The final version of Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) was released on August 27, 2001. It was released at the same time as Windows XP and was the last version of IE to be called “Microsoft” Internet Explorer, later version being referred to as “Windows” Internet Explorer.
It’s aims were noble: more privacy, reliability and flexibility.
Internet Explorer is a very popular piece of sotware. It is included in distributions of Windows and is the default web browser. This means that all home users and particularly office users will have it as their default browser when they first start using Windows. According to Market Share from Net Applications, it is still the most widely used web browser, with 22.08% share of the market.
The reason it causes so many problems is because it is so old and full of vulnerabilities and lack of support for modern web standards.
Many web developers have become totally fed up with the frustrations of testing and developing for IE6 and are forever bemoaning people to upgrade to either a different browser or a more recent version of IE. If you find know somebody who is running IE6 on their personal PC, you could probably convince them to upgrade.
When it comes to office users, the problems is not that people won’t upgrade, it’s that they can’t. A survey by Digg in August 2009 revealed that 3 out of 4 IE6 users were using this browser because they had no choice.
Large companies and particulary Government organisations all over the world rely on Internet Explorer and force their employess to use it. Since it is a standard part of Windows, it is supported by Microsoft and they will guarantee to support it until 2014.
Unfortunately, the software contained many bugs, flaws and failed implementations of web standards. Web developers were forced to introduce “hacks” and workarounds to get web pages to work as expected in Internet Explorer 6.
However, due to bad coding techniques and lack of foresight by these developers, many of these workarounds are not forward compatible. Companies may have invested in 10 year web projects back in 2001. At that time web developers could only work with what was released at the time. And that was IE6. There was no competition back in those days. Indeed, if Firefox had not been released, IE6 could very well have remained the only web browser available today.
It is difficult to find a case to convince IT administrators to invest in upgrading. While you may quote savings of 25% on future web development tasks, is this really significant in comparison to the potantial cost of updating business-critical web applications?
In a nutshell, if all the IE6 installations in the world were upgraded tonight, there would be a lot of broken web applications tomorrow morning. For a hospital or a school or a government department this is unacceptable. For them it is much easier to continue to use IE6 rather than invest time and money making sure applications work in more up-to-date versions of IE.
Some massive sites on the internet such as Digg and You Tube have publicly discussed the idea of blocking IE6. Sites like these probably don’t receive a lot of traffic from office users (or at least they shouldn’t) so blocking these users probably won’t cause a lot of impact.
However, what if a site like Google decided to block IE6? It is fair to say that Google is well used by corporate users and it would cause a whole lot of trouble if this ever happened.
Until Microsoft do something about forcing corporate users to upgrade IE6 we are going to have to continue to support it. So just get used to it!