I came upon this little gem when I was trawling around for something completely unrelated – as you do. .Net magazine has instigated an online campaign to kill Internet Explorer 6.
I’m always a little wary of online campaigns. Perhaps I’m overly paranoid, but I am inheritently suspicious of any campaign or venture that claims to be beneficial that looks a little too slick and well organised for its’ own good. The campaign website is a custom product with slick, targeted design and content. Then again, you would expect any website directly associated with .net to incorporate a high design element.
I approach IE6 with two different perspectives, and unusually, they nearly cancel each other out.
From my web developer’s perspective, IE6 has always been a complete pain. Its’ complete indifference to standards and the arbritrary way in which it renders HTML/CSS has infuriated and caused significant impact on development schedules. From a purely web perspective and with the benefit of hindsight, IE6 significantly stagnated web development.
From the other perspective, that of the IT Support Guy, it is simply not practical to simply kill off IE6. Firstly, there is still a substantial user base out there. Significant number of businesses still run Windows 2000 on a high proportion of their computers, and their IT departments are unlikely to wish to migrate across to a non-Microsoft browser. This is certainly true at the SME end of the market where computers tend not to be replaced as part of a defined replacement program, but as and when a computer fails beyond economic repair.
Is Microsoft likely to release a version of IE7 for Windows 2000? Not likely. In the eyes of Microsoft, Windows 2000 is a dead operating system. It has been superseded not once, but twice. The only option here is to upgrade or replace any Windows 2000 PC. Not a practical or viable option in the SME arena; a computer works until it drops dead.
One suggestion has been that Windows 2000 users simply migrate to another browser like Mozilla Firefox or Opera. For the casual home user, this is eminently doable, but for business users, things are not so clear cut.
There are some applications that require Internet Explorer to work, or utilise within one of their own components. I know of one Oracle/Java web application that would only work properly in Internet Explorer – kind of curious since it was Java based. There is a high market penetration of web-based applications that exploit the integrated security model within Internet Explorer, Sharepoint being an ideal example of one.
IE6 is also remotely and centrally manageable via Group Policies. In any corporate network, this is a valuable management function and something that it still not available in IE’s competitors. Its’ updates may also be centrally managed (WSUS) and monitored. IE, whatever its’ incarnation and foibles, is an enterprise-level web browser.
Internet Explorer has also moved on. We are now at version 8, which is a marked improvement over IE7 and an almost quantum leap up from IE6. Sadly though for all its’ improvements IE8 maintains the Microsoft tradition of its own unique interpretation of W3C standards.
I am no fan of IE6, and in most circumstances I would like to see it gone but the pragmatist says this is wishful thinking. This campaign, whilst with an admirable intent, will not get rid of it no matter who is involved or how many. There are simply too many economic and operational constraints involved. IE6 will only be dead and forgotten when Windows 2000 is, and given its’ longevity that may be for some time yet.