Internet Explorer could be getting a new name as Microsoft tries to escape the browser’s troubled past.
One of Redmond’s IE engineers copped to the news during an AMA on Reddit late last week.
Asked whether Microsoft had ever considered rebranding IE, browser engineer Jonathan Sampson 'fessed up that, after nearly 20 years, that topic has been the subject of much heated debate inside the team.
“It's been suggested internally. I remember a particularly long email thread where numerous people were passionately debating it. Plenty of ideas get kicked around about how we can separate ourselves from negative perceptions that no longer reflect our product today,” he wrote.
The question of whether to rebrand IE is fairly recent – taking place within the last few weeks.
“Who knows what the future holds,” Sampson said, adding a smiley.
It seems the internal debate took place at the same time as Microsoft decided to cut off support for old, less standards-compliant versions of IE.
On 7 August, Microsoft gave users of older versions of IE just 18 months to upgrade. On 12 January, 2016, Microsoft will stop supporting IE 9 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 SP2; IE 10 for Windows Server 2012; and IE 11 for Windows 7 SP1, Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2. It will only support IE9 on Windows Vista SP2 and IE11 on any later versions of Windows.
IE 11 is the new future of Explorer, as it's the most standards-compliant and runs the same code on mobile as desktop.
The browser is one of Microsoft’s premier pieces of software – a piece of code as important to Microsoft in terms of brand as its presence among developers building for the web and Windows and netizens consuming it.
First released in 1995, IE famously crushed Marc Andreesen’s Netscape in the browser wars, eventually grabbing 90 per cent market share.
Today, IE has fallen to 58 per cent, according to Netmarketshare’s monthly stats, with Google’s Chrome second biggest of the browsers on 20 per cent.
Firefox, which sprang from the old Netscape code and began the slow erosion of IE’s market share, is today on 15 per cent.
For much of its life, IE has been a proprietary box and a standards basket case, using code unique to Microsoft and Microsoft’s own interpretation of web standards employed by browser rivals.
But as IE’s market share has slipped and Microsoft has tried to appeal to developers, the company has shifted stance.
IE 8 was the first sign Microsoft was changing, and it came with a rendering mode that allowed it to display web pages built to work with earlier versions of the browser. It was also compatible with newer sites that were not optimised to Microsoft’s browser but did work properly in more standards-compliant browsers.
Since then, we've had a more "Google-like" browser from Microsoft, with the use of the URL bar as a search field.
Last week Microsoft joined the OpenGL-shop Khronos Group specifically to assist in 2D and 3D interactive graphics in WebGL. This comes after years of going it alone and rendering using Active X. Until IE 11, Microsoft was the only browser maker that did not support WebGL – Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome and Firefox's Mozilla did.
It seems, however, Microsoft's rush to embrace web standards in IE 11 may have gone too far on mobile for the taste of desktop users. ®
Internet of Everything, I'm on ECMAScript, Khrome - what should Microsoft call its browser? Suggestions to Microsoft below, please.