Today was supposed to be a great day for the Web. As of March 1, 2010, Google will no longer support Microsoft's Internet Explorer 6 browser—a decade-old dinosaur engineered to navigate the Web as it existed in the year 2000. Why would this be cause for celebration? Because IE6 is barely capable of navigating the modern Web and a total nightmare to build sites, services and applications for.
But ten years after its release, it's still being used by an estimated 20% of surfers. And while Google's move is one in the right direction, I'm not breaking out the whiskey and noisemakers for IE6's funereal wake quite yet. Sadly, IE6 isn't going away for good anytime soon.
Why do they bother? Because nearly a decade after it shipped with Windows XP, IE6 still commands a mind-blowing 20% market share for browsers, according to the most recent statistics compiled by NetMarketShare. That's more than double the shares of Chrome and Safari combined, and just shy of Firefox's 24% piece of the pie. And that's only Internet Explorer 6. Combined with its better-behaving but by no means perfect descendants, IE7 and IE8, Internet Explorer as a whole owns 62% of the browser market. Now, browser market share is not an exact science and the numbers vary widely from site to site and country to country, but you get the picture.
The longevity of IE6 is the result of a perfect storm of unfortunate factors. First among them: Microsoft's IE division simply fell asleep. Having emerged the undisputed victor of the late '90s browser wars, Microsoft had virtually no competitors and so no incentive to fix any of IE6's bugs. It took Microsoft more than five years to release IE7, which was an improvement over IE6, but still a disappointment for Web designers and developers. Five years! In the five years between 2004 and 2009, Mozilla released three versions of Firefox (actually, 3.5 versions to be exact). Meanwhile, Chrome has gone through four iterations in just over a year. In those five years between IE6 and IE7, technological progress on the Web was severely hobbled to say the least. After all, who cares if Firefox can do something really cool if only a handful of users will ever see it?
But Internet Explorer 7 did eventually come out, and so did Internet Explorer 8, Firefox, Safari, Chrome and new versions of Opera. And yet, IE6 remains the second most popular browser in the world (behind IE8). What gives? The chief reason Internet Explorer 6 keeps hanging on is because people are using it at work or on work computers.
As anyone who's ever used a computer furnished by their employer can attest, IT departments are slow to make any changes that might disrupt the delicate balance of their electronic ecosystems. And they sure as hell aren't going to let you upgrade or install anything yourself.
Making matters worse, Internet Explorer 6 is deeply embedded in the infrastructures of countless corporations worldwide. Back when IE6 was the only game in town, businesses invested in Intranets and browser-based apps that functioned only in IE. Why bother with anything else? Five years later, of course, a lot of businesses learned the hard way that "IE-only" actually meant "IE6-only." Oops. Now, ask yourself how much interest corporations have in re-investing more capital to fix something that, in their eyes, isn't broken. The answer is: not much.
A recent article on Dell's IT Expert Voice blog cited another reason your company doesn't upgrade to IE8 or another browser: user control. Your bosses don't want you on Facebook and YouTube, and they know that the experience of visiting these sites with IE6 will be painful enough to limit your time on them. They effectively block you without coming off as overtly Orwellian. Win win.
It's not just grannies, either. I was using the computer of a 30-something year-old friend recently and mentioned my surprise to see him still using IE6. He asked me why it even mattered.
If people aren't allowed to upgrade or have no idea that they need to, then does the Google announcement inch us any closer to an IE6-free Web today than we were yesterday? "It's an important first step that I'm quite happy about," Walsh says. "But, I don't think it would be wise for developers to say, 'Well, Google is doing it so I'm going to do it too.' I foresee at least another year or two of having to support Internet Explorer 6."
I'm less optimistic than Walsh, and that's thanks mostly to Microsoft's pledge to support IE6 until April 8, 2014—the day it officially ends support for Windows XP, the OS it was bundled with. As much as it pains me, I have to give Microsoft a tiny bit of respect for doing this. Though the company wouldn't provide comment for this story, it pointed me to a blog post explaining the method behind this madness. "Dropping support for IE6 is not an option because we committed to supporting the IE included with Windows for the lifespan of the product. We keep our commitments. Many people expect what they originally got with their operating system to keep working whatever release cadence particular subsystems have." Microsoft is basically taking the exact opposite approach to upgrades that Apple takes, which is to upgrade quickly at the expense of its users (Snow Leopard on G5, anyone?).
For its own part, Microsoft would be happy to see you stop using IE6, too. In another blog post, the company says, "Think about what technology and the Internet were like in the year 2000 – and consider how they've evolved since then. In 2000, 'phishing' was something that happened at the lake, not online. There was no social networking, no RSS feeds, and no real blogs. It was a different time – and people's browsing needs were different."
The post goes on to explicitly recommend moving off of IE6. The problem is, corporate IT departments won't do so until they absolutely must, which may be well after the April 2014 death knell sounds. If Microsoft was smart, it would actively help businesses upgrade their IE6-based systems to IE8 (and future versions). And they would do it for free.
Why? Because IE's very survival could be at stake. If Microsoft doesn't, then Google could certainly afford to offer similar support for companies to move their systems over to Chrome. Overnight, we could see Chrome's market share balloon to 30% and all versions of Internet Explorer shrink to below 40%.
Walsh points out that Explorer's market share is being further threatened by empowered Web developers and a more educated Web-going public. "There's this assumption that people are going to go straight from Internet Explorer 6 to Internet Explorer 7 or 8," he says. "But, the thing we have to realize is that browsers as a whole have become more popular. Five years ago, most people probably didn't know what a browser was, but more and more they're able to indentify them. And as Web sites drop IE6 support, developers are going to steer people toward the browsers they like. Firefox, Chrome and Safari are going to be pitched a lot more than IE and I think those browsers have a good chance at being the next step for people."
But IE6 is something many Web developers will have to tangle with for years to come. For any Web site considering following Google unto the breach, I ask you to remember a few things. First, Google.com isn't going to suddenly stop working for folks using IE6. By dropping support, Google is saying that future upgrades to sites and services like YouTube, Gmail and Google Docs will no longer prioritize IE6 compatibility. Second, let your user base determine your course of action. David Walsh's blog, for example, is targeted at professional Web designers and developers. "My Website is 1% IE6," he says. "So I don't really care about it." (Only 5% of PopSci users are on IE6). But, you can believe a site like the New York Times will care about IE6 until the bitter end. No matter what you do, consider this comment to one the above-mentioned Microsoft blog posts:
"I work for a large financial services company with 40,000+ employees. And yes, every desktop PC and laptop runs WinXP and IE6. More than 85% of all browsing is intranet. Basic news sites etc deliver the information without the frills. For our vendors who offer Web portals (eg home loan valuations, stationery suppliers etc) - we'll simply dump them if we can't access their sites after a 'no-IE6 revamp.'"
So, there it is. Continue at your own risk. And in the meantime, IE6's celebratory funerals might be in haste.
"Now, browser market share is not an inexact science and the numbers vary widely from site to site and country to country, but you get the picture."
Wait, I am confused. Is it an exact or inexact science? I am guessing inexact.
@travisfry Whoops. Fixed that--the message is most certainly that Internet-wide browser stats are NOT an exact science.
I think that Web sites like Google, the ones that next to everyone on the web use, should put up a big glaring message to anyone trying to access the website with IE6 and tell them to upgrade with a link to Microsoft's website.
Something like this:
YOU ARE USING A BROWSER FROM THE STONE AGE! UPGRADE IT IF YOU WANT TO USE THIS WEBSITE! <Insert Link here>
Ok so maybe that could be a bad idea... but it would be funny.
@Soroshi Or they could put up something like:
WHY ARE YOU USING INTERNET EXPLORER! GET SOMETHING BETTER, LIKE FIREFOX OR CHROME!
With Firefox available, Im surprised anyone would use anything else.
I personally say F**k them. force them to upgrade by letting them only view sites broken on IE6. Get out of the stone age, it isnt hard.
For Medical Offices-- Internet Explorer is the ONLY browser allowable for Secured Login and Access. No FireFox, No Chrome, No Nothing else. And even worse, the corp-o-geeks ONLY coded for IE6. Attempts to access the login to secure websites with IE7 produced Epic Fail results with the WORST effect of: Offices that Can NOT Access Patient ID data. Doctors and Hospitals don't care what BROWSER they have to use-- all that matters to them is "DOES THE PATIENT HAVE CURRENT INSURANCE!"
For NON-medical purposes, I use Firefox-- but I use add-on's that tone down and DE-Activate most of the Crapola that now permeates a LOT of Websites. What a lot of Web-Geeks call 'enhancements', I call Noisy, Pesky, Annoying, Intrusive webpage Bloat-ola. Especially when a website just SITS there half empty because so MANY 'new and exciting' widgets from god knows how many different god-forsaken ad-servers are all WAITING for Connection. . .Waiting for Connection. . .Waiting for Connection. . .
I mean, don't you people ever consider that a LOT of us Ordinary users don't sit on the first offramp of a T1 line?
Besides. . .you say Enhancment? I see Commercial. And Lord knows there too much "Commercial" on the Internet as it is.
Lol a T-1 line is even more of a legacy than IE6... just saying
The last time I remember distinctly using IE6 was in HS, simply because my school had upgraded all the systems to the newest XP, which I believe was SP2 at the time.
Now the college I'm at wants everyone to use FireFox. In fact, the school intranet page (to access online email and such) only works properly in FireFox (you can use IE8 - which I have as I am using Win7, but you run into problems).
Overall I find that IE8 works for most things, sometimes I use other browsers such as FireFox or Chrome (leaning towards Chrome cause of Gmail and such).
I still find that IE works, but if it's the newer IE (IE8) I find that it works fine for what I need to do.
"I reject your reality and substitue my own." - Adam Savage, Mythbuster
Chrome = Best Browser Ever.
Moravian College, Class of 2012
Intended B.A. in Physics, B.S. in Math
Google chrome all the way! Whether it's IE6, IE8, IE56. Google Chrome is a lot faster and easier to navigate. Love Chrome.
You still need IE to download and install Windows updates!
I have to keep at least one pc running ie6 as a very large company I do business with does not support anything higher or any other browser. Msoft would be in better standing if it did assist upgrade to newer browsers. Personally, I dislike Msoft for the usual reasons: bringing defective products to market, not working with outside developers, trying to crush competitors, and many more. I run 2 pcs on eCS without ANY probems. I just don't play games on it. I support Open Office BECAUSE it is cross platform and does the job well.
If you keep files online you don't need the sorry IE browser to access the files. If the medical files are only restricted to one browser eventually your so called "security" is going to go down the tubes. Give that IE a rest with all it's buggy security that looks more like my grandmother's strainer. For login online is not browser specific unless you are using the sorry dinosaur IE.
Chrome is my browser of choice for sheer convenience, but it is admittedly bloated in comparison to Firefox. There's absolutely no reason for a company not to have Firefox, though. It's free, it runs well, and it is not archaic. It has built in upgrade reminders, and simply upgrades continually as opposed to be separate programs (IE6, IE7, IE8, IE 64-bit, etc). In my opinion, websites should have a browser check at the beginning of their website. If you are using IE6, it says "continue at your own risk, but meanwhile here are some links to download a browser that wasn't made before you cut your teeth."
Any browser is better than ie6 that is so outdated now its not even funny. The best IMO are Opera, Chrome, and Firefox on Windows (ie8 on win 7 is actually pretty decent as well), chrome on Ubuntu, and Safari on Macs.
I use IE6, Chrome, Firefox and others.
Why would I use IE6 you ask ?
After reading the article I am tempted to say...
"Just to annoy snobz...none of your business which browser I use. "
But I am a mature grownup and so will not say that.
Seriously...I have good reasons for using IE6.
It can do things that none of the other browsers can.
And no...IE7 and IE8 can't do them.
Wish Chrome could do what I want it to do because it is so fast...but alas...it won't.
I am still seeking a browser that will do what I want.
Until then I will continue to use a mix of them.
Guess I am just fussy.
We in IT will give each of you users what you want the same day you medical folks give us patients each and everything we want.
Nothing corporate is easy - ever - period.
IT geeks don't get to make the decisions, the executives and money handlers do, and they want no down time, no re-training, etc.etc.etc.
Imagine what you could accomplish if you could make the decisions that directly affect patients!
For users, if it were up to IT, you would all be using the latest greatest hardware on the fastest fiber network ever built, with your choice of PC, MAC, Windows 7, Leopard OS, etc. and so on.
Let's both keep dreaming.
I am a virgin at this comment/blog business and have enjoyed PS magazine from high school days til the present.
I am currently employed where our IT department was "taken over" by IBM and Dell. I have been informed that a large program essential to Pharmacy/Medical operations will only function properly on E6. It will cost more money to upgrade to one that will work on a later version. Our antivirus is currently shielding us adequately. This rut will become deeper and deeper in the coming years.
I guess I will have to use the Bing seach engine after Google leaves the scene.
There are plenty of things to criticize Apple about, some of which are genuinely scary. Blaming them for not letting you run a 2009 operating system on 2004 computers? How well does the latest version of Windows run on a 2004 model Windows box? That's just dim.
If you want to complain about support, complain about the fact that Apple stopped issuing security patches for 10.4 early in 2010. (It was released in 2005.) Whereas Microsoft supports OSes as old as 2002 (i.e. XP), and apparently will support that until 2014, a total of 12 years. Mind you, MS only supported Windows 2000 until this year, a total of 10 years, and they stopped supporting new versions of IE on Win2k in 2004, which is even worse than Apple (which is still releasing new builds of Safari for 10.4, I think.)
Personally, I think that's plenty of time, and I have a couple of Macs more than five years old lying around. They're still quite useful to me, though I probably wouldn't use them outside of a firewall. But at least it's a REASONABLE thing to complain about.
A big portion of the lack of changeover is the fact that governments, companies, and secure facilities prefer to deal with something not "beta" by any means, IE6 has no more development, gets the basic info across and allows web-blocking of 90% of items with little or no work involved by sys-admins.
Reason being: Works already been done
Working for the gov, i can honestly say that most of them are lazy, therefore, IE6 still has a very bright forseeable future, although some proactive parts of companies / gov are switching to 7.
IE7 is horrible, unresponsive, corruptable, memory leaks are horrid, and the functionality reduced. Despite being able to show the websites in their "new spiffy" format, the websites hesitate to respond similarly. The vidoes dont load as quickly, if at all, and running my Email and news sites simontaneously frequently jams up the entire browser.
IE7 is horrible, IE8 isnt much better.
At home i use firefox 3 or chrome which i have little or not problems with.
The downside is that companies favor stability vs speed, thus IE6 continues its crippled walk down the road to the future.
I use Google Chrome. Its a lot better than IE but it doesn't work for about 5% or more of websites. So I have to use IE sometimes to view sites.
Has anyone slowed down enough to realize that older machines - that is anything less than WinXP, can not be upgraded beyond IE6.
How many old machines are out there, that people do not want to pour good money down Microsoft's rat hole? Forget about the machines that simply do not have the horsepower.
I use Firefox and Chrome, but am forced to use IE for updates - such as they are.
Linux is great, but has a steep learning curve. How would you like to explain "package updates" and "repositorys" to someone that is 80 years old. Most would tell you to take the computer and turn it into a suppository for yourself.
Not to downplay the great features of the modern browsers, but, why should I spend time downloading "stuff" that I don't want to see in the first place. I think Lynx or another text based browser is an option here.
I use both Chrome and IE8, but both lack useful features of earlier versions of IE. With earlier IE versions it was possible to display AND EDIT a web page's source. Since I have maintained a couple websites, I found this very useful. Chrome also seems to lack a PRINT PREVIEW feature to see what one is going to print and then select only one or two of many pages to print from a website. For that reason I virtually never use Chrome if I expect to print something from a website. What I have lost in going from IE6 and IE7 to IE8 and Chrome is definitely not worth what I have gained.
Man am I screwed! I gots IE6 at home and on a school laptop. Crud!!! -TPB
Looks to me like microsoft achieved what they wanted to when they made IE6. By not following open internet standards they were able to use their market dominance to force a large number of users to adapt to their proprietory standards.
Companies and government departments don't want the most up to date, bleading edge technology. They want a stable workhorse that will do the job.
There was an old saying: Noone ever got fired for buying IBM. I guess back in 2000, noone got fired for using IE6.
Personally I'm a fan of firefox but I have to say that microsoft has done this so well that even a decade later the browser commands a 20% share.
Superb marketing guys!
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I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised to see quite a few people I know have installed Chrome (probably from a link on google.com). And whether from my constant ranting or their own experiences, most of them agree that IE6’s time has passed. Although not to be too positive, I’ve also seen a few visits from IE5 in the analytics for a few sites I manage. To clarify; yes that is Internet Explorer 5, released March 18, 1999.
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Thank for manual. I will share it on our website http://www.desktopland.com at FAQ section
<b>I am still using IE6</b>
I installed and tested <i>IE7</i> extensively in 2006, just to answer a few questions to other forumists about IE7 (on MS Newsgroups), then after one month, uninstalled it, back IE6. Then I did it again in 2007 for new forum questions. I also uninstalled <i>Firefox</i> after its v3.0.7. I uninstalled as well all versions of <i>Chrome</i> until Chrome 4, which finally had more pluses than minuses (and now has got very efficient and pleasant - while still holding a couple shortcomings to cure). I still have <i>Safari</i> installed but don't use it any more since Chrome 4; being also webkit, Safari now doesn't bring me anything that Chrome 4 doesn't. And I didn't even try <i>IE8</i>.
Now you want reasons? I explained them many times but this is totally useless because there is simply NO REASON to bash IE6 that hard; IE6 was (rightly IMO) touted in 2000-2002 as <i>the best browser MS ever made</i>. It is still such now, albeit with 2 problems that have become more annoying: <i>slow JS engine</i> and <i>improper handling of the according time-outs</i>, which causes a few freezes and crashes; a few <i>positioning errors</i> in some tricky cases when CSS design is not clean. With just a little care at writing pages or at setting your browser, you still can use IE6 daily with no more, and often with less, problems or shortcomings than other browsers (I am writing this in IE6, while browsing at the same time many other pages in Chrome 4: globally, Chrome 4 is faster and has a few very good tools, as "Inspect element", which beats hands down Firebug; IE6 is more powerful to write, Drag, handle HTML and CSS sources). So those "<i>designers everywhere</i>" painting IE6 as "<i>the bane</i>" have only the following main reasons:
- either they blindly <i>follow</i> the buzz, "<i>IE6 is the bane</i>", and continue throwing stones, just because their neighbor is throwing stones. This has a name: <i>lynching</i>. Unfortunately lynching is totally compliant with the minds now the majority everywhere including in formerly civilized countries
- or they are of the ones <i>driving</i> this lynching frenzy, or knowingly helping it.
In either case it is totally useless to try to explain to them. I nevertheless occasionally recalled some of the reasons:
- www.sitepoint.com/blogs/2009/01/09/sitepoint-podcast-6-what-to-do-about-internet-explorer-6#comment-863504 "People KNOW from their or others’ tests that IE7 does NOT fill THEIR needs as well as IE6"
- www.google.com/support/forum/p/youtube/thread?tid=6ddaadad7eb85ae9&hl=en&fid=6ddaadad7eb85ae900046f3b5759edf6 "I reverted twice from IE7 to IE6 and uninstalled Firefox 3.10"
- http://ie8slow.com/2009/05/how-to-fix-internet-explorer-8-slow-loading-connecting-message-and-high-cpu-usage-on-startup/#comment-6 "Why does the slow occur just in IE8, not in IE7 or IE6?"
- www.techspot.com/vb/topic141662.html#post843724 "Firefox 3.6 still FORCES its lengthy launch at each Windows restart"
- www.developer.com/open/article.php/3873236/article.htm?comment=30963-0 "I am steadily using Chrome 4 and... IE6"
Versailles, Mon 17 May 2010 18:00:00 +0200
Let's make sure of the facts before getting in the cause -- Fontenelle