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Internet Explorer 4

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Internet Explorer 4
Initial release
  • Windows: September 22, 1997; 26 years ago (1997-09-22)
  • Mac OS: January 6, 1998; 26 years ago (1998-01-06)
  • Unix: March 4, 1998; 26 years ago (1998-03-04)
Stable release
  • Windows: 4.01 SP2 (4.72.3612.1713) / March 16, 1999; 25 years ago (1999-03-16)
  • Mac OS: 4.5
Operating system
Platformx86, 68k (Up to 4.5), PPC, Alpha AXP, PA-RISC, and SPARC
Included withWindows 95 OSR 2.5 and Windows 98 First Edition
PredecessorInternet Explorer 3 (1996)
SuccessorInternet Explorer 5 (1999)
TypeWeb browser
Websitereplay.waybackmachine.org/19980120111844/http://www.microsoft.com/ie/ Edit this on Wikidata

Microsoft Internet Explorer 4 (IE4) is the fourth, and by now, discontinued, version of the Internet Explorer graphical web browser that Microsoft unveiled in Spring of 1997, and released on September 22, 1997, primarily for Microsoft Windows, but also with versions available for the classic Mac OS, Solaris, and HP-UX[1][2][3] and marketed as "The Web the Way You Want It".[4]

It was one of the main participants of the first browser war. Its distribution methods and Windows integration were involved in the United States v. Microsoft Corp. case. It was superseded by Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 in March 1999. In addition the Internet Explorer layout engine MSHTML (Trident) was introduced. It attained just over 60% market share by March 1999 when IE5 was released.[5] In August 2001 when Internet Explorer 6 was released, IE4.x had dropped to 7% market share and IE5 had increased to 80%.[6] IE4 market share dropped under 1% by 2004.[7]

Internet Explorer 4 is no longer available for download from Microsoft. However, archived versions of the software can be found on various websites.


The Internet Explorer 4.0 Platform Preview was released in April 1997, and Platform Preview 2.0 in July that year. Internet Explorer 4 was released to the public on September 22, 1997, and deepened the level of integration between the web browser and the underlying operating system. Installing version 4 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 Corp.). 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. Version 4.5 (only for Mac) dropped support for 68k Macs, but offered new features such as easier 128-bit encryption.[8][9][10] The last non-Mac version was 4.0 Service Pack 2. 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 Corp..)

Internet Explorer version 4.0 for Macintosh[edit]

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 includes 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 is 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 dropped 68K processor support, introduced Form AutoFill, Print Preview, and Page Holder pane, which allowed user to hold a page of links on one side of the screen that opens pages in the right hand and support for Mac OS technology like Sherlock.

Internet Explorer 4 for Unix[edit]

Internet Explorer 4 for Solaris

On November 5, 1997, a beta of IE for Unix 4.0 was released for testing on Solaris.[2] 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.[11] It was further reported that versions for "HP-UX, IBM AIX, and Irix" were planned.[11] The software used to enable this, MainWin XDE, was available for Solaris 2.5.1 on SPARC and Intel, SunOS 4.1.4, Irix 5.3, Irix 6.2, HP UX 10.2, and IBM AIX 4.1.5.[12] On March 4, 1998, IE 4.0 for Unix on Solaris was released.[citation needed] Later that year, a version for HP-UX was released.

Features, technology, and integrated software[edit]

IE4 came with Active Desktop, Windows Desktop Update, Channels, Frontpage Express, Netmeeting, NetShow, Web Publishing Wizard, Microsoft Chat 2.0 and Progressive Networks RealPlayer.[4][9] Outlook Express 4 replaced Internet Mail and News.[4]

Other new features including Dynamic HTML, inline PNG, Favicons, a parental rating system, and the ability to 'subscribe' to a website in favorites, where it would notify the user of an update.[13] 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.


Internet Explorer
Desktop Market Share
— October 2023[14] via Net Applications[note 1][note 2]
Internet Explorer 80.01%
Internet Explorer 90.01%
Internet Explorer 110.06%
All variants0.08%
  1. ^ Includes Maxthon, Tencent Traveler, and other Internet Explorer shells
  2. ^ This is the last update from NetMarketShare, as it will be retired in its current form.

Microsoft Edge excluded from the list.

Other sources show lower numbers.[15]

Bundled and/or integrated software[edit]

Active Desktop[edit]

Active Desktop is a feature of Internet Explorer's optional Windows Desktop Update that allows the user to add HTML content to the desktop, along with some other features. 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 was important. Channels could be displayed in a Channel Bar and made heavy use of Dynamic HTML.

Windows Desktop Update[edit]

Windows Desktop Update was an optional feature included with Internet Explorer 4, which provided several updated shell features 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.


MSHTML (Trident) 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, the WebBrowser control can be added to a C++ program and MSHTML can then be used to access the page currently displayed in the web browser and retrieve element values. Events from the WebBrowser control can also be captured. MSHTML functionality becomes available by connecting the file mshtml.dll to the software project.

Browser Helper Object[edit]

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[edit]

Adoption capability overview[edit]

IE4 supported 68k Macs, although this was dropped in Internet Explorer 4.5.


For Windows, 16MB of RAM, 11MB of disk space (minimum for install).[9] The 16-bit version required a 486, 12 MB of RAM (or 16 MB for Java support), and 25 MB of disk space.[19]


System Requirements for initial release of 4.0 for Mac:[20]

IE 4.5 did not support 68k Macs.


Internet Explorer 4 was the first version of the browser to support TLS 1.0.[21] Internet Explorer 4 supported 40-bit and later 128-bit encryption through an add-on,[22] using Server Gated Cryptography (SGC).[23] A 256-bit encryption would not become available in IE for nearly 10 years.

128-bit encryption was available or included for these versions:[23]

  • 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 is not possible to upgrade to 128-bit, then 40-bit (SGC) is standard.[23]


Versions overview[edit]

Mac OS:

  • Version 4.0 – January 6, 1998
  • Version 4.5 – January 5, 1999
Version number Release date Significant changes Shipped with Shdocvw.dll version[24]
4.0 Beta 1 April 1997 Improved support of CSS and Microsoft DOM. 4.71.544
4.0 Beta 2 July 1997 Improved support of HTML and CSS. 4.71.1008.3
4.0 September 22, 1997 Improved support of HTML and CSS. Windows 95 OSR 2.5 4.71.1712.6
4.01 November 18, 1997 Bug fix release. Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server Edition 4.72.2106.8
4.01 SP1 May 15, 1998 Vulnerability patch. Windows 98 4.72.3110.8
4.01 SP2 March 16, 1999 Updates, included in IE 4.01 SP2. 4.72.3612.1713

Comparison of features across platforms[edit]

Table of features across platforms
Feature Windows 95, NT 4.0, 98 Windows 3.1x, NT 3.51 Mac OS Unix
Active Desktop Yes No No
Autocomplete Yes No Yes
Active Channel Yes Yes Yes
Microsoft Chat 2.x Yes No No
Dynamic HTML Yes Yes Yes
DirectX Yes No No
Explorer bars Yes Yes Yes
FrontPage Express Yes No No
Internet Connection Yes Yes Yes
Internet Mail and News Yes Yes Yes
Javascript Yes Yes Yes
NetMeeting Yes No No
NetShow Yes Yes No
Outlook Express Yes No Yes
Personal Web Server Yes No Yes
RealAudio Yes Yes Yes
Security Zones Yes Yes Yes
Shockwave Yes Yes Yes
TrueType Fonts Yes Yes Yes
Wallet Yes Yes Yes
Web Publishing Wizard Yes No No
Source:Sweet, Steven. "Internet Explorer for Any System". PC Novice. 6 (9): 23. Archived from the original on 2012-03-10.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • "Microsoft Explorer". PC Novice. PC Novice Guide Series. 6 (9).


  1. ^ John C Abell (August 6, 2009). "Aug. 6, 1997: Apple Rescued — by Microsoft". Wired. Retrieved 2016-03-08.
  2. ^ a b McMillan, Robert (November 5, 1997). "It's Here!". SunWorld. Archived from the original on 2020-08-02. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  3. ^ "Information about Internet Explorer Versions". Microsoft.com. Microsoft. August 17, 2005. Archived from the original on 2015-01-30. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  4. ^ a b c "The History of Internet Explorer". Microsoft. Archived from the original on 2005-10-01. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  5. ^ "TheCounter.com: The Full-Featured Web Counter with Graphic Reports and Detailed Information". 14 October 2008. Archived from the original on 14 October 2008.
  6. ^ "TheCounter August 2001". TheCounter.com. INT Media Group. August 2001. Archived from the original on 2001-12-08. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  7. ^ "TheCounter August 2004". TheCounter.com. INT Media Group. Archived from the original on 2004-08-04. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  8. ^ "Internet Explorer 4 - WinPlanet Windows Software REviews and Downloads". CWS.Internet.com. JupiterMedia. Archived from the original on 2004-09-15. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  9. ^ a b c d "PC Pro: Focus: Broadband: Product Reviews: Internet Explorer 4". PcPro.co.uk. Dennis Publishing Limited. October 1997. Archived from the original on 2005-03-21. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  10. ^ "MacUser: Product Reviews: Microsoft Internet Explorer v4.0". MacUser.co.uk. December 1997. Archived from the original on 2005-02-09. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  11. ^ a b Trott, Bob (January 27, 1998). "Microsoft Says Unix Browser Is on Schedule (InfoWorld)". InfoWorld.com. InfoWorld Media Group, Inc. Archived from the original on 1999-08-29.
  12. ^ Mainsoft (March 3, 2008). "Mainsoft Ships First MainWin 3.0 Application as Microsoft Launches Internet Explorer on Unix". Archived from the original on 3 January 2013.
  13. ^ "Internet Explorer 4 - WinPlanet Windows Software Reviews". 10 December 2004. Archived from the original on 10 December 2004.
  14. ^ "Browser Version Market Share". Net Applications. October 2023. Retrieved 2017-12-02.
  15. ^ https://gs.statcounter.com/#desktop-browser_version-ww-monthly-202310-202310-bar
  16. ^ Maran, Ruth (1998). Office 97 - Superbook. Marangraphics. ISBN 1-896283-42-X. You can find the latest version at the www.Microsoft.com Web site
  17. ^ Microsoft Internet Explorer 4 - Step by Step. Catapult/Microsoft Press. 1997. ISBN 1-57231-514-8. Frontpage Express is included with Internet Explorer to make it easy for you to upload all of your HTML pages to a server
  18. ^ "RealNetworks Granted Fundamental Streaming Media Patent, Enhancing Helix Licensing Program". RealNetworks.com. May 23, 2006. Archived from the original on 2006-05-23. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  19. ^ "Internet Explorer 4.0 for Windows 3.1, Windows NT 3.51, and Windows for Workgroups 3.11: System Requirements". Microsoft. Archived from the original on March 2, 2000. Retrieved October 21, 2023.
  20. ^ a b "Internet Explorer 4.0 for Macintosh Release Notes File". Archived from the original on 2008-12-24. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  21. ^ "What Browsers Only Support SSLv2?". Archived from the original on November 23, 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
  22. ^ "Microsoft Strong Encryption Downloads". technet.microsoft.com. 20 February 2014.
  23. ^ a b c "How to Upgrade Internet Explorer to 128-bit Encryption". Microsoft.com. Microsoft. Archived from the original on 2007-02-09. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  24. ^ "How to Determine which Version of Internet Explorer Is Installed". Microsoft.com. Microsoft. Archived from the original on 2006-01-05. Retrieved 2021-08-16.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Internet Explorer 4
Succeeded by