Microsoft today said its campaign to drive Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) into extinction had done its job in the U.S., where fewer than 1% of users ran the decade-old browser last month.
To celebrate, Microsoft posted a photograph of a cake frosted with the phrase, "Goodbye IE6!"
"IE6 has been the punch line of browser jokes for a while, and we've been as eager as anyone to see it go away," said Roger Capriotti, the head of IE marketing at the Redmond, Wash. developer, in a Tuesday blog.
Citing data from Web measurement company Net Applications, Capriotti said that IE6 usage in the U.S. had dipped below the 1% mark in the U.S., a new low for the browser that debuted in August 2001.
Net Applications said IE6 accounted for just 0.94% of all browsers used in the U.S. in December, 2011.
Microsoft has been trying to put a stake in the heart of IE6 for more than two years, starting in the summer of 2009 when an executive famously said, "Friends don't let friends use IE6."
Last March, the company added to the down-with-IE6 campaign by launching a deathwatch website for the browser.
According to Net Applications, IE6's share on desktop and notebook computers was 7.3% last month, down seven-tenths of a percentage point from the month before and 6.2 points fewer than a year earlier.
Most of the remaining copies of IE6 are run by Chinese users of Windows, said Microsoft. Almost one-in-four Chinese PCs used IE6 to access the Internet in December, while Chinese users accounted for 58% of all copies of IE6 run worldwide that month.
Rival metrics firm StatCounter had a different take on IE6, putting the browser's share at just 1.8% last month.
Net Applications and StatCounter came up with different results because they applied different methodologies to their measurements: Net Applications weights its data by country to more accurately reflect use in countries like China, which produces relatively little data for Western measurements but has a huge pool of PC users. StatCounter does not, resulting in a much lower share for IE6 worldwide.
Experts have linked the higher rate of IE6 use in China to the country's reliance on Windows XP -- which included IE6 -- and its reputation as a haven for software piracy.
The latter, analysts believe, hinder upgrades to newer Microsoft browsers because users are afraid their counterfeits will be sniffed out when they use Windows Update. In fact, that's not the case: Microsoft allows users of counterfeit Windows to install IE7 or IE8, and to receive security patches via Windows Update.
But XP does have a lock on China. In reply to questions today, Net Applications' head of marketing, Vince Vizzaccaro, confirmed that Windows XP is on 70% of China's personal computers, more than twice XP's share of 29.6% in the U.S.
Microsoft has plans to drain the pool of IE6 users even lower.
Three weeks ago, Microsoft announced it would begin to automatically upgrade IE6 and IE7 on Windows XP to IE8 this month in Australia and Brazil, and gradually expand the program in 2012 to other countries.
During the months it beat the "kill IE6" drum, Microsoft has said nothing of IE7's future, perhaps because that 2006 browser currently controls only 4.8% of the browser usage market, far below its peak of 35.9% in January 2009.
Microsoft may have some negotiating to do if it follows the advice of one commenter on Capriotti's blog, and decides to launch an IE7 deathwatch site: A Canadian man identified as Jonathan Reinink registered ie7countdown.com, as well as the ie8countdown.com and ie9countdown.com domains, last March, according to Web records. Reinink grabbed those URLs the same day Microsoft launched ie6countdown.com.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.