Two decades after its launch, Microsoft's signature web browser is expected to take the back seat to a lighter and more modern tool, codenamed Spartan, in Windows 10.
While developing this alternative, Microsoft remains vague on whether the Internet Explorer brand may eventually be phased out entirely.
Introduced in 1995 as a rival to Netscape Navigator, which debuted one year earlier, Internet Explorer has long been an integral part of Windows, and it was the world's leading browser for several years.
Internet Explorer faced its first serious competition in the mid-2000s from Mozilla Firefox, and today it has been far surpassed by Google Chrome, both in terms of technology and popularity. As of February 2015, StatCounter estimates that Chrome has a 43.16% global market share, compared to just 13.09% for Internet Explorer and 11.56% for Firefox.
Five important dates in IE history:
August 16, 1995: The very first version of Internet Explorer (1.0) was introduced as part of the Microsoft Plus! enhancement pack for Windows 95.
February 14, 1996: Internet Explorer (2.0) was directly integrated into Windows 95. The decision to bundle the browser with the operating system led to a major antitrust trial one year later, in which Microsoft stood accused of stifling competition by imposing Internet Explorer on Windows users.
August 27, 2001: Microsoft released Internet Explorer 6, the iconic version that shipped with Windows XP. Over five years passed before Microsoft would release the next significant update to the browser, IE 7.
December 16, 2009: The European Commission set aside its investigation into Microsoft for abuse of dominant position after the company committed to measures giving users more flexibility in their choice of browser. Internet Explorer was the market leader at the time, with a 60% share worldwide. In March 2010, Microsoft added a step to the Microsoft 7 installation process to allow users to choose their preferred browser among various options.
January 21, 2015: Microsoft officially presented the Spartan project for a new browser that will ship with Windows 10. Lighter, more user-friendly and more along the lines of Chrome or Firefox, Spartan is described as an alternative to Internet Explorer rather than a replacement. But it remains to be seen what the future holds for Microsoft's original browser.