Will IE8 Be Microsoft's Last Explorer?

Could the eighth edition of Microsoft Internet Explorer really be the last of its breed?
There were several such reports circulating on the virtual grapevine in recent days, including Randall Kennedy’s post at InfoWorld, Scott Fulton’s post at Beta News, iAurora’s post at JCXP and others.
It’s not yet clear what Microsoft’s replacement for IE will be — Microsoft’s apparently not talking, one way or the other — but WebKit and a brand-new engine dubbed “Gazelle” are said to be the top contenders.
Getting back to the question – will this be the final nail in the coffin for IE (which has been losing internet ground with each subsequent version to Firefox)? Or will Microsoft’s next explorer substitute prove to be their savior in the battle against Open Source?
Please state your opinions with rationale. Also, comment on how this will in turn effect web development platforms and technologies.
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  • Internet Explorer has to be one of the worst pieces of software ever created. I hope it dies. I spend more time trying to tweak code in IE than any other browser for web development. This translates into lost revenue for web developers simply because Microsoft will not stick to even the most basic web standards. You would think that an outfit as big as Microsoft would be able to get it right. I have just received an email from a client today (which is what prompted my reply here) where IE 7 is having a problem with something I have implemented on their site. IE 6, Firefox and Chrome all render the page correctly – IE 7… no. They can’t even be consistent with their upgrades – aren’t they supposed to be improvements? Good riddance IE. My life will be easier and more profitable without it.

  • Will the Zune be their last media play?

  • Firefox has been gaining ground on IE but I don’t see a major shift in the market. To the average, every day user, their computer came with IE and that is what they like. Eventually IE will be dead, or at least IE as we know it. Microsoft knows that it really needs to innovate. The real threat is from Google (which supported Mozilla). Google Apps are going to kill Microsoft’s bread and butter in the near future. After the failure to acquire Yahoo, Microsoft is really backed into a corner. They are not diversified like Apple is. My guess is Microsoft is developing a new strategy, but is going to be very quite it about it for a few more months. It has been a while since Microsoft has come out with anything that has attracted a lot of hype…

  • Microsoft has shown that it has the ability to produce a pretty inadequate browser, but that they still have the ability to get most of the world to actually USE it. While Explorer may be going into storage, their next product is sure to be as full of problems and as slow as IE.
    I went to Chrome a while back, and I will NEVER look back. Google has it’s act together when it comes to making a browser.

  • Its really time that Microsoft decides to proceed with other directions, most especially in the web browsing division. IE is in my opinion, ia growing out of this generation’s technology. You look at Chrome, Firefox and they appear to be the web browsing tool of our choice currently. IE is sort of a prick on the side.
    Its really time that Microsoft reinvent the wheel now and come out with some new and better innovative applications.

  • I think it is more interesting to ask if the browser as we know it has reached maturity. What meaningful innovations can be made without fundamentally altering the semantics of HTML? Future HTML browsers will accomodate changes in GUI style and have pointless fashion accents, but for real change, I think it is over.
    One might then ask, what’s up with fighting the “browser wars” or even caring about the outcome?
    So it will be about something else, something beyond HTML. How about xaml and wpf? What does the open source community have in contrast to these technologies? Do they even have web services right much less WCF class capability?
    It has become very fashionable to speculate about the victory of open source and the demise of Microsoft. Lots of chatter is not a statistic.
    Microsoft has a massive R&D budget and they have executed well in the past on innovations. A company like that is playing a game over a period of years, not point releases as the open source community still does.

  • “Last Explorer”? Like “starring Harrison Ford”?

  • Hi Zohaib,
    The (next) winner in the browser wars will be the one that most seamlessly integrates with the social networking sites. No matter who’s it is!

  • E might not be the sharpest tool in the shed but neither are the other browsers. I memory serves me correctly Opera in the most compliant browser but the least popular, go figure
    If you want to see how compliant you browser is try the Acid 3 test
    Anyhow not sure where you’re getting your browser usage stats from but I think you’re a little over eager I think IE has around 67% of the market Firefox 21-22%
    Chrome I like for its simple interface but in all reality it doesn’t do anything better than IE or for that matter Firefox or Opera.
    I like Firefox for some of the useful Web developer plugging.
    I like Opera on mobile phones.
    Each browser brings some value and a fist full of issues. None are to write home to mum about.

  • No IE6 will be their last browser.

  • Timothy Marshall

    Doubt it. It’s a bunch of hot air.
    Windows XP was supposed to be the last Windows. They were going to make subscription packages, but that did not work out. They planned to upgrade the OS at different intervals, but that did not work out.
    As technology changes new OSs will be needed, and Microsoft would not want to divert from IE. They have the largest (though shrinking) market share of browsers. The IE identity is too valuable for them to change it.
    Though, Microsoft will likely replace the rendering engine, Trident, at some point. Trident has its problems. Being a casual user you will only notice speed and page-rendering differences. You will still see IE as IE.

  • The rumors of the retiring, or elimination, of Internet Explorer may be a “prepaving” for a new era in computing.
    With the expansion of “cloud computing” and “virtualization”, there may come a time when the desktop and connectivity devices will simply run from a centralized / de-centralized database. Eliminating the need for a “Browser” to look for the content we want on the internet.
    If we eliminated the word “browser” from the vocabulary, then there would no longer be an “anti-trust” concern for the browsers.
    Microsoft has learned from a lot of mistakes. They, as well as others, will continue to make mistakes, but they are savy players in a global game.
    Only Microsoft knows the intent of their development and the direction they want to go. What ever that is, it will be with their vision “To be the prominent operating system for the worlds computers” and “Real Time Collaboration”.

  • when there’s no money to be made on the internet, microsoft will stop selling. While they might rebrand it, I can’t imagine them letting the product line go.

  • I hope IE will be discarded. It’s a fundamentally flawed browser. Its rendering time for Web pages is way too long, and that could be due to Microsoft’s reluctance to embrace Web standards. I’ll hold off full judgment until I’ve had a chance to test IE8, though.

  • Personally I am sick of all ‘browsers’.
    When is web integration going to be just a pluggable part of the OS, like viewing an image or a document almost is?
    Yeah, I get it… at the lowest level, every file types needs a host application to open it up, but you know what? I can manage links in a folder just as easy as any dialog in an application can. When is the web just going to ‘be’ and part of my user experience?
    Why are companies still writing browser applications and not just engine libraries that I can have on my machine? If the industry knows there are different interpretations of the standard then why is there not an HTML tag that a site can put in that dictates the best browser rendering engine to use and make that decision seamless to the user?
    In reality, the rendering engine and the ‘application part’ of a ‘browser’ should be individual things allowing one person to get the bells and whistles of the app they want and the rendering engine they want.

  • Highly unlikely.
    The rumors of Microsoft adopting WebKit as a “new” rendering engine are absurd. Microsoft, if you read the IE Blog, wrote a brand new rendering engine for IE8. And, technically, they (correctly) support more of the CSS 2.1 spec than any other rendering engine at the moment (an advantage I expect to be short-lived). Given the 2-odd years they spent writing the new rendering engine, one doubts that they would abandon that – and the advantage control over a rendering engine gives them – simply to adopt the new kid on the block, WebKit.
    Gazelle is a Microsoft Research experiment to improve browser security by adopting something of an OS model and separating resources. While ideas (on increasing security) may be folded into a future version of IE, saying that Gazelle is a credible contender for a future version of IE is nothing short of absurd. It’s a research project to explore ideas, and not a product prototype.
    It is also rather premature to speculate what a future version of IE will be like, or what impact it will have on the marketplace. IE6 and IE7 will around for years yet, (retarding web development).

  • 21 answers from ‘ myth experts’ and it was a student from Skidmore who hit the nail on head.
    Kudos to you Micheal for doing your research.
    For anyone interested in knowing what is happening with IE8 and beyond please follow the supplied link.
    * http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/default.aspx

  • Microsoft usually works three versions ahead on all projects. So as IE8 is being released, IE9 is in development and IEs 10 and 11 are on the drawing board.

  • I highly doubt it.
    IE 8 is basically “in production,” which as one answer mentioned already, means other versions are likely in development.
    Browsers are so useful and central to people’s computer use, and Microsoft still has so many resources I think they will continue to try to compete with other browsers in the years to come.
    Firefox 3 is better than IE in many ways, however IE 8 just received a great review. (I noticed this on a Computerworld update).
    I think it will be reallly interesting to see what happens if there are major updates to google’s Chrome and/or further integration with other services, especially since MS has been in trouble with integrating IE into core Windows too much.

  • I agree with Geoff. I think MS is poised to replace IE (and HTML) with something completely different – XAML and WPF (WPF/E – Silverlight). If they’re successful in acheiving ubiquity with Silverlight (and/or Moonlight), IE, Chrome, FireFox, Opera, Flash, etc., could become relevant only for legacy reasons.
    In addition, with XPS being a subset of XAML which can completely describe a printed page, Adobe Acrobat become unnecessary. We can dump HTML & CSS and design pages using the Illustrator-like Expression Blend.
    I feel that we’ll first see Silverlight widely adopted within corporations and it will spread to the outside world from there. Flash has a similar opportunity and Adobe has been banging pretty heavily on the anti-trust bell. However, currently I’m watching the mobile market. I think a relavant part of the war is starting up there.

  • All I can say is that I hope it will be. Internet Explorer insist on lagging behind the other browsers and is a source of pain and frustration for web developers, it can’t die a moment too soon.

  • Matthew Leitch

    From what I hear through the grapevine, MS ‘s business is down about 20 % or more all over. I guess people are tired of paying the license fee’s.
    Big Bill left, and you saw what happened with Vista.
    Open source is gaining ground on them.
    I think there is a major change coming, not just with IE.

  • Michael Treston

    If they decide to drop IE, it will only put them further down the rabbit hole. There are so many web applications that have built themselves to run on IE. If they drop production, they drop support. It would only put other browsers ahead of them for good. This would show instability, and most developers would simply switch to basing all designs off Firefox (as most of them are anyways).

  • Shawn Fredrickson

    There’s nothing like a good recession to return companies to their core competencies. I have a feeling we will see large companies like MSFT shedding the often volatile consumer stuff in favor of a business applications focus. Yes I think just as Google enters the fruitless wars of Mobile phones and Browsers we will see Microsoft leaving them. I never understood why companies wanted to own the browser when they can’t monetize it and it is usually the central focus of security exploitation.
    I think IE8 is it, the last one.

  • Robert St.Denis

    I sure as hell hope so, primarily because there isn’t one company that has done more to hurt the promotion of computers in our daily lives than the business plan of Microsoft. Every newcomer you see has a similar thing to say “it’s complicated, it’s too hard” etc etc. The more we can pull Microsoft out of the loop the better, this is a good first step.
    IE on its own has been at the forefront of doing that damage. There is nothing more hurtful to a newcomers self esteem and growth than accidentally clicking on a link, or worse doing nothing at all and destroying their computer.

  • Marcel de Jong

    To be honest, I’m not sure if IE8 will be the last, unless Microsoft is willing to cut deep within Windows to severe the ties between the OS and Internet Explorer. The engine is deeply entrenched in the OS, and has been the cause of a number of lawsuits from the European Union.
    If it’s the last, it’d be very interesting to see where MS will take it next. I don’t doubt for a second that there will be a new webbrowser application from the Redmond company, since more and more will happen on the web.

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