It isn’t behind on technical innovations. Merely behind on non-Microsoft-created technical innovations.
Because Microsoft spends a significant amount of time creating alternatives to standards-based protocols, platforms, languages, etc, they feel the need to “prove out” same by providing a reference implementation that can gain public traction, and hopefully subvert the alternatives.
Historically, with things like ActiveX, this was actually a fairly effective strategy. It was even touch and go there for a bit with Silverlight (no, really!). Because IE was also historically the default browser installed with Windows, there was a natural symbiosis – the vast installed base of IE users was so large, that accommodating the Microsoft technology (especially when it ran faster/better within IE, or on the server end under NT/2000/2003 Server), and even ignoring cross-platform compatible solutions was often the answer that drove higher profits for small and medium businesses with a web presence.
A few factors negated this effect in more recent years: Adobe Flash (which gained enough Windows-side performance, cross-platform marketshare, and overall functionality, to make Microsoft web technologies basically moot), and the FireFox cross-platform browser (which, with its initial tiny footprint, lightning-fast performance, and better security, gave it a leg up on every other platform, and eventually even Windows, at a time when Microsoft had “declared victory”, and basically ceased IE development).
This more or less brings us to today: Microsoft, which is still trying to foist Microsoft-created or licensed web technologies on the public, doesn’t prioritize support for Internet standards, and is instead trying various ways to innovate through differentiation and integration with the greater Windows/Office platforms. As this tactic seems to be unsuccessful, the only remaining question is, will Microsoft cede the desktop browser victory to Google/Mozilla/Apple while pursuing alternate platforms (mobile and gaming OSes, giant touch-table furniture, and ergonomic mice), or finally catch up on the standards with IE 10, and only then try to push ahead with IE 11 once some form of leadership in the browser has been restored.
Due to the inherent inefficiencies of a mature organization like Microsoft, it is unlikely that the latter option will come to pass.
This answer originally appeared on Quora: Why is Internet Explorer always behind in its support of the latest technical innovations?