God help us: Internet Explorer 6 Lives On

Summary:We all know that Internet Explorer 6 needs to die, but early Web-based applications still rely on it, and now--NO!!!--there's a browser extension that will let you run IE 6 in later versions of Internet Explorer.

Please, please, just let Internet Explorer 6 die. It was an awful browser even in its day, 2001. The only reason it became popular was that Microsoft got away with illegally beating Netscape into the ground. Unfortunately, many corporate developers created crude, IE 6-specific Web applications that we're stuck with to this very day. And, now thanks to Browsium's UniBrows, we may be stuck with for many more years to come.

UniBrows will let users run IE6 within IE8. Yes, that's right; people will be able to keep running IE 6 for years to come.

Shoot me now.

I gave up on IE6 as a set of security holes pretending to be a Web browser back in 2004. Since then, lots of other people have joined me in fleeing from IE6 to other Web browsers such as Firefox, Safari, Opera, and my new favorite, Chrome.

Heck, even Microsoft wants you to stop using IE6. While I think you'd be better off with an open-source Web browser, I also think that moving to any of the later versions of Internet Explorer would be a smart move.

If you're still on XP, and you want to stay true to Microsoft, go with Internet Explorer 8. If you're running Windows 7, you should be looking forward to IE9.

Despite all these alternatives and IE6's security problems, according to site analytics vendor Net Applications, the decrepit Web browser still has almost 15% of the world market. If you look at how individual browsers rank that makes its the world's third most popular Web browser behind IE8, with 29.04% and Firefox 3.6x with 17.63%. What's really amazing though is that Gartner research shows that an amazing 20% of businesses are still stuck on IE6-specific programs.

In other words, it's not idiot end-users running unpatched copies of XP that's keeping IE 6 alive, its businesses. You'd think their IT departments would know better.

So, I guess it should come as no surprise that Browsium has created a browser add-on, UniBrows that will let business users run IE6 inside of IE8 browser. The company claims that this $5 per user per year add-on will provide "full IE6 functionality and behaviors, including ActiveX controls support, rendering, and JavaScript functionality."

At the same time, Browsium asserts that it "Reduces security risk by enabling you to move to a safer, more secure browser." And, its "Opt-in design reduces attack surfaces based on your specific needs."

Excuse me if I don't buy this. You could sandbox IE6 in a virtual machine, which is what Microsoft actually recommends for users who can't give up IE6, but to do that inside IE8? While keeping ActiveX and JavaScript? I can't see it.

Instead of using a kludge to fix IE6's well-known problems-which reminds me: you did know yet another IE-family zero-day vulnerability has been revealed right?--I have a better long-term suggestion. Kill the blasted IE6 specific applications already, re-write them in standard HTML and JavaScript, and move to a Web browser with real security already! Is it really that hard?

Topics: Browser, Microsoft

About

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, aka sjvn, has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was the cutting edge, PC operating system; 300bps was a fast Internet connection; WordStar was the state of the art word processor; and we liked it.His work has been published in everything from highly technical publications... Full Bio

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