Microsoft launches IE6 deathwatch

Builds site, touts campaign to drive the 10-year-old browser's share under 1%

Microsoft today launched a deathwatch for its 10-year-old Internet Explorer 6 browser, saying it wanted to "see IE6 gone for good."

According to Microsoft, which cited statistics from Web analytics firm Net Applications, IE6 still has a 12% global usage share, with almost half of that in China, long a stronghold of the aged browser.

Microsoft wants to drive IE6's share under 1%.

"We bring you the next step in our mission to see IE6 gone for good," said Roger Capriotti, the head of IE's marketing, in a blog post Friday. "To demonstrate our commitment to getting rid of IE6, we're launching a Web site."

That site, ie6countdown.com, shows Net Applications' usage share numbers for IE6 in 43 countries, including the U.S., China, Japan, Germany and Russia, as well as the browser's current global share.

The site also sports links that corporate IT departments can tap for advice on how to migrate to newer browsers. In developed countries like the U.S., IE6's stronghold is in business, where upgrading can be difficult because of custom Web applications or intranets designed for the old browser.

Microsoft hasn't made a secret of its campaign to kill IE6. As long ago as August 2009, a company executive said, "Friends don't let friends use IE6." The company has had success in driving down IE6 use: In August 2009, IE6's share topped 25%.

Capriotti tied the launch of the IE6 deathwatch site to the first anniversary of an IE6 "funeral" hosted by Denver, Colo.-based Web design firm Aten Design Group. Microsoft's IE6 sent a bouquet of flowers to the event, with a card that read, "Thanks for the good times, IE6."

According to Net Applications, China boasts the dubious distinction of having the highest percentage of users running IE6: 34.5%.

"In China, IE6 remains the dominant browser," said Vince Vizzaccaro, Net Application's vice president of marketing, in an interview Monday.

Other countries with a higher-than-average IE6 share include South Korea (24.8%), India (12.3%) and Taiwan (10.7%). In the U.S., IE6's share is just 2.9%.

Although Microsoft has touted IE8 and the impending IE9 as replacements for IE6 and 2006's IE7, it's not been able to stop users from abandoning its browser line for rivals like Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari.

In the last 12 months, IE has lost 4.8 percentage points, dropping to a 56.8% share. The losses would have been even greater had Net Applications not revised its weighting methodology last month. The one-time accounting change pushed up IE's share by the largest one-month amount since Net Applications starting tracking browser usage.

During the same period, Chrome has gained 5.3 points, while Safari has increased its share by 1.9 percentage points.

If IE6 continues to lose share at the pace it's established over the last year, the browser should fall under the 1% mark in June 2012.

Microsoft has promised to support IE6 until April 2014.

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 gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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