Internet Explorer 3

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Internet Explorer 3
File:Internet Explorer 3.0 banner.gif
File:Internet Explorer 3 on Windows 95.png
Internet Explorer 3.0 in Windows 95
Developer(s) Microsoft
Initial release August 13, 1996/ 3.0 (PC)
January 8, 1997 / 3.0 (Mac)
Stable release March 1997 / 3.02a [1]
Preview release July 17, 1996 / Beta 2 [2]
Operating system Windows 3.1,95,NT
Mac OS 7, 8
Platform x86(16/32 bit), 68k, PPC
Development status Discontinued
Superseded by 4.0
License MS-EULA
1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · 6 · 7 · 8 · 9
Microsoft Internet Explorer 3
A component of Microsoft Windows
Included with Windows 95 OSR 2
Replaces Microsoft Internet Explorer 2
Replaced by Microsoft Internet Explorer 4
Related components
Internet Explorer

Microsoft Internet Explorer 3 is a graphical web browser released on August 13, 1996 by Microsoft for Microsoft Windows and on January 8, 1997 for Apple Mac OS (see IE for Mac). It began serious competition against Netscape Navigator in the first Browser war.[3] It was the first more widely used version of Internet Explorer, although it did not surpass Netscape or become the browser with the most market share. During its tenure, IE market share went from roughly 3-9% in early 1996 to 20-30% by the end of 1997.[4][5][6][7] In September 1997 it was superseded by Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.

Internet Explorer 3 was the first major browser with CSS support. It also introduced support for ActiveX controls, Java applets, inline multimedia, and the Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS) system for content metadata. Version 3 also came bundled with Internet Mail and News, NetMeeting, and an early version of the Windows Address Book, and was itself included with Windows 95 OEM Service Release 2. There were 16-bit and 32-bit versions depending on the OS.

IE3 was the first version developed without Spyglass source code, but still used Spyglass technology, so the Spyglass licensing information remained in the program's documentation. In 1996 Microsoft said of its new browser "Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 adds many new features which are great for HTML authors and demonstrates our accelerating commitment to W3C HTML standards. " [8]

Internet Explorer 3 is no longer available for download from Microsoft. However, archive 16- and 32-bit versions are legally and publicly available from These include Internet Explorer 3.03 for Windows 3.1, Internet Explorer 3.03 for Windows NT 3.51, Internet Explorer 3.0 (distribution version), Internet Explorer 3.0 for Windows NT, Internet Explorer 3.02 for Windows 95 (minimum install), Internet Explorer 3.02 for Windows 95 (typical install), Internet Explorer 3.02 for Windows 95 (full install), and Internet Explorer 3.02 for Windows NT 4.0 (full install).



Internet Explorer 3.0 was released free of charge in August 1996 by bundling it with Windows 95 OSR2, another OEM release. Microsoft thus made no direct revenues on IE and was liable to pay Spyglass only the minimum quarterly fee. In 1997, Spyglass threatened Microsoft with a contractual audit, in response to which Microsoft settled for $8 million U.S.[9] Version 3 included Internet Mail and News 1.0 and the Windows Address Book. It also brought the browser much closer to the bar that had been set by Netscape, including the support of Netscape's plugins technology (NPAPI), ActiveX, frames, and a reverse-engineered version of JavaScript named JScript. Later, Microsoft NetMeeting and Windows Media Player were integrated into the product and thus helper applications became not as necessary as they once were. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) were also introduced with version 3 of Internet Explorer. While IE1 and IE2 were said have "paled" in comparison to Netscape, IE3 "delivers a crushing blow to Netscape". [10] The user interface notably changes, with much larger buttons, with more intricate icons, and with a light gray design behind it. [11] Unlike later IE versions, users who upgraded to IE3 could still use the last IE by converting the previous version to a separate directory. [12] It also could import favorites into IE3 from IE1 or 2. [10]The competition between Netscape and Microsoft heated up, with some saying the Internet community "became polarized on the issue of which web browser had the most features." [13] Other new features included Jscript, ActiveMovie multimedia API, HTML Layout Control, Quick Links toolbar, VRML, CSS [14]

Microsoft announced on July 29, 1996 that it would develop a native version of IE for "Solaris and other popular variants of UNIX" to be available "by the end of 1996" which would have "equivalent functionality as that provided in Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0", thus "delivering on its commitment to provide full-featured Web browser support on all major operating system platforms" as well as "supporting and promoting open standards, including HTML, ActiveX and Java".[15] In March, 1997 following a dispute which "arose between Microsoft and Bristol concerning each other’s performance of the 1996 IE Agreement"[16] and likely also because of contract negotiations with Bristol to access Windows source code after September 1997 failing,[17] Microsoft reversed course and decided to directly port the Windows version in-house using the MainWin XDE (eXtended Development Environment) application from Mainsoft,[18] the main competitor to Bristol Technology.[16] (Microsoft would later also use MainWin to port Windows Media Player and Outlook Express to Unix.[19]) Now well behind schedule, the 3.0 branch was apparently scrapped in favor of 4.0 (that was released for Windows half a year earlier), which used the new Trident rendering engine. A Internet Explorer 4 Beta for Solaris was released by the end of 1997,[20] leading to Internet Explorer for UNIX versions, which lasted until Internet Explorer 5.

Backwards compatibility was handled by allowing Users who upgraded to IE3 to still use the last IE, because the installation converted the previous version to separate directory. [21]


The Princeton Word Macro Virus Loophole was discovered on August 22, 1996, nine days after Internet Explorer 3, which could allow Webmasters to download files to a user's computer via a backdoor. [22] Microsoft patched the vulnerability the next day. [22] However, researchers went on to find more vulnerabilities and new types of problems, such as the ability to spoof a website (similar to the later phishing problem). These issues triggered public concern over browser security. [22]

The Microsoft Authenticode expired on June 30, 1997, after which IE users needed to upgrade to Authenticode 2.0 which required at least IE 3.02 [23] Authenticode is a Code signing technology.

Internet Explorer version 3.0 for Macintosh

Internet Explorer 3 for Macintosh was released on January 8, 1997 for PPC, and added support for the SSL and NTLM security protocols and the PICS and RSACi rating systems that can be used to control access to websites based on content ratings. On November 5, 1996 Microsoft announced the release of a beta version for Mac of Internet Explorer version 3.0. This release added support for HTML version 3.2, Cascading Style Sheets [24], Java applets and ActiveX controls. Keith Mitchell of Macworld noted in November 1996, when discussing the IE mac version, "With the near-simultaneous release of Netscape Navigator 3.0 (415/528-2555, ) and Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 (206/882-8080, ), both companies are tripping over each other to entice Web users to their products." [25] A problem with an operating system extension used in the Mac OS called CFM68K Runtime Enabler, led to a delay in the release of the version 3.0 for Macs based on the 68k line of processors. Four months later on May 14, Microsoft released version 3.01 which included a version for 68k-based machines. This version also included features from the Windows version of Internet Explorer 4.0 such as AutoComplete and Monitoring Favorites that notified users when sites in their Favorites list have been updated. It also included support for JavaScript and introduced a Download Manager and a Cookie Manager. MacUser's review noted "While Netscape Navigator 3.0 is more feature-laden and consequently bigger and slower than previous incarnations, Microsoft Internet Explorer has been refined and optimised into a Web browser that has almost as many features, but is both smaller and faster than its rival." [26]

Bundled and/or integrated software

IE3 launched with a variety of integrated apps, with some added later. [27]

  • Internet Mail and News an e-mail and news client included with IE3. It was replaced/renamed in IE4 as Outlook Express 4.0.
  • Windows Address Book an application that has a local database and user interface that lets users keep a single list of contacts that can be shared by multiple programs. It can query LDAP servers or read/write data to a local .wab file. Later versions were no longer bundled with IE, instead with Windows until Vista.
  • Microsoft Comic Chat is a text chatting program that used cartoon avatars to display text and emotion. It was updated and renamed Microsoft Chat 2.0 in IE4 (not to be confused with the later Microsoft Chat(WinChat program).[28]
  • Real Player was a streaming media player made by Progressive Networks (later called RealNetworks). The first version of RealPlayer was introduced in April 1995 as RealAudio Player and was one of the first media players capable of streaming media over the Internet.[29] Versions 3.0.1 for Windows 3.11 - RealPlayer, 3.0.2 for Windows 95 - RealPlayer, and 3.0.2 for Windows NT - RealPlayer

Later versions of Internet Explorer 3 also included:

IE3 also included Microsoft Java Virtual Machine, which continued to be included until 5.5 when due to legal battle between Sun and Microsoft, it had to be removed from the product. Microsoft stopped offering it in 2001, although it was supported for several years after this (until the end of 2007).

Adoption capability overview

Internet Explorer 3.0 had support for Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows NT 3.51[30], and Windows NT 4.0. Version 3.0 was included in Windows 95 OSR2, but Windows 98 launched with IE4. Major MS OS releases after Win 98, switched to supporting Internet Explorer 4 (or higher). Internet Explorer 3 had a Beta supporting Solaris (UNIX). IE4 integration with the OS meant systems that upgraded from IE3 to 4, or came with 4, could not easily revert to IE3 (see Removal of Internet Explorer). The Mac OS version supported PPC and 68k Macs, superseding IE 2.1. Microsoft released various 16- and 32-bit versions for Windows.


The last patch versions of Internet Explorer 3 supported 40-bit and 128-bit encryption, using Server Gated Cryptography (SGC). [31] 256-bit encryption would not become available in IE for nearly 10 years with, the Windows Vista version Internet Explorer 7.

128-bit encryption was available or included for these versions:[31]

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.03 for Windows NT 3.51 SP 1
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.02
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 for Macintosh

If it was not possible to upgrade to 128-bit, then 40-bit (SGC) was standard.[31]


Shdocvw.dll version numbers plus related notes.[32] Unlike later versions, early IE version numbers were numerically out of sync with the .dll numbers because they were based on the Windows version numbers (due to its beginnings in the Microsoft Plus! pack, which also based on the Windows number). IE 1 started with 4.4 because Windows 95 was version 4 of MS Windows. Version go by major version.minor number.sub-build number and included, 4.70.1155 -Internet Explorer 3.0, 4.70.1158 -Internet Explorer 3.0 (Windows 95 OSR2), 4.70.1215 -Internet Explorer 3.01, 4.70.1300 -Internet Explorer 3.02 and 3.02a. 3.02a was the last IE3 for Windows 3.1 and 3.01 for Mac OS, before Internet Explorer 4.0.


Major version Minor version Release date Significant changes Shipped with
Version 3 3.0 Alpha 1 March 1996 Improved support of HTML tables, frames, and other elements.
3.0 Alpha 2 May 1996 Support of VBScript and JScript.
3.0 Beta 2 July 1996 Support of CSS and Java.
3.0 August 13, 1996 Final release. Windows 95 OSR 2
3.01 October 1996 Bug fix release. Mac OS 8.1
3.02 March 20, 1997[1] Bug fix release.

3.02a was the last IE3 for Windows 3.1 and 3.01 for Mac OS, before Internet Explorer 4.0.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Knowledge Base Q164475, not available online
  2.,1000000308,2091366,00.htm?r=4 Five years ago: Microsoft releases Internet Explorer 3.0 second beta
  3. Internet Explorer 3.0
  4. Behind the numbers: Browser market share
  5. UIUC stats
  6. Browser wars: High price, huge rewards
  7. Usage share of web browsers
  8. MS IE3 release document archive
  9. Paul Thurrott (January 22, 1997). "Microsoft and Spyglass kiss and make up". Windows IT Pro. Penton Media Inc.. Retrieved 2007-02-25. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Internet Explorer 3.0
  11. IE Nav
  12. "By having IE3 rename your previous version, Microsoft gives you a fallback in case IE3 crashes. IE3 also scans for Netscape bookmarks and converts them to IE3 favorites."
  13. IE History
  14. Microsoft releases Internet Explorer 3.0 second beta -
  15. Best-of-Breed Browsers for Multiple Platforms - press release from Microsoft (July 29, 1996)
  16. 16.0 16.1 as previously
  17. Microsoft Files Opposition to Bristol's Motion for Preliminary Injunction - article from Tech Law Journal (September 30, 1998)
  18. Microsoft launches Internet Explorer on Unix - press release from Mainsoft (March 4, 1998)
  19. Microsoft to port Internet Explorer technologies to Unix - press release from Mainsoft (August 14, 2000)
  20. Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 for Solaris (Screenshot) - Robert McMillan writing for SunWorld (November 5, 1997)
  21. "By having IE3 rename your previous version, Microsoft gives you a fallback in case IE3 crashes. IE3 also scans for Netscape bookmarks and converts them to IE3 favorites."
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 The History of Microsoft Internet Explorer
  23. IE Security Issues 1996–2002
  24. Migrating from Internet Explorer 3.0 to Internet Explorer 4.0 and Later
  25. Macworld, November, 1996 by Mitchell, Keith A.
  26. MacUser IE3 Review
  27. 27.0 27.1 Windows History: Internet Explorer History
  28. PC Pro: Focus: Broadband: Product Reviews: Internet Explorer 4
  29. Release History[1]
  30. Microsoft delivers Internet Explorer 3.0a for Windows 3.1 and NT 3.51
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 KB195833
  32. MS Support doc

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