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Microsoft's Old Browser Gets an Irish Funeral


Few tears will be shed when IE6 is put to sleep.


Somewhere beyond the Craigslist classifieds and the Gawker Op-Eds lies the Internet's obituary section. And next week, if one can find it, that section will feature the following entry:

"Internet Explorer Six, resident of the interwebs for over eight years, died the morning of March 1, 2010 in Mountain View, California, as a result of a workplace injury sustained at the headquarters of Google, Inc. Internet Explorer Six, known to friends and family as "IE6," is survived by son Internet Explorer Seven, and grand-daughter Internet Explorer Eight."

Services are being held courtesy of the Denver-based Aten Design Group Inc. -- a web design firm whose members have tired of Microsoft's (MSFT) overused but obsolete dinosaur of a web browser. More of a celebration than a time of mourning, the funeral will take place at Denver's Forest Room where sobs and frowns will unlikely be in abundance.

Prompting this celebratory requiem is news that Google (GOOG) will no longer support the ancient program come March 1. The company's line of web apps, including Google Docs and Google Sites, will require the seventh version of Internet Explorer or higher. But the search giant isn't just singling out Microsoft users: Google will also require Safari (AAPL), Firefox, and its own Chrome users to update to more recent versions.

And in case there were any IE6 users shrugging off the update requests because they don't have a Google account, this should drive the point home: On March 13, YouTube will drop IE6 support. So unless you want footage of ticklish kittens to go black, you better start installing.

For years, web designers have been lamenting the continued resilience of IE6 -- which maintained a 20% market share of all browsers last month. Its outdated methods for handling HTML prevented many designers to upgrade to a cleaner, more modern code -- lest the IE6 holdouts witness a "broken" website and refuse to return.

In an interview with Computerworld, Aten Design's founder Justin Toupin explained the arduous process to keep things compatible with IE6. "It does involve, toward the end of a project especially, considerable work adjusting things like CSS and JavaScript to make sure they work," Toupin said. Having to weigh IE6 support against the time and cost of adjustment, he added that each project must be evaluated case by case.

As such, Toupin and his firm are a mere fraction of designers celebrating the news. In fact, the number of revelers to the March 1 funeral far exceeded expectations and required a venue change from the Aten Design offices to a larger location.

Many consider Google's dropped support as the final nail in an effort to bury IE6. Facebook denied its access a year ago, prompting Digg to follow suit. Microsoft even endorsed the "Kill IE6" campaign but failed to take the necessary steps to effectively phase it out -- much to the detriment of national security.

Earlier this month, a petition was delivered to the UK government to cease IE6 use given its cavernous security holes and overall obsolescence. As expected, it was met with stubborn opposition. In response to the notion that a browser switch might be a prudent idea, Lord West of Spithead confidently stated, "There is no evidence that moving from the latest fully patched versions of Internet Explorer to other browsers will make users more secure."

It's somewhat comforting to hear government officials are just as technologically inept across the pond.

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