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Issue #675: June 28 – July 4, 2020

Q: Regarding my question you responded to in Issue #624, July 7-13, 2019. I believe you by chance solved my problem using the advice in todays issue (Online Searches) (Geek Note: I.G.T.M. #670, May 24-30, 2020). My problem was with my browser. I switched browser to MicroSoft Edge and this solved the problem. I think my copy of Internet Explorer must be damaged. Anyhow, thanks for the article today and keep safe!

– Bill H.
Niceville, Florida

A: Well now, that’s mighty interesting, considering the overall topic of that column was installing JavaScript on a Samsung A8 smartphone.  However, if you got something out of the discussion that solved your problem, that’s great.  I’m glad you (eventually) got your issue resolved.  This is exactly why I provide so many details and background information when answering questions.  I aim to help people understand the “why” of their problem, as well as the “what.”  It’s the old  philosophy of “give a man a fish” vs. “teach a man to fish” I suppose.  I hope to equip you, my fellow Geeks with the tools you need to solve your own problems.

In the spirit of that ideal, let’s talk a little about your fix, Bill.  As far as Internet Explorer goes (IE for short) the very final version was released September 10, 2019.  Even at that point, IE was basically a dead product, as Microsoft introduced its new browser named Edge for Windows 10 – and that was way back on July 29, 2015.  I can’t imagine why Microsoft chose to release both browsers in parallel for such a long period.  That would seem to be a wide divergence from their usual habit of taking software to end-of-life with relative expediency so they can get it off their support books.  If your system was still defaulted to IE, I’m surprised that the issue about which you originally wrote-in was the only one you were having.

But why?  Your original question to me was about Outlook, not IE (or any other browser for that matter).  The answer dates to decisions that Microsoft made on their products way back in the mid-1990s.  Decisions which, in fact, directly lead to the antitrust case of United States v. Microsoft Corporation in which the U.S. government accused Microsoft of illegally maintaining a monopoly over the PC market by making it difficult or impossible to remove IE from Windows to allow use of other browsers.  Microsoft contended that forward-thinking and innovation had driven the integration of IE so deeply into Windows that the two could no longer be separated.  A browser’s primary task is to render hypertext markup language (HTML) code into formatted, human-readable text.  This allows web pages to display various colors, fonts, even graphics.  These are natural tasks of other software such as e-mail readers, file explorers, word processors, etc.  Speaking as someone who has been a software engineer for going on 35 years, I can state with authority that it is a common practice to re-use libraries of code to streamline development and storage requirements of larger systems.  To me, it makes perfect sense that core code from Microsoft’s web browser would be integrated deeply into other Microsoft products, including Outlook.  This could indeed cause problems in those applications when the browser became deprecated or otherwise had support issues.

It’s all terribly complicated, and probably beyond the level where most users even care – that is, until it stops working.  Now that you’ve told me that switching your browser fixed the problem, I’d like to point out that in my reply to you in Issue #624 I suggested that you read issue #587, which contained information about default web browsers, and how to change yours.

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 Geek Note: Questions!  I need your questions!  My question queue is running on empty.  Now, I know that you need answers.  Well I need questions – it’s a match made in heaven!  So, visit my website and ask away!


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