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Microsoft Puts IE 6 on Death Watch

On Friday, Microsoft launched a Web site devoted to killing Internet Explorer 6 -- or at least shrinking its global browser share to 1 percent.

A map on the Internet Explorer 6 Countdown site indicates that 12 percent of Internet users worldwide are currently using IE 6, based on February data from Net Applications. According to the Exploring IE blog, Microsoft plans to update the site every month until the number of IE 6 users hits 1 percent worldwide.

IE 6 is a near decade-old browser that has tripped up developers over the years who must sometimes code for the browser's quirks in parsing HTML. The browser continues to be used, in large part, because it was distributed alongside the most widely used operating system to this day, Windows XP.

Extended support for Windows XP continues until April 2014. Chances are that IE 6 will still be used through that time, since some businesses may have custom-made Web apps that depend on IE 6 behavior. Organizations can upgrade or use desktop virtualization as a solution; otherwise, they face a ticking time bomb, both in terms of getting support from Microsoft and overall security.

IE 6 is widely seen as a major security problem for organizations. The browser even caused international scandal when Google's corporate Web sites were hacked via an IE 6 and Windows flaw. The attacks on Google were traced to hackers based in China. Google cited the incident at the time as a cause for not complying with the Chinese government's local Internet search censorship rules. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsed Google's stance.

At Microsoft's Countdown site, China currently lights up the map in orange, having the highest number (34.5 percent) of IE 6 users. South Korea ranks second with 24.8 percent use, followed by India (12.3 percent), Saudi Arabia (10.7 percent) and Taiwan (10.7 percent). IE 6 use in the United States is at 2.9 percent, near the bottom, according to the Net Applications data.

Killing IE 6 will save "hours of work for Web developers," Microsoft claims. Web developers can help speed IE 6's demise by advising site visitors using IE 6 to upgrade their browsers. The code to push that warning to IE 6 users, which can be added to a Web site, can be accessed here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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