Microsoft to Support IE6 Until 2014

Contributing Editor

The Future With IE6Despite numerous online campaigns calling for the death of IE6, Microsoft has confirmed their commitment to the browser until 8 April 2014. A post on the IEBlog states that upgrades are the responsibility of the user and the company will continue to support the 8 year-old browser:

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. We keep our commitments. Many people expect what they originally got with their operating system to keep working whatever release cadence particular subsystems have.

As engineers, we want people to upgrade to the latest version. We make it as easy as possible for them to upgrade. Ultimately, the choice to upgrade belongs to the person responsible for the PC.

Like it or not, Microsoft is doing the right thing. Windows XP extended support will continue until 2014 and IE6 was the browser supplied with that OS. IE6 support and updates will therefore continue for at least another 5 years. They can not and will not force users to upgrade.

There are two primary reasons why Microsoft had to extend XP support:

  1. Vista was delivered 4 years late and has been slammed by the press and users alike. Many private users and corporations continue to use XP and install the free OS downgrade option on new PCs. Although Vista has improved, there is a general perception that it’s a poor OS and only Windows 7 will offer a viable upgrade path.
  2. The rise of low-specification netbooks. Most of devices would not run Vista effectively so Microsoft offered XP Home as an alternative.

However, the company is committed to promoting IE8. Several of Microsoft’s own web applications, such as the new versions of online Office, do not provide official IE6 support (although they might still work, especially if they are Silverlight-based).

Does Microsoft’s commitment to IE6 matter? Probably not — it’s up to the web community as a whole to encourage browser upgrades.

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  • barrybloye

    Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo! </vader>

  • Anonymous

    First off, I don’t believe this is the right thing to do. Microsoft should have updated their retail/OEM distributions of Windows to feature their most recent browser at the time of the discs pressing. As a web developer, the fact that Microsoft is still going to be supporting the turd that is IE 6 until 2014 makes my head hurt.

    Microsoft can continue to support this POS, but I’m not.

  • http://manwithnoblog.com Gary Barber

    Consider there will be a generation of web designers that have only known the pain of IE6 for most of their career. When you think about that it’s very sad. I can understand MIcrosoft view, but frankly they have made a mistake here.

  • R

    Why doesn’t “supporting it” include “fixing it??

  • http://www.killerinstinct.co.za dele454

    Make sense from a business point of view but in reality is is just one schelp move!!

  • http://www.mean-machine.co.uk dmj1973

    Bit slow with this news there Craig. I posted this in the news forum last week.

    http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showthread.php?t=632424

    Oh well.

    Dave

  • David Smith

    So MS messes up by creating a terrible OS and now we all have to pay because users won’t upgrade to Vista!

    Yet another example (ref: Outlook 2007) of Microsoft being useless….

  • plaiddogdesign

    I disagree Microsoft is doing the right thing. They state they “committed to supporting the IE included with Windows for the lifespan of the product.” But they are supporting it by releasing IE8. Internet Explorer is a product. IE6 is a version. Upgrading to version 8 is free, runs fine on Windows XP, therefore should be considered continued support for IE and IE6 dropped.

  • LazyAndroid

    As much as I hatedislike IE6. Microsoft is doing the right thing. If I where in one of those companies where they JUST bought a very expensive sofwarepackage which happens to only work in IE6 and which get commented a lot on articles on this subject I would want it to work.

    The strange thing is they always say they just recently bought it and it’s new software. Why would any company make new software for an outdated plattforn? Of course I am biased, but it can’t be very good software if it was developed for IE6 and if it’s browser based then the buying company got ripped off anyway, it can’t be that expensive if it is based on a browser.
    I mean, we at our company work with a system that is based on IE. I know it’s because the system’s company is Microsoft Gold Certified partner, not really because of the browser. I can still use firefox, but I get a dumbed down version of the program. Still I can use whatever version of IE and don’t have to limit myself to the old IE6.

  • rozner

    @LazyAndroid
    We put some “new software” into production in January which is built for IE6 and I can guarantee you it’s good software. Besides IE6 is just the front end. Now I’m no fan of IE6. I use Firefox myself, but the reason we built this for IE6 is because is the same reason that most big corporations haven’t upgraded. We have apps as old as IE6 that will stop working if we upgrade. There is talk going on about an upgrade to IE8 (at my company) but I don’t think it will happen any time soon. Anyway I see that as more of reason for Microsoft to keep supporting it as so many large corporations still use IE6.

  • Latino G

    I have to say I’m DELIGHTED that Microsoft will continue to support IE6! I’ve always believed it to be the best browser out there and if I had it my way, we’d only ever develop for this amazing browser! LONG LIVE IE6!

  • http://zly.me 46Bit

    You posted this a bit late, I thought this was common knowledge by now?

  • Bryan

    It makes sense to support it, just as the poster said. It’s the right thing to do for those that don’t want to upgrade it. Frankly, the next iteration of store.microsoft.com will not be supporting IE6 and that launches late October. Microsoft isn’t saying that you still have to write code for that browser, the actual number of users on IE6 is rather small compared to all the other browsers.

    If you are forced to use IE6 in a corporate environment, then the intranet will probably be built towards that anyway.

  • Frustrated Developer

    I’m glad they’re going to support it. I’m not, and any client that asks me to will get laughed at. I know it’s bad for business but I’m too old to beat myself up like that.

  • http://www.dangrossman.info Dan Grossman

    @R: “Fixing” it would break the stuff people are still using IE6 for. If they didn’t need the behavior of IE6, then they would have upgraded to IE7 or IE8. The companies still on IE6 are on IE6 for a reason.

  • Ed G

    If I was forced to use a PC with Microsoft OS I would use Firefox. I can not believe that anyone with one brain cell running would still use IE 6. Thankfully I use only Macs and Safari.

  • Guest

    Like it or not, Microsoft is doing the right thing.

    You are so ignorant…

    DIE Micro$oft!

  • Phil Bogle

    Microsoft’s decision to bundle the browser with the OS is really coming back to bite them.

    If they hadn’t done that, they wouldn’t now be in the position of having to support IE6 for the lifetime of Windows XP.

    And they’d be able to ship the browser faster and compete better, without the heavy tax of OS integration.

    (The legal hassles of the integration don’t even need mentioning.)

  • Justin Marshall

    Microsoft needs to do what AVG did with their version 7 software. Tell the users in advance the product is going to need an upgrade or it will stop working. IE7 and 8 are FREE, and small enough to download in minutes. It is ridiculous the way they are treating this.

  • http://www.dangrossman.info Dan Grossman

    @Ed G: You’re at work. You don’t have administrator-level access to your PC, it’s locked by the IT department against installing new software. It’s for your own benefit, not just to keep the crap off the PC, but because the intranet webapps your company uses to fill out your time sheet, manage customer contact information, and fill new orders was designed for Internet Explorer 6 and doesn’t work in other browsers.

    It really doesn’t matter how many brain cells you have in that situation, you’re using IE6.

  • Ian Symonds

    As much as IE sucks and microsoft sucks you all hate the (MS) world, it’s time to wake up and deal with the realities of client and business requirements.

    IE6 is still here, and it is widley in use by VERY big businesses. I have a client with 10 000 workstations, and they’ve just committed the SOE for another 12 months with IE6. Brain sucking logic to intelligent web developers like you and I, but to coporations where everything is (apparently) working now, the risks of changing are high.

    And yaknow, they’re still my client and I still need to deliver quality stuff to them. For now that means making it work on IE6.

    I try to educate my client that IE6 is slow and buggy, but it’s like trying to shout the tide back. I take every opportunity to educate my client when I can. I’ve taken to adding an IE6 surhcarge to my project quotes. After all it takes more of my time to develop and test for this awkward frustrating platform. This will hit them where they notice much better than words, in the budget.

    I can’t wait to be able to code the one set of layout and business logic, it’s so close I can smell it. I’ve survived the browser wars since IE4 vs Netscape 4. Life is a lot easier now than it was then.

    And then HTML 5 will come and change everything again. At least I hope we can learn from leassons now.

  • Some Random WebDev Company

    Surely if your clients use IE6, you should develop for IE6?

    How is it that our desire for a better web – and don’t get me wrong, I want a better web – but how is that overriding the fact that all the dev companies provide a service to people.

    If the client desires that their site works in IE6, then so be it. If they want their site to ONLY work in LYNX, then so be it.

    I just won’t put the company credit on it ;)

  • markfiend

    the intranet webapps your company uses to fill out your time sheet, manage customer contact information, and fill new orders was designed for Internet Explorer 6 and doesn’t work in other browsers.

    Then the webapps need to be upgraded to a sensible solution that works cross-browser, and preferably cross-platform. (Like every damn web-app out there on the Internet!)

    The company should never have done something so stupid as allowing themselves to get trapped by M$’s vendor lock-in. Expecting us to continue support for IE6 is punishing developers for the stupidity of the pen-pushers.

    Plus ça change…

  • http://www.pixelsandtext.be e-man

    Ultimately, the choice to upgrade belongs to the person responsible for the PC

    IMO this legitimises efforts such as IE6 no more and ie6update.com more than before. If the onus is put on the user to upgrade then the webdesign community is allowed to encourage people to upgrade as well.

  • wigwam_salesman

    While Microsoft may ethically be doing the right thing in terms of supporting the browser the OS came with they are doing nobody any favours, including themselves. XP should ship with the latest browser available (as already mentioned) at the time of pressing the disc. Furthermore, Microsoft insist on us upgrading to SP1 / SP2 / SP967 when they release them due to security risks so it is not unreasonable to expect them to have us upgrade our browsers. IE6 is old technology in a modern internet world and Microsoft are just helping lazy system administrators to do as little work as possible while causing all sorts of headaches for us in the web development community.

  • http://www.dangrossman.info Dan Grossman

    Software development to replace legacy applications costs money.

    Money has to come from somewhere. In a recession when a company’s revenues are declining instead of rising, it’s likely to come from layoffs.

    So you’re essentially saying companies should lay off workers so that they can hire programmers to replace legacy applications, and not because of any business benefit of doing so, but because your convenience as a web designer outside the company is more important than the jobs of those laid off.

  • http://www.besalighting.com The Schaef

    See now the folly and the unintended consequences writ large, when you impose your will upon 90% of the computing industry with your crap software.

  • markfiend

    So you’re essentially saying companies should lay off workers so that they can hire programmers to replace legacy applications, and not because of any business benefit of doing so

    I do see your point, but essentially, these companies should never have tied themselves into IE6-dependent apps in the first place.

    I would have thought that the business benefit of not being in a vendor lock-in situation is obvious.

    your convenience as a web designer outside the company is more important than the jobs of those laid off

    Yes, I can see that my post gives that impression, but no, I don’t actually think that, lol.

    A more balanced view:

    We all find IE6 annoying in its lack of support for proper standards. In an ideal world, from a web-dev point-of-view, it would be preferable to scrap IE6 support; I personally prefer not to support IE6 explicitly in my sites (unless a client actually requests it) — hopefully as users of IE6 find more and more sites that won’t work, more pressure will be brought to bear to upgrade.

    They will have to upgrade (and pay for their software to be upgraded) eventually…

  • James

    I have to agree on that too. IE6 is old ( 8 years ) And i don`t see any advantages in businesses committed to 1 browser. Furthermore, we are talking about web apps. How hard could it be to properly upgrade those apps to IE7? Especially if the program was not written internally. Most businesses always try to make a compliance version available ( not all businesses run IE6-only) so i don`t see any REAL argument to stay with IE6. The upgrade to IE7 is free of charge, it takes a couple of weeks to completely migrate probably, however that shouldn`t be a problem. Whereas IE6 is full of bugs, takes time, is slow, insecure and works half the time, i can only but agree with Mark.

  • http://www.mean-machine.co.uk dmj1973

    [quote]
    Dan Grossman said:-
    @Ed G: You’re at work. You don’t have administrator-level access to your PC, it’s locked by the IT department against installing new software. It’s for your own benefit, not just to keep the crap off the PC, but because the intranet webapps your company uses to fill out your time sheet, manage customer contact information, and fill new orders was designed for Internet Explorer 6 and doesn’t work in other browsers.
    It really doesn’t matter how many brain cells you have in that situation, you’re using IE6.
    [/quote]

    Couldn’t have said it better myself Dan !

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    @wigwam_salesman Says:

    XP should ship with the latest browser available

    It generally does. Sort of. You can’t buy XP any longer (some stores will have it, though). Most people get XP with a PC such as a netbook and you will usually find IE7 or IE8 on there.

    However, Microsoft sold many copies of XP between 2001 and 2007 when IE6 was there only browser. They may never update any of the software and that’s their choice. They bought XP with support and expect that until 2014.

    @James

    The upgrade to IE7 is free of charge, it takes a couple of weeks to completely migrate

    Installing IE7/8 is not necessarily the main problem. Many applications were written between 2001 and 2004-ish, when IE6 was the only mainstream browser. Developers often did not bother adhering to standards and implemented IE6-specific code. It breaks in IE7 or any other browser. Therefore, those applications need to be updated and tested. That task may not be easy or economical (as Dan has pointed out).

    With hindsight, it’s easy to say that apps should never target specific browsers. Unfortunately, we’re not in that situation. Private and corporate users have good commercial reasons to stick with IE6. We can rant all we like, but it won’t make much difference.

    Windows 7 will undoubtedly help, but many corporate users will stick with XP and IE6 for a considerable time.

  • Laughing at you

    I have never seen a forum before that has so many people complaining and generally dissing everything that does not suit them. Seriously grow up and do your job like the other 95% of the industry. Otherwise take your ball and go home and leave the industry so that people working “for” clients can do get it done as per their clients wishes. So what if Microsoft want to support IE6, it is their product they can do what they like. Your developed product is your product, go do with it what you like.

    For those of you that need it the tissues are on the 2nd shelf.

  • Breton

    Craig Butler Wrote:
    “With hindsight, it’s easy to say that apps should never target specific browsers. Unfortunately, we’re not in that situation. Private and corporate users have good commercial reasons to stick with IE6. We can rant all we like, but it won’t make much difference.”

    Rozner wrote:
    “We put some “new software” into production in January which is built for IE6 and I can guarantee you it’s good software. Besides IE6 is just the front end. Now I’m no fan of IE6. I use Firefox myself, but the reason we built this for IE6 is because is the same reason that most big corporations haven’t upgraded. We have apps as old as IE6 that will stop working if we upgrade. There is talk going on about an upgrade to IE8 (at my company) but I don’t think it will happen any time soon. Anyway I see that as more of reason for Microsoft to keep supporting it as so many large corporations still use IE6.”

    Am I the only one that sees the catch 22 here? If we’re saying “We can’t upgrade, all our apps depend on IE6″, and “Why bother writing cross browser apps when they’re all using IE6″, then we, as developers are enforcing this lock in. Of course there’s something we can do. Write cross browser apps. What amazes me is people like Rozner who hate IE6, and yet are now creating NEW apps that depend on its idiosyncracies, and making it harder for corporations to upgrade.

    I’ve been making it a point to call out developers like rozner. I think that such attitudes as he has expressed are both hypocritical and unethical. It tightens IE6′s (and microsoft’s) stranglehold on whatever company you’ve inflicted your crapware on. It will make IE6 linger longer than it has to. And as a consequence, you’ve made life a little bit harder for all of us, and especially whatever poor bastard has to maintain your software next.

    How can you possibly justify what you’ve done? I don’t think the points you put across quite cover the harm it’s done.

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    @Breton
    No one is saying “don’t write cross-browser apps”. You should. Targeting or testing in one browser is dumb.

    However, that’s exactly what was happening a few years ago because there was only one browser. Remember also that standards were evolving (or non-existent) and the web was relatively new as an application platform. We were all inexperienced developers writing non-standard IE6-based apps. No one can change history.

    Updating legacy applications takes time and money. The worst ones will be a mess of mangled HTML, inline scripts and CSS intermingled with classic ASP, PHP3, or Perl code. Complete re-writes may be necessary.

    So, should a company spend thousands on new applications, testing, and upgrading their user’s browsers? Or is it easier and cheaper to keep all their users on IE6 for a few more years?

    The rate of IT progress in the corporate world can be sedate. Most companies care more about their production line and costs than pandering to a handful of whining web developers who want an easier life.

  • ZenPsycho

    You missed my point. Someone in this comments thread has admitted that they have just now created a new application specifically “for ie6″. Not several years ago. Not when he didn’t know anybetter. Now, presumably this year. That’s the real story. People are STILL authoring applications that only work in IE6, and this isn’t a mistake we have collectively learned from and will never repeat, as you seem to claim.

    Yeah nobody said don’t make cross browser apps. I didn’t say anyone did. Read back through my comment. Read Rozner’s comment. How do those developers reconcile their dislike of IE6 with their behavior as professionals? That’s what I want to know.

  • Dean

    IE6 only needs to be supported 24months after the last service pack.

    I don’t see why IE8 can’t be bundled with a Service Pack for XP.

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    @Dean
    You can’t guarantee that someone will update XP (to SP1 or any other pack) – that’s the problem.

  • gszx1337

    Can’t M$ just replace IE6 with IE7 or IE8 (or better yet, Firefox)?

  • Stevie D

    @gszx1337

    Can’t M$ just replace IE6 with IE7 or IE8

    How are they supposed to do that? IE6 wasn’t designed with an automatic upgrade, which means that they have no way of pushing a new version out to people who have IE6 installed. IE7/8 won’t run on anything older than Windows XP, so even if they wanted to, there’s no way people on 95, 98, 2000 or ME could upgrade. And as many companies run applications that will only work on IE6 and not on newer versions.