Imagine, if you will, that you’re a large, multi-faceted American corporation with a distinctive brand that everyone knows. This brand is seen and used by millions of people around the globe every day. Its unaided awareness sits somewhere in the 80th or 90th percentile.
And then one day, you decide to abandon it.
This is essentially what Microsoft is doing with Internet Explorer. Rumored for several months, Microsoft has officially announced that it is ditching the “Internet Explorer” brand in favor of a new browser, code-named “Project Spartan.” This new browser will feature an all-new codebase and integrate other features such as Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri.
Internet Explorer — which once held a position of unquestioned dominance in the market — has since fallen into a state of chaos. Somewhere between the age of the browser wars and the rise of “evergreen” browsers, Internet Explorer, in its varying permutations, carried in excess of 80% of web traffic that last mile to the visitor’s home or work computer.
But those days are long gone. For years, it has been the subject of much derision and ridicule amongst those who develop for the web. It has been the bane of developers’ existence for literally decades, with its slow adoption of Internet standards, multitude of quirks, and excruciatingly slow upgrade path. Its market share has dropped well below that of its chief rivals, especially Google Chrome. And as mobile and other non-desktop devices have accounted for more and more overall web traffic, Internet Explorer’s importance has dropped even farther.
But why not fix the brand instead of dropping it altogether? Untold hundreds of millions of marketing dollars went into building the brand, complete with slick commercials highlighting the features of each new release. Now, many more millions of dollars will be needed to establish the new Spartan brand. And as most consumers aren’t aware of the vitriol amongst developers for Microsoft’s web offerings, it might have been more cost-efficient to keep the “Internet Explorer” name and do a smaller trade campaign aimed at developers to help turn the brand around in their eyes.
This isn’t to say our days of dealing with Internet Explorer’s legacy are by any means over. Microsoft will continue to “support” version 8 — first released in 2009 — until next January (RP3’s Creative Technology team is already planning a karaoke party to celebrate its demise), and Microsoft will also launch Internet Explorer 11 along with Windows 10 (and whatever Project Spartan turns out to be) this summer.
But as a brand, Internet Explorer is dead, and a significant era in web history along with it.