As most of you should know by now, with Windows 10 Microsoft have introduced a new browser into the Operating System.
That browser is Microsoft Edge.
Windows 10 Microsoft Edge
Windows 10 Microsoft Edge

What is less well known is that Internet Explorer 11 is also a crucial part of the Operating System as well.

This begs the question – why does Windows 10 have 2 browsers in the first place.

When I would talk about this in class and ask it as a million dollar question, the answer back from students would be “cos Internet Explorer sucks!”. For the record, that’s the wrong answer.

A better answer would be because Internet Explorer is 20 years old.

That’s right, the browser we’ve all grown to love was born in 1995 and has seen the web evolve in many crazy ways over the past 20 years.

IE evolution Windows 10
IE evolution

The rise of Safari and Chrome (among others) definitely lit a fire under Microsoft’s butt. IE just wan’t fresh and since IE 6, the love was pretty much gone from the development community for this browser.

Windows 10 was the perfect opportunity for Microsoft to start fresh and attempt to wipe the slate clean without all the baggage of the past.

Microsoft were going to be adding all the cool stuff (annotation on the web, sharing, offline reading etc) to a browser and from a development perspective, it would have been difficult to add all of that to a legacy browser.

In addition, there were a lot of other OS integrations Microsoft were going to be making with the browser (Integration with Bing, Cortana and the OS itself) that a fresh start just made the most sense.

To put it in context, the Microsoft development team have made almost 4500 interoperability improvements in Edge. That’s a lot of work!

Edge is an integral part of Windows 10
The browser is built on the Universal Windows Platform and will be updated frequently via Windows Updates just like the rest of the OS. Like IE before it, it’s manageable through Group Policy and MDM (Mobile Device Management).

It’s also free from a lot of IE legacy requirements like Active X.

Side by side IE and Edge Windows 10
Side by side IE and Edge

Here’s what’s cool about Edge, if it tries to open a URL and based on the content believes that IE will be a better fit, Edge will open up Internet Explorer 11 and send the URL there instead.

So why not just get rid of IE entirely?
This was one of the options Microsoft considered and I’m really glad they didn’t do it.

You see as much as Internet Explorer may be detested, it’s in use in so many computers and legacy systems around the world, it would probably been a major blow to Windows 10 adoption.

For a lot of reasons, companies (mostly companies at this point) just won’t let IE go.

There are a lot of mission critical software applications that run only on Internet Explorer and even though it seems like companies should have moved to the modern web by now, they simply haven’t.

Microsoft is a productivity company and that means that breaking stuff was not an option so the development team had the idea to split browsing responsibilities between the two browsers:

  • Modern browsing – Microsoft Edge
  • Legacy browsing – Internet Explorer 11
Is Internet Explorer going away?

Yes it is.
We can’t say when but the plan is, at some point in the near future, Microsoft will cut the cord and companies will officially have to figure out how to migrate to Edge (which is really a migration to modern browsing standards).
Microsoft Edge will at some point be the only browser on Windows.
You can start to see the plan when you look at Windows 10 today. IE is pretty much hidden from view and you actually have to use Cortana to search and find it.
When it comes to web browsing, Microsoft are putting their chips on Edge but for now, are supporting legacy customers with IE.
Hope that helps explain the browser situation in Windows 10. Leave comments and questions below and I’ll answer them as best I can.