Jimmy Grewal served as a Program Manager for Mac Internet Explorer at Microsoft, joining the company in 1999. His first project was working on the team developing Internet Explorer 5 for Mac –– which he describes as “the most important release of Internet Explorer for the Mac, and the last release.”

In a new blog post, Grewal offers some interesting tidbits on that development process, as today marks the twentieth anniversary of Internet Explorer 5 for Mac’s unveil.

Long-time Mac users will remember that Internet Explorer first came to the Mac in 1996, and was bundled with Mac OS 8 in 1998. Nonetheless, Grewal explains why the release of IE 5 was so important for Apple and Microsoft, specifically as Microsoft battled with the Department of Justice over antitrust concerns:

For Microsoft, IE 5 demonstrated their “commitment” to their lucrative Office for Mac customers, gave them an edge in the browser wars, and was meant to take some of wind out of the DOJ’s anti-trust case. Apple had to bundle IE with every Mac and obviously wanted it to be great. They were desperate for developers to commit to their fledgling Rhapsody OS (Mac OS X) and to demonstrate that their Carbon APIs were mature enough for complex Mac apps to be “easily” ported.

Grewal also points out that Internet Explorer 5 for Mac was “the first mainstream browser on any platform that correctly displayed standards compliant HTML.” This rendering engine for Mac was new and completely independent of the Windows version, he says.

As for the interface of Internet Explorer 5 for Mac, Steve Jobs was not pleased when he first saw it, because of its resemblance to the forthcoming Aqua interface for the Mac:

This “new look” had an uncanny resemblance to Apple’s later Aqua interface for Mac OS X. However it was developed in complete secrecy within Microsoft. When we previewed MacIE 5 with the “new look” to Apple in the Summer of 1999, Jobs was not pleased.

Since no one outside Apple was supposed to know about Aqua at the time, he couldn’t say anything to us about the resemblance; instead he directed his ire at another new feature in MacIE 5 called Media Toolbar. This feature provided support for playing back MP3‘s on websites.

Interestingly enough, Media Toolbar was based on code from the MP3 player SoundJam. Jobs instructed that Microsoft remove the Media Toolbar from Internet Explorer because it “undermined QuickTime.” But, Apple ended up acquiring SoundJam and turning it into iTunes.

When it came time to demonstrate Internet Explorer 5 at MacWorld in 2000, Jobs insisted on performing the demonstration himself. While Microsoft and Apple agreed to talking points for the demonstration, Jobs “didn’t mention a single one,” Grewal says.

Traditionally, a Microsoft exec would come on stage to unveil and demo our products. In this case, Apple’s insisted that Jobs would do the demo himself. Talking points were agreed, but much to our dismay Jobs didn’t mention a single one.

Nonetheless, despite the importance of Internet Explorer 5 for Mac, it ultimately wasn’t successful amid the ongoing browsing wars. You can read Grewal’s full blog post here and an accompanying thread on Twitter.

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