Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, one of the first Web browsers that many of us remember using, is being retired after almost 20 years of existence. The software giant made the announcement at the recent Microsoft Convergence conference.
If you’re like most people, your relationship with Internet Explorer involved tapping your mouse in frustration while waiting for it to do what you wanted. Web pages took an agonizingly long time to load on the browser, so when new browsers like Safari, Chrome, and even Firefox appeared, people rushed to try something better.
NPR points out that poor security was a big reason for IE’s demise. The browser was notoriously susceptible to malware and hackers, making it less than the ideal browser, especially with the rise of e-commerce offerings over the past fifteen years.
With all these problems plaguing the brand from the beginning, in some ways it’s amazing that IE even made it to 2015. MIT’s Technology Review points out that IE is used by on 13.1 percent of Internet users, while the mighty Google Chrome boasts a global market of 43.2 percent. (Surprisingly, Firefox is at 11.6 percent, less than IE, so it will be interesting to see how or if they can turn that number around.)
That being said, not everyone is snickering about the browser’s demise. Some sources think that IE’s share is much closer to almost a quarter of the market, which isn’t too bad. And NPR’s article features heartbroken quotes from at least one small business owner who says IE is the only program that works with the accounting software she uses to run her business. As any Chrome lover would tell you, even the mere idea of switching Internet browser is mildly panic inducing.
For business owners of all sizes, there are lessons to be learned from Microsoft’s dismissal of IE. For one, safety and reliability is key. If your product, service, or way of doing business isn’t looking out for your customers’ best interests, chances are you’re going to lose them. After all, would you leave your car with a mechanic who doesn’t lock his garage at night?
Second, even if you do have a product or offering that is far from perfect, work on making it better. If Microsoft took any steps to improve their product, they didn’t do enough to show people that they’d changed. True, chances are that even if they were to do this a year or two ago, it’s rare that people would take notice and listen. But it’s something they should’ve worked on years ago to ensure that they aren’t in this position.
Third, listen to your customers. If they’re complaining about your product, or singing the praises of your rival, pay attention. There’s a lesson to be learned, one that could lead to great revenue.
All this being said, don’t count Microsoft out of the browser game yet. At the same even where they announced the death of IE, they announced a new secret project called Spartan, something that is almost surely a replacement for IE. If this is the case, it’s an example of another great lessons for business owners: if you screw up real badly, sometimes it’s smart to throw everything out and start over.