Technology

25 Years of Internet Explorer: How Microsoft Entered Browser Wars


Microsoft launched Internet Explorer 3.0 25 years ago on August 13, 1996, marking its entry into then-ongoing ‘Browser Wars.’ The tech giant has already announced that it will retire its Internet Explorer 11 desktop application on June 15, 2022, a month before its 26th anniversary. And while it might be going out, the story of its arrival and eventually taking the world by storm is worth recalling. And who better to do that than one of the earliest members of the team that worked on its launch. Hadi Partovi, now a tech investor and CEO of Code.org, tweeted on August 14 that the Internet Explorer 3.0 was Microsoft’s first real salvo in the “Browser Wars.” Partovi was just 22 when he joined Microsoft and the team was “only 9 people and trying desperately to grow” as quickly as possible. “I remember one question I was asked in every interview: “How soon can you start?””

Back then, Partovi says that Netscape Navigator had a 95 percent market share and it was the “darling” of the tech industry. “They were famously working on “Internet time.” We were almost 2 years behind and we needed to catch up,” he wrote.

Here’s something that Partovi learned about execution from his then-boss Chris Jones, who told him: “There’s 3 ways to handle work assigned to you. If you say you’ll do it, do it. If you say you can’t, that’s ok. But if you sign up for work and drop the ball, the team fails. Learn to say no.” Besides, he got to know about the significance of motivation too. Bill Gates wrote a memo to all of Microsoft, saying the Internet Explorer project is critical, asking every team to reorient their work to help the Explorer team.

Microsoft announced its plans publicly on December 7, 1995. “It was war. Despite Netscape’s lead, we said we’d match their every feature and even leapfrog them. We signed partnerships with anybody who would help us, even competitors like Apple and AOL,” Partovi added. Partovi plastered the hallways with quotes from Netscape’s co-founder, Marc Andreessen: “Netscape will soon reduce Windows to a poorly debugged set of device drivers.” It reminded us that this new startup threatened to destroy all of Microsoft, Partovi says.

For Partovi personally, this was the launching point for his career and he got a chance to learn from the best leaders at Microsoft such as Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and Brad Silverberg. But sadly for him, Microsoft broke up the IE team because it thought “we won.”

He added that at Microsoft, it wasn’t a toxic pressure cooker of working against one’s will. “The leadership worked hardest of all. Most of us were in our early twenties and it was a launch point for many careers,” he says.

In May 2021, Microsoft announced that it will be officially retiring the Internet Explorer Web browser and replacing it with Microsoft Edge, that it says is a good replacement for home and office use. The company said that Internet Explorer has “increasingly been difficult to support side-by-side with modern browsers.”






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