IE6 Must Die

james2James O’Neill is a IT Pro Evangelist on the DPE team (Developer & Platform Evangelism). What does that mean? Well to steal a line from his blog, his focus is on ‘Windows Platform for starters, Virtualization, Real Time Collaboration and Photography to follow, served with a side order of philosophical attitude’. Need I say more?

IE 6 Must Die

I’m not quite sure where the “IE 6 Must die” meme started,  perhaps it was on Mashable, or perhaps it was a tag on twitter. Although it has taken hold in a lot of places (Bing finds 76,000,000 references to it) there is still a need to spread the message. I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets when I say that we watch our share of the web browser market, and we’d like to see IE8 get as much share as possible. But this takes more than persuading people that IE8 meets their needs. A lot of organizations are stuck on IE6 and won’t move, despite things like the following:

“You may have recently heard about organizations including Google recommending that people update their browsers and move off older versions, such as the nearly decade-old Internet Explorer 6.  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. Today’s Internet calls for more.
support this recommendation to move off Internet Explorer 6. Modern browsers such as Internet Explorer 8 bring benefits for customers and developers alike.”

Brandon’s point about phishing is a key one. The weakest part of any browser is located, as the saying goes, “between chair and keyboard”. Bodies like NSS labs do tests on how well different browsers block different kinds of Malware – their most recent test is here – and IE8 won. IE6 has no blocking. It’s like a car without seatbelts – which isn’t as far-fetched as you might think.

According to WikiPedia, Mosaic, which is the ancestor of all modern browsers, was released on 22nd April 1993, and IE6 released in 27th August 2001, 3049 days later. So, what date comes 3049 days after that? By a staggering co-incidence it is 1st January 2010. IE6 is closer to the first real browser than it is to today. Would you fly in a plane which is closer to the Sopwith Camel than an Airbus, or drive a car which is closer to the Model-T Ford of 1908 than today (that would be 1959, the year Saab introduced the first model to have seat belts as standard)?

When I came across a story about IE6 no more, I did wonder if they had some Axe to grind, but their home page says:

”Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 was released in late 2001. For its time, it was a decent browser, but in 2009, it is still in use by a significant portion of the web population, and its time is now up.”

Apart from the need to update the year, that’s a correct statement and about as neutral as I think it can be worded; this is simply a campaign to get people to browse the web with something more modern. They don’t care if people replace IE6 with IE8, Firefox, Safari or Chrome – and they provide a little code snippet for site owners to put into their pages to create a “please upgrade” banner.  As it happens I have XP mode set up for demo purposes so I can fire up IE 6 alongside IE 8, and I wanted to see that looked like. Is it me or does IE6 look horrible?

image image

Remember IE6 only runs on XP. Mainstream support of XP and IE6 came to an end in April 2009; it is now in extended support until 2014 – from July you’ll need to be on Service pack 3. I’m going to be talking a fair amount about deploying new software and anyone pinned on XP by IE6 isn’t going to be doing much of that.

Now: you might say “But we have a crummy line of business application that is essential to the continued operation of the business – it is unmaintained because (a) no one is entirely sure how it works and (b) it was built on old technology and uses components from vendors that have long since gone out of business” [That’s a précis of the start of an article on XP mode from Ars Technica]. I have two answers to that – one technology advice: MEDV (or XP mode for small companies) will allow you to run those applications in an XP Virtual machine. Don’t think that this is “free” MEDV is part of MDOP which has a license cost, but even the “free” XP , mode costs resources. And the other answer? Your organisation has had four years to come up with a plan to get off IE6. Yes, it involves spending money, but that is investing to make people more productive. When others were getting the benefits of new technology, your technology was frozen in 2001. Are you sure you want to work for a company like this? (And if you work in one those poorly run parts of the UK Government don’t even think telling me the taxpayer’s money isn’t there before you’ve read this).

P.S. Brad Colbow’s cartoon is a great contribution to the discussion.

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