Microsoft’s browser is on a comeback tour.

Today, the company launched Rethink IE, a showcase of what Internet Explorer 11 can do. The company set out a few examples of beautiful experiences that have been created for its browser, including a web-based port of the popular Windows 95 game Hover, and Everest: Rivers of Ice, an interactive look at the “glaciers, rivers and people of the Greater Himalaya.”

While Microsoft certainly wants to try and win users back to its platform from other browsers, it seems like the campaign is targeted more towards people who are looking to build stuff on the web, in addition to consuming it themselves.

internetexplorerIt’s not that long ago that IE 6 — with its notoriously broken rendering and seeming unwillingness to conform to web standards — ruled the web. It was slow and clunky, and developing for it was a headache. At the time, that annoyance spurred the adoption of Firefox, and then Firefox’s own troubles lead developers and end users to Google Chrome in their search for a fast and useful browser.

But now, Microsoft says that they’ve built a modern, standards-compliant browser that’s easy to develop for and brings with it a number of features that devs and users can’t get from other browsers on Windows. Put bluntly, they want people to, as the campaign says, “Rethink what the web can be.”

In particular, the company is highlighting IE’s ability to support touch interfaces, as it continues to push its line of Surface tablets, and OEMs build computers that split the difference between a tablet and a laptop.

Microsoft is taking lessons from the current war for developer talent on mobile platforms to try to attract users to its browser. If the company can convince developers to create beautiful experiences for IE, that provides an even better incentive to try it out, rather than just use it as a platform to go and install Chrome.

Still, the question remains: now that people are used to developing for IE’s competitors, will they ever see a reason to come back?

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  • J Epping

    One issue for me and people I know who’ve switched to Chrome and FF, is favorites syncing. This is not supported by IE across all versions of Windows (or to Mac). Favorites syncing across all versions of Windows, and to Mac, are supported by Chrome and FF.

    Only if you use Windows 8 across PCs is syncing of favorites supported by IE. Not a very common use case.

    This is the kind of requirement that IE has lagged behind Chrome and FF for YEARS. And Microsoft doesn’t seem to care or think about this. I believe the reason for this is that PMs and engineers at Microsoft haven’t themselves been part of the common use case of using different mobile platforms AND using older versions of Windows as their 2nd or 3rd work computer. I know this as a former MS employee.

    • GG002

      My primary reason for switching back to IE after being a many year fan of Chrome was that Chrome was getting terribly resource hoggy and slow, even with most plugins turned off. But FF never got much love from me, being buggy like no other browser out there, frequently causing BSODs and problems.

      I disagree with that “not a very common use”. Windows 8 might not be Windows 7 or XP, but it’s still selling very well in comparison to competitors. Being a modern person with multiple Windows 8 computers and a tablets, syncing works wonderfully, also for passwords and general Win8 personalisation. It’s a very neatly tied-into-one syncing experience that I don’t get with just Chrome. You may have been a former MS employee, but my keeping up to date on the Microsoft front didn’t end with leaving the company.

  • Niko Lowry

    Being an OOP web developer, this article infuriates me because of the irony of making web developers the focus of their strategy.

    They need to concentrate on insuring all future enterprise solutions are scalable. To this day, I spend numerous hours making sites legacy compatible down to ie7.

    They are the single reason that the modern web is being held back, because they let enterprise and gov organizations get locked into XP.

    Pull the plug on ie9 and below, and maybe someone will take this seriously. Until then, their products will remain a burden.

  • Out For Justice

    Oh, you mean IE doesn’t go by their usual E3 policy towards web standards any longer (embrace, extend and then eliminate). Oh, they still have that policy. Well then, okay, I’ll stick with Chrome, Safari and FireFox then.

    Oh and by the way, they were totally slow to adopt WebGL and audio standards as well (current == version 1). And they are secretly looking to replace WebGL with a proprietary offering from AMD…

    Just say no to IE !!!!

  • Jason Grima

    No matter how good IE gets, it will never be worth the risk, as long as it remains proprietary software.

  • panacheart

    Wow! That move by MS was about 10 years too late. I tried to love IE. I was good to her. I bought her all the best anti-virus software, and kept her plugins up to date, and I was loyal. But she betrayed me, she hurt me, and the ones I love. She attacked my mother’s computer, and one night my brother called in distress “what do I do with this bitch? She’s at my house and she’s holding my computer hostage”. I had to tell him to kill her OS with the install disk. He erased every trace of her, but there she was again.

    Eventually we moved on and I found a new browser that treated me better, and my family approved. But her memory lived on in the form of a dead icon on all our desktops. I couldn’t take the sight of her corpse there next to my new love. It didn’t seem right. In the end I had to buy a MAC to remove the corpse.

    But now I understand she’s back and has taken physical form again, like Voldemort. OMG I said it! No. I’m sorry. She who cannot be named will never find a place on my desktop again. We tried to bring her into the family, but the painful memories still haunt me, and I’ll never go back to that dark place again.

  • Forrest Corbett

    I think we should go a little farther back in history to understand IE’s stigma. IE5 was pretty good for its time, and IE6 wasn’t shabby either. In fact, it did a lot of things better than Netscape did at the time. IE was the first to implement Hover.

    After significant updates on nearly an annual basis, IE6 was in the lead. Then it sat stagnant for over five years. Firefox came on the scene and it not only offered new features, but it was also standards compliant. This is when IE6 started really becoming a headache to work with – because we had something better to compare it to.

    Then it became a race again, and standards compliance was a really nice thing.

    Fast-forward to today, and I’m not sure if it’s this article or MS’s intent is off, but we (devs) don’t want to “create beautiful experiences for” any single browser – we want to write it once and have it work in multiple browsers. ~15 years ago we played that game of building browser specific stuff, and it took us the better part of a decade to get out of that mess (and I still find sites that are stuck in it… Chrome does qualify as “IE6 or better” ;) )

    IMHO, the best IE can do at this point is make sure it’s 100% standards compliant. When there’s IE for iOS, Android, Mac, Linux… and Google, Apple, Mozilla… sit back and neglect their browsers like MS did, then IE is going to make a comeback with devs.

  • That Guy

    IE is way slower than Firefox, but I guess the Microsofties can’t bring themselves to tell themselves the truth.

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