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Internet Explorer 3

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Internet Explorer 3
Initial release
  • Windows: August 13, 1996; 27 years ago (1996-08-13)
  • Mac OS: January 8, 1997; 27 years ago (1997-01-08)
Stable release
3.03 SP1 (3.03.3006) / August 1998; 25 years ago (1998-08)
Operating system
Platformx86, 68k, PPC, MIPS, Alpha AXP
Included withWindows 95 OSR2
PredecessorInternet Explorer 2 (1995)
SuccessorInternet Explorer 4 (1997)
TypeWeb browser
Websitewww.microsoft.com/IE/ Edit this on Wikidata

Microsoft Internet Explorer 3 (IE3) is the third, and by now, discontinued, version of the Internet Explorer graphical web browser which was announced in March 1996, and was 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.[1] It was Microsoft's first browser release with a major internal development component.[2] 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.[3][4][5] In September 1997 it was superseded by Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.

IE3 was the first commercial browser with Cascading Style Sheets support.[6] It introduced support for ActiveX controls, Java applets, inline multimedia, and the Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS) system for content metadata. This version was the first version of Internet Explorer to use the blue 'e' logo, which later became a symbol of the browser. Version 3 came bundled with Internet Mail and News, NetMeeting, and an early version of the Windows Address Book. There were 16-bit and 32-bit versions depending on the OS.

This is the first version of Internet Explorer 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."[7]

It is the last version of Internet Explorer to support Windows NT 3.5 and Windows NT 4.0 RTM—SP2.

Internet Explorer 3 is no longer supported, and is not available for download from Microsoft.



Internet Explorer 3.0 was released free of charge on the August 13, 1996. 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.[8] Version 3 included Internet Mail and News 1.0 and the Windows Address Book. It 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. CSS were introduced with version 3 of Internet Explorer.[6] While IE1 and IE2 were said have "paled" in comparison to Netscape, IE3 "delivers a crushing blow to Netscape".[1] The user interface notably changes, with much larger buttons, with more intricate icons, and with a light gray design behind it.[9] Unlike later IE versions, users who upgraded to IE3 could still use the last IE by converting the previous version to a separate directory.[1] It could import favorites into IE3 from IE1 or 2.[1] 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."[10] Other new features included ActiveMovie multimedia API, HTML Layout Control,[11] Quick Links toolbar, VRML.[12]

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".[13] In March, 1997 following a dispute which "arose between Microsoft and Bristol concerning each other's performance of the 1996 IE Agreement"[14] and likely because of contract negotiations with Bristol to access Windows source code after September 1997 failing,[15] Microsoft reversed course and decided to directly port the Windows version in-house using the MainWin XDE (eXtended Development Environment) application from Mainsoft,[16] the main competitor to Bristol Technology.[14] (Microsoft would later use MainWin to port Windows Media Player and Outlook Express to Unix.[17]) 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 MSHTML (Trident) rendering engine. An Internet Explorer 4 Beta for Solaris was released by the end of 1997,[18] 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 a separate directory.[1]



The Princeton Word Macro Virus Loophole was discovered on August 22, 1996, nine days after Internet Explorer 3's release, which could allow Webmasters to cause an end-user's computer to initiate downloads without their consent via a backdoor.[10] Microsoft patched the vulnerability the following day;[10] 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), with these issues triggering public concern over browser security.[10] In early 1997, Microsoft released IE 3.02 as an update to fix most of the discovered security problems.

Microsoft Authenticode became inoperable on June 30, 1997, when its trust anchor expired.[19] After this, IE users needed to upgrade to Authenticode 2.0 which required at least IE 3.02.[20] 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, CSS,[21] 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, http://www.netscape.com) and Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 (206/882-8080, http://www.microsoft.com), both companies are tripping over each other to entice Web users to their products."[22] 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 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 included support for JavaScript and introduced a Download Manager and a Cookie Manager. The download manager was introduced in version 3.01;[23] version 3.0 would open the download progress bar in the main browser window, forcing the user to either cancel the download and restart it in a new window, or wait for the transfer to complete.[24] 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."[25]

Bundled software


IE3 launched with a variety of integrated apps.[26] The following is a list of those apps and a brief description for each.

Later versions of Internet Explorer 3 included the following:

IE3 also included Microsoft Java Virtual Machine, which continued to be included until IE5.5. Because of a legal battle between Sun Microsystems (the developer of Java), Microsoft stopped offering it in 2001, although it was supported for several years after this (until the end of 2007).



Major Microsoft OS releases, switched to supporting version 4 or higher.[29][30] Internet Explorer 3 had a Beta supporting Solaris (UNIX). IE4 integration with the OS meant systems that upgraded from Internet Explorer 3 to 4.0, or came with 4.0, 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.

Internet Explorer 3.03, and subsequently 3.03 Service Pack 1, were released after the launch of IE4.[31]



Internet Explorer 3 was the first version of the browser to support SSL 3.0.[32] The last patch versions of Internet Explorer 3 supported 40-bit and 128-bit encryption, using Server Gated Cryptography (SGC).[33] 256-bit encryption would not become available in IE for nearly 10 years.

128-bit encryption was available or included for these versions:[33]

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.03 SP1
  • 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.[33]

Version history


32-bit Internet Explorer 3 version numbers are in the form of 4.70.####, where # represents a varying digit.[34]

Release history of Internet Explorer 3
Version name Version number Release date Shipped with Significant changes
Old version, no longer maintained: 3.0 Alpha 1 ? March 1996[35] Improved support of HTML tables, frames, and other elements.
Old version, no longer maintained: 3.0 Beta 1 ? May 29, 1996[36] VBScript and JScript support
Old version, no longer maintained: 3.0 Beta 2 ? July 17, 1996[12] CSS and Java support
Old version, no longer maintained: 3.0 4.70.1155[34] August 13, 1996[37] Final release.
4.70.1158[34] August 24, 1996 Windows 95 OSR2[citation needed] November 1996
Old version, no longer maintained: 3.0a ? January 22, 1997[29]
Old version, no longer maintained: 3.01 4.70.1215[34] October 30, 1996 Bug fix release
3.01.[citation needed] February 1997
Old version, no longer maintained: 3.02 4.70.1300[34] March 25, 1997[38] Bug and security fix release.
Old version, no longer maintained: 3.02a 3.02a.2916[citation needed] May 1997
Old version, no longer maintained: 3.03 3.03.2925[citation needed] August 1997 Bug fix release
Old version, no longer maintained: 3.03 SP1 3.03.3006[citation needed] August 1998 Year 2000 compliance updates. Last version for Windows NT 3.5.[39]


  1. ^ a b c d e Chau, Jonathan (1 November 1996). "Internet Explorer 3.0". WindowsITPro. Penton Media. Archived from the original on 30 June 2012. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  2. ^ MacCormack, Alan. "How internet companies build software." MIT Sloan Management Review 42.2 (2001).
  3. ^ Jones Thompson, Maryann (8 October 1998). "Behind the numbers: Browser market share". CNN. Archived from the original on August 16, 2000. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  4. ^ Kubaitis, Ed (June 1996). "Browser Statistics for June 1996". Engineering Workstations Lab. University of Illinois. Archived from the original on 7 May 2001. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  5. ^ Browser wars: High price, huge rewards
  6. ^ a b Håkon Wium Lie; Bert Bos. "Chapter 20 – The CSS saga". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 23 June 2010.
  7. ^ "Internet Explorer HTML Specification". Citycat.ru. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  8. ^ Paul Thurrott (January 22, 1997). "Microsoft and Spyglass kiss and make up". Windows IT Pro. Penton Media Inc. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-25.
  9. ^ "Rethinking The Academy: How to Navigate This Text Without Getting Lost". Technorhetoric.net. 31 August 1996. Archived from the original on 4 July 2013. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  10. ^ a b c d Schnoll, Scott. "The History of Internet Explorer". Northwest Networks. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  11. ^ "Microsoft Announces Utilities for Advanced Web Page Development". news.microsoft.com. 1996-06-10. Retrieved 2021-11-20.
  12. ^ a b Veitch, Martin (17 July 1996). "Microsoft releases Internet Explorer 3.0 second beta". ZDNet. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  13. ^ Best-of-Breed Browsers for Multiple Platforms Archived 2009-01-13 at the Wayback Machine – press release from Microsoft (July 29, 1996)
  14. ^ a b as previously
  15. ^ Microsoft Files Opposition to Bristol's Motion for Preliminary Injunction – article from Tech Law Journal (September 30, 1998)
  16. ^ Microsoft launches Internet Explorer on Unix – press release from Mainsoft (March 4, 1998)
  17. ^ Microsoft to port Internet Explorer technologies to Unix – press release from Mainsoft (August 14, 2000)
  18. ^ Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 for Solaris (Screenshot) – Robert McMillan writing for SunWorld (November 5, 1997)
  19. ^ "Authenticode: Important Release Information". MSDN. Microsoft. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  20. ^ "Internet Explorer Security Issues (1996–2002)". Northwest Networks. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  21. ^ "Migrating from Internet Explorer 3.0 to Internet Explorer 4.0 and Later". MSDN. Microsoft. 16 May 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  22. ^ [1][dead link]
  23. ^ "Archived – Mac OS 8: Internet Explorer Read Me".
  24. ^ "The Mac Observer: Internet Explorer 3.0 Review". 22 October 2021. Another minor annoyance is Internet Explorer's use of a single window to download a file using HTTP. Netscape automatically spawns a sub-window, which allows you to continue browsing while the download commences. Explorer's default action is to perform the download using the current window, preventing further browsing during the download.
  25. ^ Grace, Clive (16 January 2009). "Products Reviews: Internet Explorer 3". MacUser. Dennis Publishing. Archived from the original on 16 January 2009. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  26. ^ a b "Internet Explorer History". Windows History. Microsoft. 30 June 2003. Archived from the original on 2 October 2003. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  27. ^ Reid, Stephen (October 1997). "Product Reviews: Internet Explorer 4". PC Pro. Dennis Publishing. Archived from the original on 21 March 2005. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  28. ^ "RealNetworks Granted Fundamental Streaming Media Patent, Enhancing Helix Licensing Program". 2006 Press Releases. Seattle, Washington: RealNetworks. 24 April 2006. Archived from the original on 23 May 2006. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  29. ^ a b Thurrott, Paul (21 January 1997). "Microsoft delivers Internet Explorer 3.0a for Windows 3.1 and NT 3.51". IT Pro. Penton Media. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
  30. ^ "Availability of Internet Explorer 3.02 for Windows 95 and NT 4.0". Microsoft Knowledge Base. December 18, 1998. Archived from the original on May 3, 1999.
  31. ^ "Internet Explorer 3.03 with Service Pack 1 System Requirements". Microsoft. Archived from the original on 16 April 2000. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  32. ^ "What browsers only support SSLv2?". Archived from the original on 23 November 2009. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  33. ^ a b c "How to upgrade Internet Explorer to 128-bit encryption". Microsoft Support. Microsoft. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  34. ^ a b c d e "How to determine which version of Internet Explorer is installed". Help and Support. Microsoft. 27 October 2004. Archived from the original on 9 November 2004. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  35. ^ Wilson, Brian. "Internet Explorer (Windows)". Index DOT Html/Css. Retrieved March 30, 2011.
  36. ^ "Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 Beta Now Available". Microsoft. May 29, 1996. Archived from the original on July 7, 2007. Retrieved March 16, 2011.
  37. ^ "Microsoft Launches Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 With Exclusive, Free Content Offers From Top Web Sites". Microsoft News Center. August 13, 1996. Retrieved October 14, 2017.
  38. ^ Saborio, Kenneth R. "WWW Facts - Browsers". Internet Communications Costa Rica. Archived from the original on October 25, 2010.
  39. ^ "Internet Explorer 3.XX (English British) – Win". Microsoft Year 2000 Readiness Disclosure & Resource Center. 1 August 1997. Archived from the original on 18 April 2005. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
Preceded by Internet Explorer 3
Succeeded by