Die, IE6, die: the IE6 countdown.

Posted by – Monday 2011-03-07

Once upon a time, after the first web browsers war, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) was the king of the web browsers. IE6 was the most used one, given not only its technical merits but also the dominance of Microsoft on the desktop operating system arena and its anticompetitive practices.

Bill Gates, the United States v. Microsoft trial

Bill Gates, USA v. Microsoft Trial (picture taken from Wikipedia.org)

IE6, as well as IE5, was a pain for web developers – like me – because of its many and intentional incompatibilities. The additional work needed to make a website viewable with IE6 was error prone, frustrating and time consuming.

The first IE6 beta version was realeased in March 2001. About 51 months later, the first beta of the next major version was released. Meanwhile, IE6 also became obsolete: for instance, other web browsers like Firefox, Opera or Safari featured tabbed browsing or full support for PNG format images, while IE6 didn’t.

Personally, I received with hope the arrival of IE7, which I expected to be more standards compliant (and, in fact, it was). I also expected – ¡Ay, cándido de mí! – that Windows users would massively update to this version, not because standards compliance or angry web developers, but using a faster and more secure web browser or enjoying tabbed browsing. Unfortunately, Microsoft made IE7 available only to “genuine Windows users” and removed this requirement about 12 months later. This slowed down the adoption of IE7 [note 1].

The adoption more recent versions or IE was also slowed down because the attempts made by Microsoft to force Windows users to update their operating system to newer versions, that is, installing the newest version of IE was possible only after upgrading to a new version of the operating system, which, obviously, was not free [note 2]. In addition, the Windows Vista fiascoVirgencita, virgencita, que me quede como estoy. – did not help at all.

However, over time IE6 became a problem for Microsoft itself. The corporation founded in the seventies by Bill Gates, Paul Allen and others began to encourage Windows users to switch to the latest stable IE version. Now, with the launch of the website “The Internet Explorer 6 Countdown” it seems that these efforts are redoubled.

Microsoft’s funny mythbusting

By browsing The Interner Explorer 6 Countdown website, I reached the page Windows Internet Explorer 8: Mythbusting, found in the main Microsoft’s website and whose contents are… well, let’s say that they are funny.

According to Microsoft, there are four false myths:

  • “Internet Explorer is much slower than Firefox and Chrome.”
  • “Internet Explorer is less secure than Firefox.”
  • “Firefox is a richer, more adaptable browser than Internet Explorer.”
  • “Internet Explorer doesn’t play well with Web standards.”

If somebody deserves being accused of myth creator, it is the own Microsoft. Not only Microsoft’s IE6 was an incompatible web browser. Not only Microsoft let its web browser became obsolete by not improving it for years, while competitors did. Microsoft has managed to educate most of its customers in actual myths like that computer and operating system are not different things, or that the web browser is not an application but part of the operating system itself [note 3].

edited on 2011-03-11 23h45 CET: On ZDNet.com, Zack Whittaker has written an interesting article about this topic, “Why is Microsoft really hitting down hard on IE6?“.


[note 1] “Browser wars“, Wikipedia entry: “On 18 October 2006, Microsoft released Internet Explorer 7. It included tabbed browsing, a search bar, a phishing filter, and improved support for Web standards – all features familiar to Opera and Firefox users. Microsoft distributed Internet Explorer 7 to genuine Windows users (WGA) as a high priority update through Windows Update. Typical market share analysis showed only a slow uptake of Internet Explorer 7 […]. Microsoft dropped the requirement for WGA and made Internet Explorer 7 available to all Windows users in October 2007.”

[note 2] Currently Microsoft offers downloading Internet Explorer 8 for Windows XP!

[note 3] United States v. Microsoft, Wikipedia entry: “In the years that followed, Microsoft insisted that Internet Explorer (which first appeared in the Plus! Pack sold separately from Windows 95) was not a product but a feature which it was allowed to add to Windows, although the DOJ did not agree with this definition.”

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