Killing IE6

Jeremiah turned me on to this article about the man at Microsoft whose job is to kill IE6.

“Part of my job is to get IE6 share down to zero as soon as possible,” said Ryan Gavin, head of the Internet Explorer business group.

Gavin said Microsoft will continue to work with companies to move legacy applications to more modern versions of Internet Explorer, as well as continuing to highlight the improved security on offer in Internet Explorer 8. For example, a recent campaign run by Microsoft Australia compared using IE6 to drinking milk nine years past its sell-by date.

Supposedly IE6 is the “most used browser version in the world”. I am not sure I buy that statement, especially as it is not sourced. The article claims this is due to being the default browser in XP and also because of developing nations use of old hardware. Bah, it could just as easily be because robots and scripts masquerade as IE6.

Whatever the case, a good solution would be for Microsoft to work with companies like Yahoo! (we are talking legacy here, right?) Facebook and Google to post a warning banner to users of IE6. Something that says “Hello, your browser needs to be upgraded to use this site” could be very effective. Why would a Google or Facebook ever dare to interfere with the user experience? One giant reason is to help turn off things like SSLv2, which actually dates all the way back to the very fist IE4 in 1998.

Late last year I was surprised when Google called me in and asked for my suggestion for what to do about SSLv2. Hard to believe but their engineers still debated how best to support SSLv2 even though it has no advantages and a giant security disadvantage. I gave the same answer as above — post a warning to users with a deadline, give fair notice and link to more information. Start forcing redirects to an upgrade page. No one needs to use SSLv2 and it has been prohibited by regulations for at least three years. No one needs it, and yet it persists. IE6 thus will be an even harder argument, as it might actually be useful, so what chance does Microsoft have to kill it off?

Aside from security flaws there is really no immediate need to mandate users upgrade from IE6. Why would Google to do the right thing and help Microsoft? Their support of an IE6 end of life plan is improbable, but who knows. Google just added SSL to their search page. They already try to warn users of suspicious or dangerous links. Maybe they would also see value in warning users that Microsoft no longer supports IE6 and then offer Chrome as an update.

Incidentally, I must also comment on that milk analogy by Microsoft. It is probably more appropriate than they realized. I would reply that “milk nine years past its sell-by date” is also called cheese. It could in fact be some really GOOD cheese. The big difference, obviously, is that old milk does not require patches and support from the manufacturer (cow?) to remain safe.

So, unless Microsoft can point out the clear (health) risk (they refuse to support their product any longer) consumers will very likely see no harm to aging their milk for many years to come.

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