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IE6, a well and truly outdated browser

Come in IE6, your time is up. Microsoft help plan a long overdue retirement

The dawning of 2012 brought about some welcome news for the Internet and the Web Community, along with a New Year’s resolution from Microsoft. IE6 (the web browser Internet Explorer 6) usage in the US has officially dropped below 1%, joining countries who have recently achieved this figure including Czech Republic, Portugal, Mexico and all of Scandinavia. The UK isn’t far behind with 1.4%.

The only part of the World that is still clinging on is Asia, with China the main offender with a still massive 25.2% usage. The next highest is South Korea with 7.2%.

Microsoft announced that it will now be implementing automatic updates to IE6 through Windows Updates. Users of XP will be upgraded to IE8, while users of Vista will move to IE9. Although this won’t catch every single system still running IE6 or IE7, it should speed up the process massively and perhaps more importantly sends out a clear signal that this is the end... or at least, the beginning of the end.

Probably the biggest single catalyst for this change has been the public removal of support for outdated versions of IE by the biggest names on the Web, Google Apps, You Tube and Facebook. Many others followed, and this caused a major shift in the approach from the creative industry.

For those of you unaware of why this is cause for celebration, IE6 is something of an embarrassing problem child for Microsoft and, really, anyone who likes to use the Internet. It was created a decade ago when the web was a completely different beast to the high speed, multimedia rich environment we know today. Modern browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, and the latest version of Internet Explorer, IE9 (soon to be IE10), allow developers to use all sorts of tools, advanced visual techniques, formatting for accessibility and interaction, and faster and more secure web experiences. They also all display web pages in pretty much the same way, adhering closely to an agreed set of standards. IE6 (and to a lesser extent, IE7 and IE8) as you may have gathered, does not!

What does this mean for web designers and developers such as us folk here at Shake? Well, we won’t have to spend countless hours trying to make a website work in IE6 when it works perfectly well in every other browser, or have to take the decision not to use a better solution due to the risk of it breaking. More importantly though, once we get to a stage where IE7, IE8 (and even IE9) and earlier versions of other browsers are obsolete, then we will be looking at a Web where new technologies such as HTML5 and CSS3 can be implemented into every project without the need to be selective about who could be using them, and without the need to provide work-around alternatives and fall-backs. Essentially we’d be looking at a more adaptable, faster and more creative Web.

Microsoft have long been the target of animosity from developers and Internet users over the perceived reluctance to kill off the offending browser, though to be fair to them it is an unfortunate legacy of outdated technology and (mainly) business users clinging on to old systems. This is where more modern browsers have a clear advantage, as they don’t have that same legacy to restrict their development. Microsoft is strongly behind the growing witch hunt of its own product, launching the IE6 Countdown website to help encourage and track the demise of the browser, and even sending a bunch of flowers when Aten Design Group from Denver launched a funeral for IE6 website.

Progress is slow, but at least its gathering pace; finally.

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