IE8 roll-out will finally kill IE6

IE8 roll-out will finally kill IE6

Summary: Microsoft has announced that from next week, it will begin deploying its Internet Explorer 8 browser to the majority of users via Automatic Update — and there was much rejoicing and a feeling of relief.


Microsoft has announced that from next week, it will begin deploying its Internet Explorer 8 browser to the majority of users via Automatic Update — and there was much rejoicing and a feeling of relief.

The installation of IE8 will be opt-in, with Microsoft releasing a Blocker Toolkit for enterprise administrators wishing to prevent this installation of the new browser. IE8 will hit Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) in July. Users running beta or release candidate version of IE8 should already see the browser in Automatic Updates.

In the blog post making the announcement, it was said that the focus for updating IE would initially be narrow and expand out, eventually getting to WSUS in July.

IE6: it's not dead yet, in fact it wants to go for a walk.
(Credit: Chris Duckett/

Over the next three months, expect to see the steady decline of IE6 accelerate to near total extinction. And as a web developer, I've looked forward to this day for a long, long time.

With IE6 now consigned to history, suddenly HTML, CSS and JavaScript development will get a heck of a lot easier. There will be enclaves of IE6 installations within enterprises, but they can look after themselves.

The rest of us can now drop one level of browser targeting and use our work hours on activities other than making a new site work in an eight-year-old browser that is the bane of our existence.

The long tail of IE
This is the part where I inject real statistics to undermine the joyous glee of the death of IE6.

Unfortunately, Internet Explorer versions have a bad habit of hanging around for far too long than they ought to. Take the graph below which shows the percentage of IE class browsers on since February 2006:

IE browsers: a very long tail indeed.
(Credit: Chris Duckett/

So far it appears that whenever Microsoft releases a new browser, all it does is dilute the pool of Internet Explorers by another version. For an example of how updating a browser should appear like, here is the graph over much the same time period for the Firefox class of browsers:

Firefox browsers: out with the old and in with the new.
(Credit: Chris Duckett/

Straight away it's clear to see Firefox versions 2 and 3 replacing their predecessors over a comparatively better period of time than Internet Explorer does.

I sincerely wish that this time around, Microsoft would properly remove one of the thorns that has been in the web's and web developers' side for years. History is not on my side, but there is no better time to make IE6 a part of it.

Topics: Software Development, Browser


Chris started his journalistic adventure in 2006 as the Editor of Builder AU after originally joining CBS as a programmer. After a Canadian sojourn, he returned in 2011 as the Editor of TechRepublic Australia, and is now the Australian Editor of ZDNet.

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  • IE8 roll-out will finally kill IE6

    There is a good reason for this, generally users who install Firefox, and other browsers do so intentionally, and are more inclined to seek out and install the next version.. Where as there are more people who use IE and don't know what version they use and don't know the difference between Ie6,7,8... This is not a fault of Microsoft, they can't force people to upgrade... However I dare say that Windows 7 will sort a lot fo this problem out as people upgrade/update from XP.. How many ZDNET users still use IE4??
  • Update Model

    It also has to do with the update model, Mozilla chooses to push updates through the browser, so people who use it will be confronted with an update dialog regularly if they press cancel all the time.
    Take on the other hand Microsoft's model by using Automatic Updates, whilst it works very well for the operating system, it does not promote updating the browser.

    Oh, and who cares about IE4???
  • Windows Mobile

    Unfortunately (unless something's changed recently) it seems MS are using IE6's rendering engine as the basis for the next IE mobile version.
  • ie 8 versus firefox

    if microsoft had made internet explorer backward compatible as firefox do everybody would by now be using ie8, you can't expect everyone to be able to buy a new version of windows just to get an improved internet explorer when firefox does it for free
  • Someone tell Financial Institutions, PLEASE ...

    The latest version of software provided to my Credit Union for internet banking (Copyrighted Dec 2008) has been tested on IE5.5 & IE6 and mentions other browsers MAY also work, eg Opera 7.x, (8 years old) Firefox 2.0.
    Do we really think these idiots are going to upgrade their programming to take advantage of IE8's improved, but long way from compliant, handlig of Java, CSS etc?
    No - because while they think IE6 is king, they will continue to support it and write crappy IE6-centric code.

    PLEASE, Microsoft, just kill all support for older versions. Run a public education program equal to the slanging match with Apple. Heck ... if Confiker worm can update its payload and turn on/off certain functions in its code, then surely MS can do likewise and disable IE7 and earlier?
  • Earlier IE incarnations

    It's unlikely M$ will force the issue...WHY?

    Suddenly the stats for IE (& M$) will look very sick. They wont have the largest user base any more.

    It's also time ALL the banks and other diehards, hired programmers who know how to write code for the new browsers. I'm fed up flip flopping from Firefox to IE every time a site fails to render correctly. It's the 21st century for god sakes. Use the standards.

    Will they?

  • Corporate SOE's

    It seems that a lot of corporate Standard Operating Environments (SOE's) still contain IE6. This is probably the reason it has had such a long tail. It takes a lot for SOE administrators to upgrade to new versions of core software - especially when a lot of critical applications are web based these days. A lot of testing needs to take place before an organisation will upgrade.

    I would imagine that the main market for Firefox is the personal market, where upgrades are much easier and more likely - thus the rapid changeover.

    This is not a justification for organisations not staying on current software versions .. just a statement of reality that often IT spending priorities are elsewhere, no matter what Microsoft does.
  • Maybe ...

    My understanding is that IE8 will be both available independently of the OS and for free - basically like all the other browsers. There should be no need for an OS upgrade.
    The BIG question is, will all those people who are just able to turn on their computers, let alone understand how it works, be able to do a browser upgrade to IE8?
    How's this for another reason? All those pirated versions of Windows circulating around the world CAN'T take advantage of M$'s upgrade via monthly patch cycles. Result? A heck of a lot of Windows OS's still running whatever version of IE that came with their pirated copies. (IE6?)
  • IE 8 kill IE 6?....

    My pc at work runs windows 98. I doubt that ie 8 will run on windows 98.
    Yes windows 98 and earlier versions are still out there - running the latest version of ie that they possibly can.
    To get rid of ie 6, you must first get rid of windows 98 and all earlier versions.
  • Wow! Windows 98?!?!

    Interesting post. I haven't seen a running "in the wild" version of Windows 98 for years... and on a work PC no less! I'm guessing the hardware hasn't been updated since it was purchased either. I'd say that there's a very small percentage of users still on Windows 98 and that's a choice they have to live with. You'd have a hard time running any modern software, not just IE8.
  • Not uncommon in University science labs

    I've seen quite a few machines running archaic operating systems in university science labs. Usually because the machines are running specialised and very expensive hardware. The university can't afford to buy hardware compatible with newer machines if the old ones still work, so they are stuck using old operating systems and therefore older web browsers. I know of one machine running Windows 95 and using Netscape Navigator. The machine requires a large number of MCA card slots to control an older X-ray photo-electron spectrometer. The cost of replacing the MCA cards with PCI cards is about $10,000. I suspect there are few companies in a similar position.
  • not just windows 98 you can go back much further

    i managed about a dozen networks as an outsourced admin. and one of my clients has a windows 3.1 machine hooked up to a piece of lab machinery that has a price tag of $500,000, it uses an ISA slot for the interface card and it works just fine, so the company wont update it. now of course this is simply a small minority in this situation, but there will always be a reason, and at the end of the day if they could write a slim very of IE8 that could run in < 10mb of ram, then older users may take it up, additionally, they could always make it backwards compatible or have a compatibility mode similar to XP.
  • Old OS's

    The question is, how many of these legacy systems actually connect to the internet anyway. Does a X-ray photo-electron spectrometer (for example) really need access to the net??

    Also, I am sick of this delusional idea that end users are clueless. I have worked in support for many years and most people care enough to take notice of system messages and the like. I would agree with the article writer. If too many people are still using IE6, there is something wrong with the update process