the future of Internet Explorer

During the early 2000s, Microsoft argued that IE was not a (stand-alone) browser but was "a set of browsing technologies" embedded in Windows. This policy formed the core of its lengthy legal battle in the U.S. with AOL/Netscape under anti-competition laws.

However, in a change of policy, IE7 was released for Windows XP SP2 in October 2006 and for Vista in January 2007. Microsoft is now using the word "browser" once more when referring to IE.

There are three significant factors relating to Microsoft's policy:-

The practical effects are as follows:-

IE8 is was released in March 2009. It is be available for XP SP2/SP3 and for Windows Vista but not for earlier Windows versions.

There is no technical reason why a browser should be part of the operating system (such as Windows). Microsoft would argue the benefits to the user of close integration, in terms of powerful and sophisticated features. The opposing argument is that users benefit from software packages which are not monolithic but which nevertheless co-operate with each other. Users can mix-and-match the packages which they believe best meet their needs and preferences.

Note for Mac users: In another low-key statement, in June 2003, Microsoft indicated that it was withdrawing from all further development of IE for the Mac (apart from critical bug fixes and security fixes). The current version is IE5. When it was released in 2000, IE5 Mac was widely regarded as a very good browser but inevitably it now lags well behind its competitors. Alternatives include Apple's Safari browser, Opera and Firefox.