This is a pretty big deal, and it's a good thing Microsoft has finally decided to execute this move. Older versions of Internet Explorer are not only a security attack vector, they're also a blight for web developers the world over. While technology websites like OSNews can surely shun specifically supporting Internet Explorer 6, more general consumer oriented websites may not.
So, starting January 2012 in Brazil and Australia, Microsoft will start automatically updating Windows Vista and 7 users to Internet Explorer 9, and Windows XP users to Internet Explorer 8. The rest of the world will follow later in the year - in other words, our Brazilian and Australian readers are guinea pigs. In addition, all future updates will happen silently through Windows Update, and major version updates will no longer use separate installers.
"We want to make updating to the best protection possible as fast and simple as we can for Windows customers," writes Microsoft's Ryan Gavin, "IE is how millions of Windows customers connect to the Web, so keeping that part of Windows updated at all times is critical to keeping them safe online. With automatic updates enabled through Windows Update, customers can receive IE9 and future versions of Internet Explorer seamlessly without any 'update fatigue' issues."
Luckily for those of us who don't like automatic updates, you're still free to block the updates if you want to, which is especially useful inside organisations and companies. In addition, if you're ever turned down the IE8/IE9 update, you won't be prompted now. In other words, Microsoft is really taking your personal preference into account.
On the whole though, this is a great move, and luckily, Mozilla is thinking about doing something similar with Firefox. This ensures people are more secure, and it allows web developers to build prettier and more awesome websites since they can more easily focus on the newest technologies.
If Firefox moves to automatic updating as well, this would leave only Opera and Safari as popular browsers without this feature. I'm pretty sure those two won't stay behind for long.