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IE6 Development Blog – Microsoft’s Position

My reply to the IE6 Development Blog posting:

17% of the people ‘don’t feel a need to upgrade’ because they don’t understand the issues. They don’t understand how much time developers spend making their sites work with IE6. Sites drop IE6 because it holds them back.

Organizations don’t want to upgrade because they’ve got some legacy code that *only* works on IE6. They haven’t got the time or money to re-engineer their code to work with a modern browser.

Therefore, sites will continue to turn off support for IE6 because it’s too costly to maintain it. Organizations will eventually move their codebase away from IE6.

And you expect people to upgrade? Microsoft placed organizations and web developers between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Why on Earth would we upgrade and risk being placed in this position again? I’d rather place my trust and that of my organization somewhere else whether that’s Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

Supporting IE6 to 2014 doesn’t help to educate users about the issues or why they should move on. You have a better product, IE8, make them upgrade – it’s not like the XP to Vista debacle. Are you telling me you’ll support XP for the next ten years because we ‘don’t feel a need to upgrade’? Not bloody likely.

Microsoft says it will support Internet Explorer 6 until 2014 and supports users that “don’t feel the need to upgrade”. Two years ago, Microsoft said it was going to drop support for Windows XP so that we were all forced to upgrade to Vista. When people started complaining and businesses started avoiding Vista, Microsoft relented and extended the support for XP. They knew that people saw Vista as a step backwards. Corporate customers also knew that upgrading Office 2003 to 2007 was going to be expensive and avoided it.

How many large organizations still use Office 2003 on Windows XP? A significant number.

We didn’t want to move from XP to Vista because it was buggy, required new hardware and changed the whole OS experience which means high costs for the implementation. So enterprises skipped it. Microsoft’s bottom line felt it and did something about it. They extended XP support and pushed the released of Windows 7.

It now seems that Windows 7 is a viable replacement for XP and most enterprises are probably planning upgrades from XP to Windows 7, skipping Vista entirely and also looking at an Office upgrade. Microsoft will also push everybody into doing it by dropping support for XP and not releasing any more patches.

So why don’t they do this with Internet Explorer 6? They have a new product that’s actually pretty good, it’s similar to Opera, Firefox, Safari and Chrome. It represents few problems for developers and isn’t an issue.

IE6 was released just a few months before XP (August 2001 vs October 2001). IE7 was released five years later (October 2006) and quickly followed by IE8 (March 2009). Why didn’t Microsoft release an update for five years? It didn’t have to. For this 5 year period, IE was used by 85% or more of the browsers around the world. They only released IE7 because their market share waned and has been in free-fall ever since.

Microsoft don’t want people to move from IE6 because they know that they may move from Microsoft altogether. The Internet and web technologies are becoming the key technology within any corporation. We are moving from the desktop OS to a browser-based experience and IE tools are not there yet. They didn’t expect the world to go this way and they were caught on the hop. They’ve been talking about an online version of Office for a while but it’s not there, they’re already playing catch-up to Google or Zoho. It took Microsoft long enough to update the Hotmail interface.

Microsoft didn’t want browser-based products to succeed, it undermined their desktop world and sales of Office. For the past few years they’ve been trying to catch-up and realized that only by using IE8 can you deliver online services.

Microsoft could tell you to upgrade from IE6 and force your hand but it would just be another slap in the face to all of those organizations that trusted Microsoft so they’re staying quiet and will push you to upgrade your OS instead. That battle isn’t as bad for their image.

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