R.I.P., I.E., An Ode to Mystery


The news that Microsoft has finally killed off the inimitable Internet Explorer across all Windows O.S.’s, made us reflect on those early, innocent days of the adolescent world wide web.

When I began designing websites in 1999, when anyone with a website still added “http://” at the beginning of their address, the web felt like a brave new land. Nobody really knew what the heck they were up to when it came to browsing, let alone making websites themselves. It was a time of discovery, excitement, and like we were on the cusp of something big.

And, of course, we were. Reflecting on how much the internet is now built into our daily lives, it’s almost impossible to imagine how we survived without it. I mean, how else would you find out if Buckwheat is gluten-free?

Come to think of it, how would I even know about Buckwheat…?

Perhaps it’s an age thing – but there’s definitely an argument that today there’s less mystery around the web. The novelty of what it could be has worn off, and we’re seeing pretty much anything that could happen happend. Live fashion shows you can shop. Every film, song, and book ever made available to watch or download and let’s not forget the ability to see inside the lives of the rich and famous.

I miss mystery.

That said, the burgeoning web 3 appears to be building steam; there’s definitely an air of mystery around that. There’s not a great deal more we can put on the internet that hasn’t already been uploaded, so where do we go next? Having O.D.’d on content and shopping, we’re beginning to value our time and privacy more these days. Could we begin to see a more thoughtful attitude where everything doesn’t have to be ‘Shared’? Are there still things we can do that haven’t already been done?

Amid the celebration over the death of I.E., a part of me will miss it (not that I use it). That silly little E icon was symbolic of a generation (“I’m into The Internet”), and the name itself, ‘Explorer,’ alluded to a sense of discovery – a long path we were on where nobody had been before—no footprints in the sand or 1,000 comments from those before us.

Tomorrow I’ll continue to pick up my phone and Google whatever thing my kids are asking me about in order to keep their constant questions at bay, but wondering, if I couldn’t find the answer in a second, how else could I find it out?

R.I.P. I.E., You may be gone, but I – and many like me, will forever seek the unexpected as an Explorer of the Internet.





Tom Wittlin

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