Still running Internet Explorer 6? Time to upgrade!

October 31st, 2007 by

When I was going through the browser statistics for the visitors on UK2.NET the other day I was amazed by the number of people who are still stuck on Internet Explorer 6.

UK2 Browser Statistics - October 2007

Whether or not this number is so high because people don’t know how to do upgrade or if they are running an illegal version of Windows and therefore can’t upgrade to Internet Explorer 7 is hard to say.

But one thing is for sure – it’s time to upgrade that dusty old browser!

Why should I upgrade my browser?

There are hundreds of reasons why you should consider upgrading from Internet Explorer 6 but instead of going through all of them I’ll try to highlight the major ones:

Added Security

Internet Explorer 6 contains just about as many (security) holes as a Swiss cheese – fortunately most of the new browsers don’t suffer from this. Some of the added security features that come with most of these browsers are:

  • Phishing Protection

    This brilliant feature will warn you if you are about to enter a fradulent website. Read more.

  • Spyware Protection

    Websites can no longer install programs on your computer without your explicit permission. Say farewell to annoying trojans and spyware!

  • Frequently updated

    Most new browers like Mozilla Firefox are automatically updated to counter any security holes that are discovered.

Tabbed browsing

Firefox Browser Tabs
By far one of my favourite features of the new generation of browsers. Instead of having each webpage open in a new browser window cluttering up your task bar you can have all of them located within one window. Sweet!

Custom Add-On’s

In some browsers like Mozilla Firefox you are able to install 3rd party add-ons so you can add additional functionality to your browser. My favourite Add-Ons for Firefox that I use when I’m developing are Firebug, Web Developer and HTML Validator but there are of course many more.

Better HTML and CSS support

The new generation of browsers have added lots of new ways to display websites and add fancy functionality (read: AJAX). This means that your browsing experience could become a whole lot better and at the same time you would make life so much easier for all us developers as it is a lot easier to develop web pages for these browsers πŸ™‚

So, what browsers can I choose from?

As I’m a big Firefox fan I’ve taken the liberty to put Firefox at the top of the list πŸ™‚

There are of course more browsers to choose from, but the browsers listed above are at the time of writing the most popular ones.

A bit of browser history

Back in 2001 a small company in Redmond, USA called Microsoft launched a new version of their popular browser called Internet Explorer 6. This was a welcome upgrade to many as it introduced a plethora of new features and bug fixes.

Unfortunately this also meant the final demise of the only real competitor in the browser market – Netscape. Netscape was quite a dominant browser in the mid 90’s but as Internet Explorer was shipped with Windows (especially 98 / XP) it had a hard time competing with that since most people would think of the internet as “that little blue ‘E’ in the quick launch bar”.

With most of the competition out of the way the further development of Internet Explorer was kept to a minimum. The only real updates that would surface would be fixes for bugs and security holes – which there were quite a few of.

Fortunately other corporations weren’t resting on their laurels and this became clear in November, 2004 when the Mozilla Corporation launched Firefox 1.0. This launch marked the start of a new era in the browser war as Firefox sported excellent features such as Tabbed Browsing, 3rd party Add-On’s, RSS feed support, increased security and better CSS and HTML rendering.

Mozilla slowly, but steadily gained market share as time went by. To begin with it was mostly tech-savvy people working in the IT industry that made the switch from IE6 to Firefox, but after some time its popularity among the general population increased.

This increase in Firefox’s market share made the people in Redmond worry and after a while they finally started the development of Internet Explorer 7. In October 2006 Internet Explorer 7 was launched – taking them no less than 5 years to go from version 6 to version 7.

Hopefully the introduction of the new players in the browser war will keep Microsoft on their toes so it doesn’t take another 5 years until Internet Explorer 8 surfaces.

A final note

If you are with me this far I hope you’ve been convinced to upgrade your browser. No matter which of the next generation browsers you end up going with it can’t be much worse than Internet Explorer 6 so you will be doing yourself a big favor.

As I’m writing this it is not possible to upgrade to IE7 if you are running a non-genuine (read: pirated) version of Windows, and my guess is that this is the primary reason to why IE6 is still so high on the list of browsers today. But as stated above there are several other awesome alternatives to Internet Explorer 7.

Edit: Ap0kalipSe informed me that IE7 has recently been made available for everyone – even those not running a genuine Windows installation.

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16 Comments

Ditlev
# 31st October, 2007

But as you mention….thing is though – I’ve *heard* that you cannot upgrade to IE7 if your Windows license doesn’t check out πŸ™‚

Ap0kalipSe
# 31st October, 2007

Actually, they recently changed it so you don’t need a validated version of Windows to install IE7
( http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2007/10/04/internet-explorer-7-update.aspx ) – I guess they are not happy with other browsers occupying market share πŸ˜‰

I’ve used Ie7 from the early beta’s (some where truely horrible) but on the whole it does the job. Tabbed browsing is great, and the Quick Tabs function is very useful, but not turned on by default I don’t think. There is scant info around on IE8, the ex IE project manager recently had a bit of a go at the IE team for being so quite about the future development.

I know Swiss Cheese has many holes, but I wasn’t aware it had security holes πŸ˜›

Ap0kalipSe
# 31st October, 2007

http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=761 talks about the IE8 silence.

Esben Kvorning
# 31st October, 2007

Ohh, thanks for your input Apokalipse – I didn’t know they had finally decided to let non-valid Windows copies run IE7 – that’s good news πŸ™‚

It did surprise me that they decided to restrict IE7 to genuine Windows only as they didn’t do it with SP2 for XP. I remember the reason for making SP2 available to everyone was that it introduced so many security fixes that even if you were running an illegal version of Windows, Microsoft wanted you to have the added security that SP2 offered.

… and nice catch on the Swiss Cheese hehe

David Precious
# 31st October, 2007

Great post Esben!

My favourite addons for Firefox are Adblock (along with Adblock Filterset.G Updater) to remove pesky adverts from various sites, PasswordMaker to generate secure passwords, NoScript to permit the execution of Javascript from trusted sources only, Permit Cookies to allow cookies from trusted sources only, and FlashBlock to replace Flash objects with an overlay you can click if you wish to load the Flash movie.

All together these add-ons make browsing a much more pleasurable experience!

Tamper Data is also very useful when testing/debugging web stuff.

Al
# 31st October, 2007

Interesting article for sure!

I remember attending a presentation about businesses and operating systems at the beginning of the year and they were still quoting figures of about 45-50% of businesses still running Windows 2000!! For those businesses who are running Win 2000 they cannot upgrade to IE7 and have no choice but to stay with IE6 unless they have a nice policy to allow the use of Firefox πŸ™‚

Esben Kvorning
# 1st November, 2007

@Al

Your comment made me wonder how our visitors OS trends looks like so I checked with our tracking tool which returned this:

Windows XP 77.86%
Windows Vista 8.44%
Macintosh OS X 5.96%
Windows 2000 3.22%
Linux 0.96%
Windows 2003 0.95%
Windows 98 0.89%

I was actually a big fan of Windows 2000 back in the days – took me ages before I made the switch to XP πŸ™‚

Ap0kalipSe
# 1st November, 2007

Dear god there are people with Win98 in the internet still! :O

I’m surprised the Linux percentage is so small, likewise with the Vista figure, not so small but not as big as I thought.. Whilst I expected a fair old chunk to go to XP I thought they’d have more share each.

Andy
# 1st November, 2007

Hey Esben, is this just the front end of the site? Can I take it this doesn’t include the server control panel log-ins/support system – the vast majority of our customer dedicated servers are still Linux and I would’ve thought this would reflect in the stats.

Esben Kvorning
# 1st November, 2007

Yeah Andy, those stats are only from the front end πŸ™‚

Mohammed
# 2nd November, 2007

Dear GOD, people still use LINUX?

* Ducks for cover *

πŸ˜›

Ditlev
# 6th November, 2007

hehe, nice one Mohammed πŸ™‚

Spode
# 22nd November, 2007

As I was reading this, the first thought that popped into my mind, was the number of illegal copies of Windows that can’t upgrade to IE 6. I wasn’t aware this was now possible.

The biggest pain in my eyes with IE, is the sheer lack of conformity! If you’ve ever coded CSS or Javascript and tried to make them cross browser compatible – it’s awful. FireFox does everything as you would imagine, while with IE it’s just work around after work around..

I really hoped they would have sorted this out in IE 7 – especially considering the number of betas. So I’m really not expecting any luck with IE 8…

Chris
# 22nd November, 2007

Recent information would indicate that IE7 is still incredibly buggy in its implementation of CSS – especially the ‘inherit’ attribute of just about all css properties! So your suggestion of an upgrade to Firefox (or another browser) would seem to make sense.

How long will it take MS to really bring out a browser worthy of use?

Paul
# 23rd November, 2007

What cheeses me off are the number of web sites that “demand” the use of IE6 or above and won’t work on any other browser (I use Netscape 8 which seems to have all the most useful features mentioned by others above). Also those sites that assume that viewers have usable broadband. and attempt to download movies and enormous pictures without being asked.

If I were a marketting manager of the companies who’s techies do this I would go bananas because of possible lost sales by potential customers logging off. The internet is meant to inform and not to be a techies ego-trip. What ever happenened to access for all?

Dan
# 25th November, 2007

I think you have missed the role of the “free microsoft frontpage” which deliberately produced code on publication that was designed to be viewed as intended by IE but on discovering a non IE browser implemented different code which introduced page viewing problems.

Thus after publishing in Frontpage if you viewed your published source code it contained scripts on the lines of If “IE then…..if non IE or NS then other……….”

You can view an example of the results of the different code by viewing http://www.oldcolonial.biz/jewellery.htm
In IE the page width is correct but in Firefox it is blown out to the sum of the width of all the thumbnails and check out the source code in the usual way. It was impossible to view this code in frontpage and thus impossible to prevent it at time of publication. (And convoluted enough to make it hard to remove afterwards)

It wasn’t called the “browser wars” for nothing and IE was full of non compliant code that only responded to its own publishers and servers. Thus the free IE and Frontpage were a loss leader to selling their “Server-ware”

So even now Firefox has a choice in either being true to HTML standards or IE7 standards

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