for the next 7 years, knowing full well that it’s dead in the water now? Doubtful. Mozilla will go on. Netscape is probably dead. But for AOL to rely on Microsoft is like the fawn lying down next to the sleeping 700lb grizzly and hoping to God that it doesn’t wake up.

June 02, 07h

Got your reply. Thx.

You don’t get automatic notifications when someone comments?

Dave S. says:
June 02, 08h

Nope. That would be one more set of mail to sort through. Although I suppose I could create a custom filter.

Alex A. says:
July 22, 01h

It’s sad to hear that MS might take a simple, fast, and nicely configurable browser and replace it with a larger, more complicated one that will support future technologies, just to gain a buck.

I personally enjoy the integration of IE, and I will miss that in Longhorn. After using Mozilla and Netscape I realize that I don’t like load time, any load time. I’m not looking forward to having to wait. But in the meantime, I’m happy I’ve still got IE6, and who knows what the future will hold?