It has been nine long years since Microsoft released Internet Explorer 6 (IE6), in Internet time, that may as well have been a century. Despite the fact that IE6 finally seems to be disappearing from our lives slowly, one does have to wonder why it has taken this long to get here, and why is it still not completely gone.
Back in the days of Windows XP, Microsoft bundled its browsers with new versions of the operating system, so IE6 shipped with the system when it was released. By the time Windows Vista came about, Microsoft needed to split its browser off from the operating system due to all of the legal questions, but the release date was still pegged to the Vista release.
Therein was one of the first problems with IE6 hanging on for so long. As is well-known, Vista took far longer to release was originally planned, so it was five long years before Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) hit the Internet. While it could be used on Windows XP with no problem, there was problem number two: getting people to upgrade.
No matter how much you may tell people how wonderful a new version is, all the benefits it may offer, you not only have to get them to actually put out the effort to upgrade, but you also have to get them to continue using the newer version once they have tried it. The majority of people of people in this world don’t like change, and since they felt comfortable with IE6, that’s what they wanted to continue to use.
You also have to remember, your average user has no clue what a “Web browser” is, let alone that there are other options out there. I’ve lost count over the years when I talk to non-technical friends, and I ask them what browser they use, they go, “What?” I ask them how they look at Web pages, and the response is, “Oh, I click on the big ‘E’!”
On the corporate front, many information technology departments had built services and applications around IE6, and upgrading the program would mean tossing that work and starting over. And, to be blunt, it sorta worked, so why should they bother? Do you want to walk around upgrading all those systems, dealing with all those calls from someone in accounting that doesn’t understand some minor change that was made? So what if it didn’t work with all of the latest Web standards? That isn’t their problem.
While IE6 is indeed dying off, it may never completely disappear for a slew of reasons, and I’m afraid it will still haunt Web designers for some time to come. Of course, with the rate companies are cutting off support for the quickly aging browser, it may get to a point where those using it won’t be able to view any content any more.