The CryptoAPI and Windows 95

Although the CryptoAPI first appeared in Windows 95 OEM Service Release 2 (OSR2) and was at least initially described by Microsoft as requiring OSR2, it seems there is nothing to prevent the CryptoAPI from being back-fitted to the original Windows 95 release simply by installing an updated ADVAPI32 (which is where the interface layer is implemented) and one or more standard CSPs. Microsoft often devises improvements of an operating system after the original release and makes them available as service packs, updates, add-ons or whatever, typically as a free download.

It does indeed turn out that Microsoft supports the CryptoAPI as an enhancement of the original Windows 95. Curiously though, it seems that the only method Microsoft presents for installing this improvement of Windows 95 is to install Internet Explorer 3.02 or higher.

This is just one of countless examples of Internet Explorer—which at least started as an application marketed in competition with others that do similar work—being used by Microsoft as a de facto Windows 95 Service Pack. Since at least early 1997, customers of Microsoft’s most widely used operating system have typically had their access to improvements of that operating system depend on their also becoming users of Microsoft’s web browser.