Microsoft retired its flagship web browser Internet Explorer on Wednesday, 27 years after the once-dominant software was launched, causing little commotion in the West but raising alarms in Japan.
Internet Explorer quickly took over as the hegemonic web browser after its launch in 1995, edging out early competitors like Netscape by being bundled with Microsoft Windows. Internet Explorer’s dominance of the web browser market peaked in 2003, when the browser enjoyed a 95 percent usage share worldwide.
However, the Microsoft browser was encumbered with technical issues, which caused consumers to slowly pivot away from the familiar Internet Explorer towards alternatives such as Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. Among tech-savvy consumers, Internet Explorer became an object of ridicule and derision, frequently mocked for its tendency to crash and its non-compliance with international standards for web technologies, which caused it to function poorly with many programming languages.
So poor was Internet Explorer’s reputation that Microsoft decided to start from scratch, launching the alternative browser, Microsoft Edge, in 2015, which marked the beginning of the end for the legacy web browser. Microsoft announced in May 2021 that it would discontinue supporting Internet Explorer,
For consumers in the United States and Europe, the retirement of Internet Explorer will likely not raise much alarm, as these markets have largely shifted to other browsers. However, the end of Explorer has raised alarm in Japan, where 49 percent of businesses reportedly still operate on the oft-maligned web browser.
While the nation of the rising sun has had ample time to pivot away from Internet Explorer since the announcement last year, the native media outlet Nikkei reported that many business owners and government agencies had delayed transitioning away from the obsolete browser, suffering under the inertia of a quintessentially Japanese conservatism of habit.
In the West, the discontinuation of Internet Explorer has been met not with widespread economic concern but with jest and nostalgia, as consumers take to social media to reflect on their formative experiences with the browser and joke about its reputation for poor performance.
“Today marks the official end of Microsoft’s support for Internet Explorer. RIP to the #1 Chrome installer of all,” quipped video producer and professional athlete Marques Brownlee.
Despite whatever nostalgia may persist for the legacy browser, with Wednesday’s discontinuation of support, Internet Explorer enters the annals of web history.