The result of Microsoft's rapid turn around in Internet policy from "The MSN is the way to go" to "We are fully committed to the Internet". Billions of dollars went into software research into this world wide web browser which was given away for free in order to take market/mind share from Netscape's Navigator.

Also the subject of numerous anti-competitive suits against Microsoft, as Microsoft used its monopoly power to require that Internet Explorer be installed with Windows.

With the recent (April, 2000) legal findings against Microsoft that it indeed was a monopoly and did abuse its monopoly, the decision to create and give away IE might yet come back to haunt the software behemoth.

(a bit of fact here):

Internet Explorer was traditionally the vehicle for Microsoft to release small non-critical "service packs" to windows. Most service packs fixed a few bugs and added more windows common controls (see commctrl.h in the Microsoft Platform SDK, or MSDN). That is why a lot of programs "Require IE 3.x, 4.0, 5.0 or higher". It's because they added common controls to the mix that did not originally ship with Windows, but IE required and thus implemented. Active Desktop was first introduces in IE 4.0.

Of course, there was that whole lawsuit again, and since the new prevailing strategy from the Redmond camp seems to be to go with NT, who are used to more traditional service packs, that upgrade vehicle seems to be at it's end.

Another interesting technical note here is that newer versions (IE 4.0 and up) of Windows Internet Explorer are just a sleek COM object. That is why it runs so fast. Inside of lots of ad bars (such as, and the free internet service provicer, is really an internet explorer engine object, displaying the page/banner code. It's really quite a nice system. Presumably all of IE is a stub executable that has an address bar, and preferences, that calls an IE control (COM interface) with the right methods. I think that the object name is IWEBBROWSE. You can find this out by looking through the Object viewer that comes with visual studio.

Also, the Macintosh version of the browser is based on an engine known as Tasman; made completely differently but still quite compatable with the Windows version. This is unlike Netscape, which shares the same cross-platform codebase. They did release a version of IE for solaris, but i heard that the quality was quite low.
How Internet Explorer works :

By bundling the browser with the OS, OEMs are forced to drop Netscape Navigator from their packages (having two browsers installed on the machine increases the chance of a call to technical support, and therefore lowers profit margins). Those OEMs that don't buy this (Microsoft-originated) line of reasoning are then threatened with having Windows taken away from them altogether (or in Apple's case, Office). The quality of the actual browser software is irrelevant as the consumers do not enter the financial equation, but by dint of massive promotional expenditure, new features are added and bugs fixed (probably to spare the sanity of the legions of tech-savvy Microserfs who are now forced to use it, rather than as part of any conscious quality control policy).

Internet Explorer can be removed from Windows9x. This results in a marginal increase in available resources, and prevents lazily-written software (like Napster) from throwing pop-up ads at you. It may also result in increased stability, especially if you have installed IE over an older version of the shell. It also has the effect of breaking Windows Media Player (should you be unlucky enough to have it installed), and numerous other minor features of Windoze that Microsoft have hastily tied it to in an effort to "prove" it is part of the Operating System.

As for how it works, who cares when you can join the wonderfulTM MSNTM today!

An interesting glitch that results from Microsoft's lack of program testing in the NT4 operating system-

If you have an account on the server that has restricted access to Internet Explorer, you can still get to the web. Open up Microsoft Word (2000 or newer), and type in "" (or whatever website you want to visit). Word will promptly change that from plain text into a hyperlink. When you click the link, Word will bypass the security restrictions (active-x, java abilities, cookies, etc) set on Internet Explorer, and open a normal browser window.

Also, the site-censoring program restrictions are discarded, so if your computer restrictions on the types of sites you can visit (x-rated pictures, non-work related sites, etc.), you can get around them. However, if the network administrator is good at his job, the server will keep tabs on what accounts access the web, and what sites each account visit.

I learned this from my Computer Science class in highschool. Our teacher, Mr. DelGudice, still has no clue how we get Internet Explorer to load.

I have only tested this on NT4, and no other Microsoft OS's. I know this glitch is not present on Mac OS9 or X.

Reasons not to use Internet Explorer:

It's widely acknowledged amongst computer geeks that Internet Explorer is a pretty bad web browser, but most people just put up with it. Here are a few highlights of what the main criticisms are, and what alternatives are available.

It's broken

"Web developers and makers of web authoring tools say [Microsoft] has allowed CSS bugs to linger for years, undermining technology that promises to significantly cut corporate web site design costs."

- Developers Gripe About IE Standards Inaction, CNET1

IE renders many web pages incorrectly. Usually you won't notice a major difference, but that's only because web designers spend a lot of the time getting their sites to work in IE because of its popularity. Often they have to choose between making a site look great in everything but IE, or merely look good in everything including IE. If people exclusively used web browsers that rendered pages correctly, web designers would have much more freedom to make their sites look more aesthetically pleasing.

It may not be available on your operating system

"Microsoft said it would continue to support Internet Explorer 5 for the Mac for the foreseeable future, but development of the browser has been discontinued. Any future updates to the browser will only contain maintenance or security fixes, no new features."

- Microsoft Drops Development of Internet Explorer for Mac, Macworld2

IE is only available on Windows and MacOS, and development on the MacOS version has now ceased. If you're using any other operating system, you can't install it. Other web browsers are available that have been ported across to many different operating systems, ensuring that the look and feel of the browser is consistent whatever you're using.

It's anti-competitive

"On the date of the study, none of the 63 documents on MSN's home page was valid according to W3C specifications."

- MSN, Opera and Web Standards, A List Apart3

The W3C is the organization that comes up with recommendations for how the web should work. They wrote the specifications for HTTP and HTML, for instance. While they stress these are only recommendations, not standards, it's a good idea for programmers who make web servers and web clients to follow the recommendations as closely as possible. Both Netscape and Internet Explorer have tried making up their own proprietary HTML elements, such as <blink> and <marquee> (arguably two of the most annoying elements there are, as they involve movement that draws the reader's eye away from whatever it is they were actually trying to read). Microsoft take things much further than Netscape, however. Because they make the operating system that their browser runs in, they first gave IE away for free (as in price, not the freedom to see how it works) and then claimed it was a part of Windows itself. They have also badly written (or allegedly sabotaged, depending on how you look at it) one of their own web sites,, so that web browsers other than IE won't display the pages properly because they're not valid HTML.

It's out of date

Computer technology and standards move at a very fast rate. In a time when free software is constantly being updated by people from around the world, it's amazing that, security patches aside, Microsoft got away without updating their web browser in several years. The latest version at time of writing, version 6.0, was released in October 2001. This means it lacks any recent innovations, such as tabbed browsing or mouse gestures.

You aren't allowed to see how it works

Using an out of date web browser wouldn't be so bad if you could update it yourself. Better yet, wait for someone else to install new features and fix the bugs and publicly release their improvements, so everyone else can download the new version. However, no one is allowed to see how IE works, let alone improve it for everyone's benefit. As is the case with all proprietary, closed source software, only employees of the company that owns the copyright are allowed to improve it in any way.

It has major security holes

"Users are being told to avoid using Internet Explorer until Microsoft patches a serious security hole in it."

- Web Browser Flaw Prompts Warning, BBC News4

As mentioned previously, it's out of date and you can't improve it yourself. This means that once a new security vulnerability has been made public, you have to patiently wait for the corporation's employees to release a new patch which fixes the issue. And this browser has a lot of security issues, especially since Microsoft decided that its web browser should be an integral part of the Windows operating system itself.

So what are the alternatives?

"Internet Explorer, you're fired."

- Firefox Leaves No Reason to Endure Internet Explorer, Washington Post5

There are several alternatives to choose from. For instance, Mac OS X has Camino and Safari, and Mac OS X, Windows and GNU/Linux can all run Firefox. For those that still don't trust anything with the word "free" in it, the closed source Opera is available for Windows, MacOS (8, 9 and X), GNU/Linux, FreeBSD, BeOS and other platforms too. All four are vast improvements to Internet Explorer, and installing any of them is simple enough for anyone to do. In short, you don't have to put up with pop-up adverts, crashes and incorrectly displayed web pages any more.


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