Unexpected Web Browsers: IE5 on UNIX

I’m not that easily surprised anymore, when it comes to unusual combinations of platforms and software. Windows NT on a classic Mac / PowerPC? Why not? Well, there’s probably no software for this, besides Netscape Navigator, (because there’s Netscape for about any system ever.) However, this also works the other way round: how about Internet Explorer 5 for Unix (and, more specifically, on Solaris 7 / SPARC)? And, if this wasn’t enough, it comes with a full-fledged version of MS Outlook Express. Suffice to say, I was surprised by this video:

A rather finicky installation process aside, what really surprises is how serious an attempt was made. If you were to think now, well, Microsoft was running much of its infrastructure on Xenix and later on SCO Unix, so that’s why, you may be surprised that there’s an entirely different path leading down that specific rabbit hole, namely one starting as early as 1993 and involving a company named Mainsoft with a rather fascinating product portfolio.


According to one person from Microsoft I knew they had it working on Linux as well (give or take a tiny kernel patch to deal with threading). It wasn’t however compatible with the “explorer is an integrated part of the os” story.

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Compare the video at about 17:00, Mainsoft had MainWin for Linux, so a Linux build would have been pretty much the same process. The setup script even checks for a Linux host.

From the video:

I wouldn’t be surprised, if IE for Linux is something that might have existed internally at Microsoft or Mainsoft at one point.

So, there is an answer to this.

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