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Microsoft goes to war on its own product

If you've ever hung out with someone who develops websites for a living, you've probably heard them bitching about Internet Explorer 6. Microsoft's browser was the world's most popular for a very, very long time, and for a range of reasons lots of people around the world are still using it. (Largely it's because it came with Windows XP, which lots of people are still using.)

The problem is that by modern standards, Internet Explorer 6 sucks. Not only does it lack user-friendly tools like tabs; it isn't compatible with a host of new standards in web technology invented since then. The result is that website developers have to do a bunch of crazy stuff to their sites to make them IE6-compatible. Many big sites, including YouTube and Facebook, simply don't bother any more, popping up a little note if you visit with IE6 saying they can't promise the site will look right. There's even a bookmarklet you can install in your modern browser to imitate the effect of using IE6 by making your web page gradually disintegrate (try it, it's fun!).

Geeks have campaigned for years now to try to encourage the until-recently-more-than-half of web users still rocking IE6 to upgrade (the fact that we're now almost on to IE9 shows how far behind IE6 is). But now they've got an unlikely ally: Microsoft themselves.

Yes, like a misbehaving child disowned by its father Internet Explorer 6 has become the target of negative advertising by its own creator. Microsoft has launched a new website, 'IE6 Countdown', dedicated to tracking and gently encouraging the old browser's decline. '10 years ago a browser was born. Its name was Internet Explorer 6. Now that we’re in 2011, in an era of modern web standards, it’s time to say goodbye,' it explains. It even urges developers to add an anti-IE6 banner to their sites - visible, of course, only to IE6 users.

Now, this isn't just Microsoft caring about the future of the web. They know that the kind of people still using IE6 aren't the kind to install Firefox or Chrome, so if they decide to upgrade they'll probably just get the most up-to-date version of Internet Explorer. And as the developer of sites like Hotmail, Microsoft has just as much hassle adjusting to IE6 as everyone else.

Still, it's fun to see a software giant going to war on its own product - a product that once, let's not forget, was so ubiquitous as to get it in trouble with the US competition authorities. So if you're reading this on IE6, why not click over, read a bit, and think about a long-overdue upgrade?

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