how Microsoft lost the browser war to Google and Apple

End clap for Internet Explorer. Launched 27 years ago by Microsoft, the browser was the market leader at the dawn of the 2000s before being dethroned by Google Chrome.

Internet Explorer will be disconnected on June 15. The death of the historic browser was announced in May 2021 by Microsoft in a blog post.

It must be said that the browser no longer attracted the crowds, with a market share of only 0.64% in May 2022 worldwide – very far behind the leaders Google Chrome (nearly 65%) and Apple’s Safari ( more than 19%), according to figures from Statcounter.

Microsoft was, however, a forerunner and leader in online browsing, before gradually abandoning the battle in the face of the influx of new competitors, including Google and Apple.

Accused of abuse of dominant position since 1998

When Bill Gates’ company launched its browser in 1995, it decided to pre-install it by default in its Windows operating system. Consequence: Internet Explorer quickly becomes the dominant player, with 95% market share at its peak in 2004.

Faced with this market domination, American regulators accused Microsoft in 1998 of using “aggressive and anti-competitive” practices to maintain its monopoly. The case will be settled via an amicable agreement in 2004.

At the same time, the European Commission had also taken up the subject: in 2013, the American giant was fined 560 million euros for having favored its browser to the detriment of the competition.

Microsoft misses the turn of the mobile

Unlike Microsoft, new players such as Google and Apple are seizing the mobile turn. If Google exists since 1998, it will surf on this new wave by buying Android in 2005, which is then only a startup, to equip smartphones.

Apple, which launched its Safari browser in 2003, will release its first iPhone in 2007. The two leaders of the mobile operating system then resorted to the method used by Microsoft: installing their “home” browser by default on smartphones, then tablets.

A slow death from 2012

In 2012, Google Chrome, then on the rise, dethroned Internet Explorer, which continued to decline. Microsoft learned from this: it stopped updating Internet Explorer from 2015. Its replacement, Microsoft Edge, was launched the same year using the same technology as Google Chrome.

During its long agony, Internet Explorer was neglected by all digital players. So much so that in 2019, Chris Jackson, security manager at Microsoft, encouraged Internet users to no longer use this default browser, deemed too insecure and inefficient.

“Internet Explorer is not adapted to new Web standards, and although many sites continue to work correctly, developers no longer test their site there”, can we read on the company’s blog.

In 2020, Microsoft is going even further: it prevents certain very popular sites such as YouTube, Instagram and Twitter from being opened, to encourage Internet users to gradually migrate to its new Edge browser. Last August, it announced that its Microsoft 365 software suite will no longer support the browser.

Edge is “faster, more secure, and offers a more modern browsing experience,” while being “compatible with older websites and apps,” the company wrote in a blog post.

Despite the deployment of its Edge browser, also preinstalled on all PCs in the world, Microsoft has never managed to return to the battle. For many users, Microsoft Edge only serves to download Google Chrome, in order to synchronize the browser with their Google account and their Gmail address.

To date, Microsoft Edge only totals 4% market share worldwide, and 5.5% in France where it remains far behind Chrome, Safari and even Firefox. A very anecdotal performance compared to that of Internet Explorer during its golden age.

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