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How Internet Explorer 7 proves that competition is good

19 October 2006

Internet Explorer 7 (IE7 or WIE) is being released today for those using Windows XP. But this was never supposed to happen. Back in 2003, Microsoft was planning destroying the market for browsers. So why now we have a new browser from Microsoft? Why did they change their master plan?

Just for reference, a browser is a program that allows us to browse all the information stored in the millions of computers that from the Internet. Without it there would be no way to see webpages, photos, news, etc.

In 1994, the first commercial browser, called Netscape appeared. In a proof of forward thinking, Microsoft thought that this thing of the Internet would never be interesting to users. In July 1995 they released their own browser. That was the beginning of the Browser Wars, which finished around 2002 when more than 95% of browsers were IE.

Then Microsoft took the decision of not releasing any other stand-alone version of IE. From 1995 to 2003, six versions of IE had been released, including some updates and minor improvements. Today is the marks of the first release since then. This means that there has not been any improvement in the browser for 3 years. And nobody can think there was no room for improvement.

Today, IE7 is released. Why is there need for a new one now?

The ashes of Netscape gave birth to a new non-for-profit organisation that released a new browser called Firefox, in September 2004. It was introducing many innovations such as tabbed browsing, pop-up block, search box, the extremely useful extensions, and a download manager. Its use started to grow to the extent that somebody in Microsoft started to get worried.

Then the original plan of not releasing any other IE, and totally integrating it in the next version of Windows, called Vista, was dropped. Today we see the results of that. A brand new IE that includes many of the innovations of Firefox, like tabbed browsing, and other interesting solutions.

If Firefox had never appeared, if the users hadn’t switched to look for the new features it was offering, IE7 with its innovations would have never happened. While Microsoft was enjoying a monopoly situation there was no point to improve, it was a one man race. When a new racer appeared at the end of the street IE had to start running. And it is indeed running! And this is much better for all of us. You can add some excitement by downloading Firefox 1.5 for free and the new IE7 and choosing your favourite. Oh, and just wait couple of months to see the much promising release of the new Firefox 2.0.

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