posted by Thom Holwerda on Thu 13th Aug 2009 22:06 UTC
IconLet's continue the browser talk for a while. Let's move from the pinnacle of browsing, all the way down to the very drainage pit: Internet Explorer 6. To me, Internet Explorer 6 is that annoying zombie that just won't die that chops off 80 of your health in a grueling midnight Left 4 Dead expert session. Microsoft may not say so outright, but they seem to be implying they agree with me.

Internet Explorer 6 made its way onto the internet 8 years ago, with the launch of Windows XP. Microsoft then failed miserably to keep their browser offering up to date, and it took the Mozilla guys to finally push Microsoft to get a move on and start working on IE again, which resulted in Internet Explorer 7 and 8.

Great stuff of course, but the problem now is that people just won't upgrade to the newer versions of Internet Explorer, maybe because they are incapable (they're not computer experts), or they're working in a corporate environment which mandates Internet Explorer 6. Whatever the cause, it means IE6 is still the browser version with the largest marketshare.

You could argue - rightfully so - why Microsoft just doesn't pull the plug on the damn thing? It's 8 years old, the world has moved on, greener pastures are right around the corner. Well, the problem is that Internet Explorer 6 was part of Windows XP, and because of Microsoft's extensive support pledges that come with its software, they are more less forced to support it.

While this may not be of much interest to home users, it's different for corporations. These support pledges are part of the product they bought, and Microsoft can't just cut them off. On top of that, cutting the support will make people consider alternatives - and that's not what Microsoft wants.

"The engineering point of view on IE6 starts as an operating systems supplier. Dropping support for IE6 is not an option because we committed to supporting the IE included with Windows for the lifespan of the product," Internet Explorer chief Dean Hachamovitch said in a blog post, "We keep our commitments. Many people expect what they originally got with their operating system to keep working whatever release cadence particular subsystems have."

He adds that as engineers, they want people to upgrade to the latest version, but that ultimately, the choice of upgrading should be made by the person who is responsible for the PC. It doesn't take a whole lot of reading between-the-lines to realise that Microsoft wants to ditch IE6 just as much as the rest of the world - It's just that they can't.

But Microsoft's problems with Internet Explorer 6 go deeper than that. Because of IE6, the name "Internet Explorer" is forever tainted. No matter how improved IE7 and 8 are, people will always think of IE6, and point and laugh. It might be time for Microsoft to ditch the Internet Explorer brand altogether, and come up with a completely new browser (or at least something rebranded, a-la Bing).

That'll be the day.

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