Thanks to corporate use and ties to Windows, Internet Explorer has remained dominant in the browser space ever since it won the first browser wars with Netscape a decade ago.
However, by allowing the browser to stagnate after the release of Windows XP in 2001, Microsoft created an opening that paved the way for the rise of Firefox and, more recently, Google's Chrome.
As a result Internet Explorer celebrates its 15th birthday Monday as market leader and like an upstart trying to compete against powerful rivals.
Arguably, the browser has never been more important--or competitive. As of July, Microsoft had just over 60 percent of the market, gaining share for two months in a row after years of ceding ground to Firefox and Chrome. Firefox, meanwhile, held about 23 percent, Chrome about 7 percent, and Apple's Safari roughly 5 percent, according to Net Applications.
Google is trying to make the case that not only does it have the best browser in Chrome, but further that the browser--and the Web-based services it connects to--have grown so capable that basic PCs basically need nothing else. That argument will be turned into a product later this year when the first Chrome OS-based Netbooks are scheduled to hit the market.
For its part, Microsoft is counting on an improved Internet Explorer to help its argument that the PC and Windows still matter. With Internet Explorer 9, the company is trying to both reassert itself in the browser wars and show the power of the PC by expanding the browser to tap the graphics power inherent in modern computers.