Internet Explorer 4

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Microsoft Internet Explorer 4 (also IE4) is a graphical web browser released in September 1997 by Microsoft, primarily for Microsoft Windows, but also with versions available for Apple Mac OS, Solaris, and HP-UX[1] and marketed as "The Web the Way You Want It".[2]

It was one of the main participants of the first browser war. Its distribution methods and Windows integration were involved in United States v. Microsoft. It was superseded by Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 in March 1999. Version 4.0 was included with Windows 95 OEM Service Release 2.5 and 4.01 in Windows 98, in addition the Internet Explorer layout engine Trident was introduced. It attained just over 60% market share by March 1999 when IE5 was released.[3] In August 2001 when Internet Explorer 6 was released, IE4.x had dropped to 7% market share and IE5 had increased to 80%.[4] IE4 market share dropped under 1% by 2004.[5]

Internet Explorer 4 is no longer available for download from Microsoft. However, archive 32-bit versions are legally and publicly available from These include Internet Explorer 4.01 and Internet Explorer 4.01 Service Pack 2.



The Internet Explorer 4 Beta was released in April 1997, and Beta in July that year. Internet Explorer 4 was released to the public in September, 1997 and deepened the level of integration between the web browser and the underlying operating system. Installing version 4 on a Windows 95 or Windows NT 4 machine and choosing "Windows Desktop Update" would result in the traditional Windows Explorer being replaced by a version more akin to a web browser interface, as well as the Windows desktop itself being web-enabled via Active Desktop. The integration with Windows, however, was subject to numerous packaging criticisms (see United States v. Microsoft). This option was no longer available with the installers for later versions of Internet Explorer but was not removed from the system if already installed. Internet Explorer 4 introduced support for Group Policy, allowing companies to configure and lock down many aspects of the browser's configuration. Internet Mail and News was replaced with Outlook Express, and Microsoft Chat and an improved NetMeeting were also included. This version also was included with Windows 98. Version 4.5 (only for Mac) dropped support for 68k Macs, but offered new features such as easier 128-bit encryption.[6][7][8] The last non-Mac version, was 4.0 Service Pack 2, however. Uninstalling IE4 became the subject of concern to some users and was a point of contention in later lawsuits (see Removal of Internet Explorer and United States v. Microsoft.)

Internet Explorer version 4.0 for Macintosh

On January 6, 1998, at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco, Microsoft announced the release of the final version of Internet Explorer version 4.0 for Macintosh. Version 4 included support for offline browsing, Dynamic HTML, a new faster Java virtual machine and Security Zones that allow users or administrators to limit access to certain types of web content depending on which zone (for example Intranet or Internet) the content was coming from. At the same event, Apple announced the release of Mac OS 8.1, which would be bundled with IE4.

At the following year's San Francisco Macworld Expo on January 9, 1999, Microsoft announced the release of Internet Explorer 4.5 Macintosh Edition. This new version, which dropped 68K processor support, introduced Form AutoFill, Print Preview, the Page Holder pane which let a user hold a page of links on one side of the screen that opened pages in the right hand and support for Mac OS technology like Sherlock.

Internet Explorer 4 for Unix

On November 5, 1997 a beta of IE for Unix 4.0 was released for testing on Solaris.[9] On January 27, 1998 it was reported that IE 4.0 for Solaris was due in March; Tod Nielsen, general manager of Microsoft's developer relations group, joked that "he wanted to launch Internet Explorer 4.0 for Unix at the Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum in San Francisco" because of skepticism from those who suspected IE for Unix was vaporware.[10] It was further reported that versions for "HP-UX, IBM AIX, and Irix" were planned.[10] (Note that at the time MainWin XDE 3.0 was only available for the "Solaris SPARC 2.51 platform", but MainWin XDE 2.1 was "available on Solaris SPARC 2.51, Solaris Intel 5.5.1, SunOS 4.1.4, Irix 5.3, Irix 6.2, HP UX 10.2 and IBM AIX 4.1.5.")[citation needed] On March 4, 1998 IE 4.0 for Unix on Solaris released.[citation needed] Later that year a version for HP-UX was released.

Features, technology, and integrated software

Internet Explorer 4 came with Active Desktop, Windows Desktop Update, Channels, Frontpage Express, Netmeeting, NetShow, Web Publishing Wizard, Microsoft Chat 2.0 and Progressive Networks Real Player.[2][11] Outlook Express 4 replaced Internet Mail and News.[2]

Other new features including Dynamic HTML, inline PNG, a parental rating system, and the ability to 'subscribe' to a website in favorites, where it would notify the user of an update.[12] Stephen Reid of PC Pro noted in his review:

But it was the Web-style view that surprised me so much on first using IE 4. This changes the way you look at Windows, with files and folders now acting like hyperlinks on a Web page; you move your cursor over them to select them, then single click to launch. Individual folders are viewed as Web pages, including My Computer and Control Panel, and any folder you wish can be customised with your choice of background.
Stephen Reid , "Internet Explorer 4". PC Pro. October 97 (Issue 38). Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
IE market share overview
According to Net Applications data

— January 2010[13]

Browser As % of IE As % of All Browsers
Internet Explorer 5 0.05% 0.03%
Internet Explorer 6 32.28% 20.07%
Internet Explorer 7 27.11% 14.58%
Internet Explorer 8 35.88% 22.31%
Other 4.68% 5.14%
All variants 100% 62.18%

Bundled and/or integrated software

Active Desktop

Active Desktop is a feature of Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0's optional Windows Desktop Update that allows the user to add HTML content to the desktop, along with some other features. This functionality was intended to be installed on the then-current Windows 95 operating system, and later Windows 98. Active Desktop placed a number of "channels" on the user's computer desktop that provided continually-updated information, such as news headlines and stock quotes, without requiring the user to open a Web browser.


Active Channel is a website type which allows synchronizing website content and viewing it offline. It makes use of the Channel Definition Format, which is a way of defining a website's content and structure. Each country had different channels, so picking a country during the installation of IE 4 (and therefore Windows 98) was important. Channels could be displayed in a Channel Bar and made heavy use of Dynamic HTML.

Windows Desktop Update

Windows Desktop Update was an optional feature included with Internet Explorer 4, which provided several updated shell features later introduced with the Windows 98 operating system for older versions of Microsoft Windows. The Windows Desktop Update also added the ability to create desk-bands like the quicklaunch bar. It also updated the Windows file manager, explorer.exe (also a shell), to be more modular and extensible.

Trident (MSHTML)

Trident (MSHTML) was a layout engine introduced with IE4. It was designed as a software component to allow software developers to easily add web browsing functionality to their own applications. It presents a COM interface for accessing and editing web pages in any COM-supported environment, like C++ and .NET. For instance, a web browser control can be added to a C++ program and Trident can then be used to access the page currently displayed in the web browser and retrieve element values. Events from the web browser control can also be captured. Trident functionality becomes available by connecting the file mshtml.dll to the software project.

Browser Helper Object

A Browser Helper Object (BHO) is a DLL module designed as a plugin for Internet Explorer 4.0, and provides added functionality. Most BHOs are loaded once by each new instance of Internet Explorer.

System requirements

Adoption capability overview

Internet Explorer 4.0 had support for Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT 3.x, and Windows NT 4.0 (Service Pack 3 or later). Version 4.0 was included in the first release of Windows 98, although the second edition included IE5. However, major OS releases after Win 98 SE, such as Windows 2000, supported Internet Explorer 5 (or higher). Internet Explorer also supported HP-UX, Solaris, and Mac OS. IE4 supported 68k Macs, although this was dropped in Internet Explorer 4.5.


For PC, Initially Windows 95 or above, 16Mb of RAM, 11Mb of disk space (minimum for install).[11]


System Requirements for initial release of 4.0 for Mac:[17]

IE 4.5 did not support 68k Macs.


Internet Explorer 4 supported 40-bit and later 128-bit encryption, using Server Gated Cryptography (SGC).[18] 256-bit encryption would not become available in IE for nearly 10 years until the Windows Vista version of Internet Explorer 7.

128-bit encryption was available or included for these versions:[18]

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.5 for Macintosh
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.5 128-Bit Edition
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.01
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 for Unix
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.01 Service Pack 2
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 for Macintosh
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 128-Bit Edition

If it was not possible to upgrade to 128-bit, then 40-bit (SGC) was standard.[18]



Mac OS:

  • Version 4.0 – January 6, 1998
  • Version 4.5 – January 5, 1999
Major version Minor version Release date Significant changes Shipped with
Version 4 4.0 Beta 1 April 1997 Improved support of CSS and Microsoft DOM.
4.0 Beta 2 July 1997 Improved support of HTML and CSS.
4.0 September 1997 Improved support of HTML and CSS. Windows 95 OSR 2.5
4.01 November 18, 1997 Bug fix release. Windows 98

Shdocvw.dll version numbers plus related notes.[19] major version.minor number.sub-build number

  • 4.71.544 Internet Explorer 4.0 Platform Preview 1.0 (PP1)
  • 4.71.1008.3 Internet Explorer 4.0 Platform Preview 2.0 (PP2)
  • 4.71.1712.6 Internet Explorer 4.0
  • 4.72.2106.8 Internet Explorer 4.01
  • 4.72.3110.8 Internet Explorer 4.01 Service Pack 1 (Windows 98)
  • 4.72.3612.1713 Internet Explorer 4.01 Service Pack 2

See also


  1. See Internet Explorer for Mac and Internet Explorer for Unix.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 MS History
  3. The Counter March 1999
  4. TheCounter August 2001
  5. The Counter August 2004
  6. WinPlanet IE4 Review
  7. PC Pro IE4 Review
  8. MacUser IE 4 Review
  9. Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 for Solaris (Screenshot) - Robert McMillan writing for SunWorld (November 5, 1997)
  10. 10.0 10.1 Microsoft says Unix browser is on schedule - Bob Trott writing for InfoWorld Electric (January 27, 1998)
  11. 11.0 11.1 PC Pro: Focus: Broadband: Product Reviews: Internet Explorer 4
  12. Internet Explorer 4 - WinPlanet Windows Software Reviews
  13. "Browser Version Market Share". Net Applications. 2010-02-01. Retrieved 2010-02-01. 
  14. "You can find the latest version at the Web site" in Ruth Maran et al.: Office 97 - Superbook, 1998, Marangraphics, ISBN 1-896283-42-X
  15. "Frontpage Express is included with Internet Explorer to make it easy for you to upload all of your HTML pages to a server" in Microsoft Internet Explorer 4 - Step by Step, 1997, Catapult/Microsoft Press, ISBN 1-57231-514-8
  16. Release History
  17. 17.0 17.1 Article ID 180942
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 KB195833
  19. MS Support doc

External links

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