Why Internet Explorer 6 should NOT be retired


Updated: April 18, 2011

Recently, Microsoft has launched an Euthanasia campaign for Internet Explorer 6, which they now admit was a big mistake, and they don't like it, amirite, which is exactly what will happen with Vista in a few years. If anything, the campaign's not so subtle message teaches you that you can't really trust software vendors, as they are likely to turn 180 degrees on their mantras, when market conditions shift.

Indeed, Microsoft were the big boys in da hood back in mid 2000s, ruling the Web all mighty and high with their Internet Explorer 6 and no competition. But with an ever-sliding market dominance, Microsoft is relearning the bitter lesson of neglecting technology and standards. Its latest champion, Internet Explorer 9 is the direct product of this long-going public humiliation, and all for the better. But it's no reason to give up on the old and decrepit Internet Explorer 6, and let me tell you why.

Teaser

The problem is with Web developers, not the browser

If Web developers adhered to W3C standards, there would be no need for any retiring any browser. However, in the heyday of the Turdonics era - Y2K bluff AKA Everyone is a Programmer, Frontpage masters wrote websites that looked like a termite hole after a rabid aardvark assault. Money-grabbing companies hurried to adopt these lame and crippled solutions, without caring for simple details like quality, validity and sanity of code, good practices, rules, aesthetics, and the whole bunch of everything else.

Consequently, every site became a mini portal of FAIL, with code written any which way the contemporary master of the Web felt like it. When things heated up, the developers just starting making excuses and using IE6-only clauses in their HTML and CSS.

This made perfect sense to Microsoft, who did not feel compelled to change their technology, as people everywhere were doing their hard work for them, hacking the Internet to work with inferior technology.

Firefox has changed that. Chrome is helping make the change even bigger. Internet is slowly transitioning from a vomit of bad code into something that might be actually usable. People are making the change. Lo and behold, a new browser comes out and all of a sudden, it's ten times more compliant than its predecessor. We're talking about Internet Explorer versions 8 and 9, respectively. And with the HTML5 era dawning, there's more good stuff coming.

Now, if people had written normal code 10 years ago, Microsoft would have been forced to adhere to standards. Even today, you get web designers writing crap code to accommodate their users rather than FORCING their users to stick to superior, compliant browsers.

Think about it. If no one EVER wrote a bit of non-compliant code, no one would ever be using non-compliant browsers. It's the chicken and the egg problem, really. And it's people dictating the technology, not the other way around. Fact.

Take a look at the excuse banner at the campaign page:

Notice

It says saving hours of work for the Web developers. No, no, no, no, no. No one forces those developers to write crappy, non-compliant code. It's their greed and their fault.

You can drop support now for any non-compliant code. Simple. Just aim for 100% compliance with W3C, including HTML, CSS, RSS, Javascript, etc, and the problem is solved.

What does retire mean anyway?

Right, what does it mean? For instance, if someone is using Windows XP and have Internet Explorer 6 installed, since it is the default operating system browser, but they never use it except an occasional Windows update, does that constitute as retired? Or perhaps Microsoft is aiming at killing the binaries, too?

About

Teach everyone a lesson

Internet Explorer 6 should not be retired, because it is a reminder of how business ought not to be done. Microsoft has ignored the world for many years, enjoying its near 100% dominance and now, the maintenance and support costs for the old browser are repaying their evil dividends. It is in Microsoft's best interest to reduce the support base from four major browsers to just three. User experience is secondary, although important, since we're talking the slice of the market share that might go to competitors.

This is a warning for any big company that wants to push their inferior proprietary standards against the world. The same could happen with Microsoft Office, too. Apple and Adobe might get bitten on the hand, as well.

Retiring Internet Explorer 6 before Windows XP

This is a big problem. Officially, Windows XP will be supported until 2014. This means that every component thereof should also be supported till that date. Internet Explorer 6 is an integral, unremovable part of the system, hence it deserve the same support and fixes like everything else in Windows XP.

Then, there's the matter of switching to something else. Microsoft will probably want to see users move to one of their other browsers, meaning versions 7, 8, 9. Ironically, version 9 does not run on Windows XP, which is quite ridiculous, since the major rivals like Firefox and Chrome do, so any sane Windows XP user will go with a non-Microsoft browser.

This leaves the user with versions 7 or 8, both of which are slow. For all its age, Internet Explorer 6 is lighter and faster than its two shoddy successors. It may not have tabs, but at least you don't get the two-second delay in opening one, which is the case with the failing scions.

Then, there's matter of stability. I can give you a personal example. My XP systems have virtually frozen images - small, efficient, compact, bug-free. I do not want to introduce new and unknown ingredients, blowing up the disk with extra data, executables, libraries, and more registry code. And companies and business will have even less incentive to do so than home users.

What Microsoft can do

Since they are politely asking you to help them cut their business contract short, you can ask for a favor in return. Microsoft should be offering 50% discount to any Windows XP users who upgrades their operating system via the Countdown page. They will be moving to newer and more modern versions of their operating system, and consequently, newer browsers, so it's a win-win situation.

Finally, on a funny note

If you open that page with Javascript disabled, it reads 100% IE6 dominance! Yeah!

Countdown, javascript disabled

Zoomed

Conclusion

Death watch, countdown, kill the browser, Internet Explorer 6 must die, call it what you will, this is the perfect lesson in digital humility. A company comes full circle from total arrogance and we-know-it-all to calling one of its best and most successful product a mistake. This means, you can't trust companies and their slogans, you should never get hung up on marketing hypes, and you should always code 100% pure elegance.

You SHOULD be using a good browser. But then, you should have been doing that for years now. There are tons of excellent alternatives to Internet Explorer - and have been around for ages now. This renaissance of cutting down costs is meaningless.

If you're a Windows 7 user, then this does not apply to you anyway. If you're running Windows XP, you should switch to other browsers. Definitely. Now, But the only sensible options are modern browsers that support hardware acceleration. Perversely, Internet Explorer 9 is not among them. Internet Explorer 7 and 8 are a joke. Ipso facto, Microsoft has shot itself in the foot. Your best bet is Firefox or Chrome, then. Let the good ole and unworthy Internet Explorer 6 be.

We'll meet again in 2014.

Cheers.

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