Posted by: kurtsh | December 19, 2011

INFO: Why is Internet Explorer included/embedded into Windows?

imageI hear people even to this day complain about the existence of Internet Explorer in Windows.  “Why do I have to have Internet Explorer on my machine?  I use Chrome/Firefox!”

This frankly betrays a lack of understanding about just how much value Internet Explorer provides to Windows & its users.  You probably use Internet Explorer every day in Windows because it’s a core technology responsible for visually presenting content on the screen virtually everywhere… you just don’t know it. 

Again, just because you don’t use it to browse the web doesn’t mean you’re not using it within Windows itself.  Internet Explorer – all versions – provides 2 things:

  • HTML rendering engine
  • Application Development APIs

Any time any application (Microsoft or 3rd party) or component with Windows has to render HTML in some fashion – you’re using Internet Explorer.  The HTML rendering engine within Internet Explorer is used everywhere within Windows… here’s a small sample of the systems that use Internet Explorer to present formatted text/graphics:

  • Windows Help
  • All Microsoft Office products
  • All of Microsoft administration tools
  • Windows Media Player
  • Performance Monitor
  • Half the stuff in Control Panel
  • Most of Windows Live’s tools such as Messenger & Writer
  • …etc…

Again, other applications take advantage of Internet Explorer and assume that the IE HTML rendering engine is available in every version of Windows to present HTML formatted content or to provide windows or dialog boxes with HTML based layouts.  IE is the programmable service by which everyone presents HTML formatted content.  For example:  Maxthon is a browser that leverages the HTML rendering services (aka “Trident”) of Internet Explorer but provides an interface that’s completely different and in many ways better than what IE9 provides out of the box:

If Windows did not include Internet Explorer as a HTML rendering service, every application would need to include & maintain it’s own HTML rendering service.  And in case you hadn’t noticed, most browsers these days are a good 50MB.  Fortunately, for all of us, there is a standard available to Windows developers… it’s called IE.

Let’s be clear:  Without IE, most of Windows doesn’t work.

Obviously, Microsoft’s products, like Windows Help & Windows Media Player are never going to be using a 3rd party rendering engine based on WebKit or something like that.  But for products like JD Edwards OneWorld, which has Win32 applications that include browser windows within them… why not WebKit?  Or Gecko?

The fact is that other browser developers companies don’t seem to really care about providing their HTML rendering services programmatically to application developers in the same way that Microsoft does with Internet Explorer.  There’s not really any incentive for browser vendors to do so.  Sure, Mozilla encourages people to build ADD ONS for Firefox to make Firefox as a browser more useful, but to leverage Firefox as a rendering engine for other applications?  Not so much.


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