The Internet Explorer of modern times is a much different beast than the one of yore.

The browser that was once synonymous with a poor websurfing experience is a much better product than it once was, and, as a sign of the times, often outperforms the rivals that were built to crack its monopoly. But for many, the very idea of using Internet Explorer gives a perception of going back to a time of poor rendering, security holes, and ActiveX errors — which Microsoft is well aware of and at one time considered addressing via a change of the browser’s name.

In an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit Friday, Microsoft engineer Jonathan Sampson said that the Internet Explorer team was aware of their browser’s negative perception and considered a change of name.

“It’s been suggested internally; I remember a particularly long email thread where numerous people were passionately debating it,” Sampson said. “Plenty of ideas get kicked around about how we can separate ourselves from negative perceptions that no longer reflect our product today.”

Sampson said later during the crowd-sourced interview that he, and the team, are bothered that some may choose to use another browser because of experiences — and perception — that were generated when using a much earlier version of the product.

“It’s not a nice feeling. Especially knowing that often times the decision to not use Internet Explorer is largely based on experiences from a decade ago, and a much different IE,” he added. “That being said, we know it’s our job to change the public perception, and to win the hearts of users every where. Each people to open IE, and download another browser, is another person we’ll be working even harder tomorrow to win back.”

For Microsoft, a slick rebranding campaign might be what the company needs to improve the image of Internet Explorer amongst users. Consider the exodus of users to Mozilla’s Firefox after the Spread Firefox campaign. Many left because the Internet Explorer of the time had numerous gaping security holes that Microsoft was slow to address; Mozilla’s community driven open source nature could rapidly address any vulnerabilities that may spring up. Now, it’s Firefox that’s the most insecure browser of the lot year-over-year with it earning the dubious distinction of being the most hacked at the Pwn2Own competition during CanSecWest.

In an era where the statues set in United States vs. Microsoft, the antitrust case where the browser played a central role, have long since expired, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is a much better product than it once was. Perhaps it’s time for the company to separate the past from the present, and give it a new lease on life through a re-branding.