Once The Dominant Web Browser, Internet Explorer Goes Into Retirement After 27 Years

Older couple with IE and Netscape Navigator logos as heads, holding hands in a lake.
Some of you reading this aren't old enough to remember when Internet Explorer first shipped and how it dominated the browsing scene in the early days of the web. The landscape is drastically different now than it was back then, and nearly three decades after it was first introduced, Microsoft has sent IE into retirement where it can reminisce with Netscape Navigator about their glory days.

That's assuming the two are on speaking terms. The original browser wars pitted IE against Netscape Navigator as the two wrestled for market share. Microsoft's key advantage was being able to bundle IE with Windows. Over the next several years, IE's share of the browser market grew while Netscape Navigator's fell. IE's market penetration peaked at around 95 percent in the early 2000s. Meanwhile, Netscape Navigator limped along in development until the last version released in 2008, by which time the first real browser war had already ended.

There's a lot that I'm leaving out, but the bigger point here is that IE, once a major force on the web, is now "permanently disabled" at the hands of Microsoft. In an updated support article, Microsoft notes that the last remnants of IE are being wiped out with the latest Edge browser update.

"The out-of-support Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) desktop application was permanently disabled on certain versions of Windows 10 on February 14, 2023 through a Microsoft Edge update. Note, this update will be rolled out over the span of a few days up to a week, as is standard for Microsoft Edge updates," Microsoft states. "All remaining consumer and commercial devices that were not already redirected from IE11 to Microsoft Edge were redirected with the Microsoft Edge update."

Microsoft also states that this an irreversible move—once Edge is updated to phase out IE, users will be unable to roll back. Users who try to access IE after this happens will be redirected to Edge, which is based on Chromium, the same underlying browser engine that powers Google's own Chrome browser.

Browser market share graph by StatCounter.
Source: StatCounter

This marks the official end of an era, though IE stopped being relevant a long time ago. These days, Chrome sits on top with a 65.4 percent share of the browser market, according to StatCounter, followed by Apple's Safari browser in a distant second place at 18.71 percent. The remaining players such as Edge (4.46 percent), Firefox (3 percent), and Opera (2.4 percent) are left to feast on scraps. Those figures take into account all platforms (desktop, tablet, and mobile phones).

As for IE, the browser that once ruled the web has been reduced to a measly 0.25 percent share of the overall market. If you're in that group, note that even visual references to IE 11 (such as icons on the Start menu and taskbar) will disappear this year as well, according to Microsoft's plans.