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Internet Explorer is Retiring: The Gateway to the Web for Generations

It’s the end of an era – an era that has guided many of us through tremendous cultural, technological and societal change.

The American computer software company Microsoft has retired Internet Explorer, the old web browser launched 27 years ago.

The browser quickly became one of the most popular tools for accessing the Internet when it was released in July 1995.

From the “dancing baby” meme to viral challenges from YouTube stars, IE’s lifespan has encapsulated the zeitgeist over the decades and been the go-to destination for the ideas and stories that have defined the atmosphere of the time.

But IE’s time is up now and it was officially retired on June 15th.

Microsoft had already paved the way for IE’s demise, ending support for it in the Microsoft Teams web app last year and planning to do the same through Microsoft 365 services soon.

Ending support means that important security updates and bug fixes will no longer be deployed.

The tech giant has gradually moved away from the aging software after some 25 years on the scene, starting again with the new Edge browser in 2015 to coincide with the launch of Windows 10.

Support for the final release, Internet Explorer 11, was maintained, but most people have already moved elsewhere.

STV News looks back on the browser’s legacy and some of the milestones in its life.

Users

Internet Explorer was once the most widely used web browser, attracting 95% of Internet users in 2003. This happened after Microsoft used the bundling to win the first browser war against Netscape, which dominated in the 1990s.

Its usage share has since declined with the launch of Firefox (2004) and Google Chrome (2008), and with the growing popularity of mobile operating systems such as Android and iOS that do not support IE.

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Population of Internet Explorer browser users from 2014 to 2021.

The number of people using Internet Explorer has been on a downward spiral over the past decade, with estimates of the browser’s market share in 2022 standing at around 0.38% across all platforms, according to web traffic analytics website Statcounter.

Memes

The “Dancing Baby” is widely recognized as the first great internet meme. It started as an obscure graphic showing a baby doing a cha-cha type dance, then embarked on a viral journey after a series of email exchanges.

Its spread on the Internet accelerated when it was transformed into GIF, an image format invented in the late 80s by an American software engineer.

The meme reached its peak when it featured in the American comedy drama series Ally McBeal as a metaphor for the protagonist’s biological clock.

Memes defined much of the internet’s 2010s curation, evolving to encompass everything from hashtags to viral videos.

The dictionary defines them as cultural elements in the form of an image, video, sentence, etc., disseminated via the Internet and often modified in a creative or humorous way.

On niche forums, memes peddling subversive or insular humor, known as excellent memes, were standard fare. But they quickly evolved into quite wholesome and appealing to mainstream media – and it was these memes that gained worldwide fame.

One example is the “This is Fine” meme, which shows a cartoon dog trying to make sure everything is okay, despite sitting in a room engulfed in flames. It has often been used to convey a sense of selflessness or acceptance in the face of a hopeless situation and is often used in a political or sporting context among online speech.

Internet Challenges

In the summer of 2014, our social media feeds were flooded with people doing a pretty weird thing – pouring buckets of ice water over their heads.

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The viral charity campaign became a phenomenon as people sprayed themselves and then nominated friends and family to take up the challenge.

It was for a good cause, however, as donations raised by those brave enough to participate went to fund research into motor neurone disease.

This challenge came on the heels of another viral sensation in early February 2013, which saw thousands of “Harlem Shake” videos being made and uploaded to YouTube every day at the height of its popularity.

The trend involved a person dancing or acting strangely in a room full of others going about their daily business. After the song drops and a video cut, everyone starts dancing or acting strangely.

Chat and technology

The way we communicate with each other online has changed beyond recognition.

Four years after the release of Internet Explorer, MSN Messenger arrived, which consisted of basic features, such as plain text messaging and a simplistic contact list.

It was a vital tool for young people and students keeping in touch with their friends – evidenced by the outpouring of emotion online when it was fully retired in 2014. Memories of youth were largely the backbone backbone of nostalgia felt by many as another aspect of childhood. has been relegated to the history books.

In its place are all kinds of communication platforms – Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, Slack, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Reddit and all kinds of forums for all hobbies and tastes. Make your choice.

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Players on Playstation and Xbox consoles talk to each other over headsets as they play and football fans comment on the action in real time as they watch live streams.

Where there used to be internet cafes and all-night computer centers at universities, most of the population now has broadband and WiFi coverage.

DVD and iPod are gone, streaming services like Netflix and Spotify are king.

On the browser side, you now have Google Chrome, Firefox from Mozilla, Safari from Apple, Vivaldi and of course Edge from Microsoft. There is no longer any place for IE amidst the relentless pace of technological change.

dot-com bubble

The dot-com bubble, also known as the internet boom, was caused by excessive speculation by internet-related businesses in the late 1990s.

The rapid growth of dot-com companies proved unsustainable, and after peaking in March 2000, the dot-com bubble burst. After another 12 months, many of these once high-flying dot-com companies were over.

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Between 1995 and its peak in March 2000, the Nasdaq Composite stock index rose 400%, only to fall 78% from its peak in October 2002, giving up all of its gains during the bubble.

Some surviving companies, such as Amazon.com, lost a large portion of their market capitalization, with Cisco Systems alone losing 80% of its market value.

Internet Celebrities

Once upon a time, celebrity status was granted to people who were rock stars, TV presenters, or played high-profile sports.

But the internet has changed that forever. The famous quote attributed to Andy Warhol certainly resonates, he said: “In the future, everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes.

And that applied to the first cohort to appear in the Big Brother house, the Channel 4 program that allowed audiences to watch every move of ‘ordinary’ people locked away from civilization.

Jade Goody, who appeared in the show’s third series in 2002, rose to global fame before becoming embroiled in a number of scandals that spawned online hate campaigns.

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Websites and social media pages reveling in Goody’s illness sprung up following his bullying behavior towards Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty on Celebrity Big Brother in 2007.

Goody died in 2009 aged 27 after being diagnosed with cervical cancer the year before.

The internet age has created celebrities who have achieved fame well beyond their 15 minutes, while generating incredible wealth for them.

These include YouTubers, TikTokers, and bloggers.

Individual users record videos of their daily lives and upload them online – so called video blogging or more commonly vlogging.

An example is Swedish internet celebrity PewDiePie, who uploads gaming and comedy videos to YouTube.

As of September 2019, he had around 100 million subscribers and was the most subscribed non-corporate YouTuber.

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PewDiePie signs copies of his new book ‘This Book Loves You’ at Barnes & Noble Union Square in New York City.

New technology

Internet Explorer heralded a new dawn for many – giving them access to one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century.

Its legacy will undoubtedly live on, having been pre-installed on Windows desktop computers for over decades.

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But mobile and tablet internet usage has overtaken the number of desktop computers globally. Many now access the internet through browsers that come pre-installed on Apple iPhones and Android phones.

IE – once the revolutionary – has become a victim of the ongoing internet revolution.

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