The Internet Explorer reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Internet Explorer

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Internet Explorer 6 for Windows with Google toolbarEnlarge

Internet Explorer 6 for Windows with Google toolbar

Internet Explorer, abbreviated IE or MSIE, is a web browser from Microsoft, for the Windows and Mac OS operating systems. For a time, versions of it were also produced for use via the X Window System on Solaris and HP-UX.

Internet Explorer is by far the most widely-used web browser, making up approximately 95% of all browser usage, for reasons that include the fact that it has been shipped as the default browser in all versions of Microsoft Windows since Windows 95. It also used to be the default browser on Mac OS before it was replaced by Apple's own Safari Web Browser.

Internet Explorer's relative insecurity makes it the method of deployment for a variety of spyware and other harmful programs. Microsoft encourages users to update Microsoft Windows (using Windows Update) often, and adjust settings to increase security, even though doing so may disable viewing some Web sites.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Version Information
3 IE-based programs
4 Competing Web Browsers
5 IE Features
6 See also
7 External links

History

Origin

Internet Explorer is derived from Spyglass, Inc.'s version of Mosaic, which in turn was based on one of the very first graphical Web browsers. Microsoft licensed Spyglass's software in 1995, in an arrangement under which Spyglass would receive a quarterly fee plus a percentage of Microsoft's revenues for the software. Microsoft subsequently gave Internet Explorer away for free, and thus (making no direct revenues on IE) paid only the minimum quarterly fee. In 1997, Spyglass threatened Microsoft with a contractual audit, in response to which Microsoft settled for US $8 million. [1]

Later, IE was modified to integrate more closely with Windows, with version 4.0 including an option to enable "Active Desktop", which aimed to make navigating local files and the Internet more similar.

Anti-Trust

Internet Explorer was cited as an example of illegal product bundling in Microsoft's anti-trust case with the United States Department of Justice. Microsoft required OEM computer manufacturers to include Internet Explorer in the copies of Windows they installed on systems they shipped, and would not allow the manufacturer to put an icon for any other web browser on the default desktop in place of Internet Explorer.

Microsoft claimed in court that IE was "integrated" with the Windows 98 operating system, and that Windows 98 could not be made to operate without it. Australian computer scientist Shane Brooks demonstrated that Windows 98 could run with IE files removed. [1] Brooks went on to develop software designed to customize Windows by removing undesired components. [1] Microsoft has claimed that the removed components were not all of Internet Explorer.

Previous to Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator held the crown for the most popular Web browser. In 1998 the Navigator source code was liberated and it became the base of the Mozilla project. Mozilla's progress has been slow, and it's user base is still limited.

Security

Widespread exploitation of Internet Explorer's security holes has earned IE a reputation as the least secure of the major browsers (Internet Explorer, Safari, Mozilla (including Netscape), Opera, and Konqueror). Microsoft has issued many IE security patches, yet a number of known vulnerabilities remain. On the other hand, the complete dominance of Internet Explorer in the web browser market has led some web developers to test their sites only in IE, rather than in multiple browsers and against W3C standards.

This means that browsing with Internet Explorer can often be freer of irritation when web sites designed to only work with IE are encountered. Conversely however IE lacks features such as tabbed browsing and, unless installed by downloading a separate program, popup blocking found in other modern browsers that make for a more efficient browsing experience.

On June 24, 2004, an attacker using compromised Microsoft IIS Web servers on major corporate sites used two previously-undiscovered security holes in IE to insert spam-sending software on an unknown number of end-user computers. [1] [1] [1] [1]

On July 6, 2004, CERT released an exploit report in which the last of six workarounds until a fix was available was to use a different browser, especially when visiting untrusted sites. At least one news report erroneously described this as a recommendation not to use Internet Explorer at all.

Microsoft's cleverness with the courts by embedding the web browser functions of IE into the core of their Operating Systems has come back to haunt them. They also embedded all of the security holes and and virus propagating features of the web browser deep into the OS where they can not be easily removed.

Version Information

Current Version

As of 2003, version 6.0 SP1 (version 5.2.3 for OS X and 5.1.7 for the classic Mac OS).

Future Versions

Internet Explorer 5.2.3 for Mac OS X  (Discontinued)Enlarge

Internet Explorer 5.2.3 for Mac OS X (Discontinued)

In June 2003, Microsoft announced that it was ceasing further development of the Apple Macintosh version of MSIE (which uses a layout engine codenamed Tasman, as opposed to Windows MSIE which uses a different layout engine codenamed Trident), since Apple has developed its own browser, Safari.

In a May 7, 2003 Microsoft online chat, Brian Countryman, Internet Explorer Program Manager, declared that Internet Explorer will cease to exist as an independent program (IE 6 being the last standalone version), and will be continued as a part of the Microsoft Windows operating system product evolution. This means that, in order to get a new version of IE, one must purchase the next Microsoft Operating system.

An updated version of IE 6 mainly focusing on improving security is due to be included as part of Windows XP Service Pack 2 in 2004.

Release History (Windows)

Freely downloadable copies of all versions of Internet Explorer, including Spyglass' original Internet Explorer browser, can be downloaded from browsers.evolt.org

IE-based programs

The rendering engine and other common user interface components for the Windows version of MSIE are used in alternative interfaces, including the following Internet Explorer "shell" applications:

These applications supplement some of MSIE's usual user interface components for browsing, adding features such as popup blocking and tabbed browsing. Other applications, such as Winamp and RealPlayer, use the MSIE rendering engine to provide a very limited-functionality "mini" browser within their own user interfaces.

On Windows, components of MSIE are also used in Explorer, the operating system component that provides the default filesystem browsing and desktop services.

Competing Web Browsers

On Microsoft Windows, the main competing browsers are:

On Mac OS X, Internet Explorer competes with Mozilla, Firefox, Opera and these browsers:

Many of the competing browsers are under active development and feature broad platform support, tabbed interfaces and integrated pop-up blocking. In general they suffer from far fewer security vulnerabilites than Internet Explorer, which dominates the browser market for both operating systems.

IE Features

Positive

  1. Simple, easy-to-use interface and controls
  2. Includes a wide array of popular plugins and features such as JavaScript, Shockwave and Flash.
  3. Componentized implementation on Windows allows a high level of integration with other applications; allows integration with user interfaces in the operating system such as Explorer, which handles filesystem navigation and the desktop; and allows applications to build on IE by creating alternative browsing shells that supply popular features such as popup blocking, tabbed browsing and mouse gestures.
  4. All versions up to version 6 are free (with a purchase of Windows).

Note that many other browsers also have user-friendly interfaces; support features such as JavaScript, Shockwave, and Flash; and are free.

Negative

  1. Browser hijacking via Internet Explorer is increasingly common, adding Spyware, Adware and sometimes worse to the computer. Numerous unpatched Security vulnerabilities, broken SSL support, which is vulnerable to a man in the middle attack among many others.
  2. No pop-up ad blocking.
  3. No easy banner blocking.
  4. Future versions of Internet Explorer will not be free of charge. It is expected when the next version that appears with Windows Longhorn (due out 2006) the next version will be bundled with the new OS.
  5. The Macintosh platform is no longer being actively developed for. As a result or perhaps anticipating Microsoft's lack of further development, Apple created Safari.
  6. Incomplete Standards-compliance (see W3.org)
  7. Incomplete PNG support.
  8. No tab support, although some IE mods provide this feature.
  9. Unavailable on platforms besides Windows and Mac.

Note: while CSS and many other standards are handled differently than the W3 standard, because of its market share, IE creates a de facto standard through its popularity and market dominance.

See also

External links