I work in the media business and a couple of our publishers and heads of sales keep telling our web development team to make sure our websites support Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) as many of their customers are still using IE6.

Now I don’t know about you but I generally like to keep my browser applications (I use IE, FireFox, Chrome) up-to-date to take advantage of new versions of JAVA and Flash and other web apps that are specifically designed for web browsing.

IE6 was launched in 2003. Today the current version is IE8 and development is underway for IE9. So it begs the question why would people want to stay with IE6? Most enterprises use a 4-5 year window to plan their infrastructure upgrades. Since we are at the beginning of 2010, this implies that enterprises planning for their upgrades this year have computers purchased in 2006-2007, around the period when IE7 was launched. I understand that many SMBs in Asia will likely be using really old PCs, perhaps even as old as early generations of Pentium running on Windows95. These folks would likely use IE5 or IE6 to browse the web.

According to w3counter, as of January 2010, 49.70% of users browsing the web use variants of Internet Explorer. Worldwide IE8 accounts for 23.69% of all browsers surfing the Net. Firefox 3.5 share is 23.30%, IE7 is 15.59% and IE6 is 10.41%. Click here for other stats.

So why am I ranting these numbers? Web giants, Google and youtube announced earlier this year (2010) that they will stop supporting IE6. Youtube will do so in March 13 while Google plans a phased approach to cease supporting IE6 from March 1.

If you use IE6 to watch your favorite videos on youtube, on March 13, you will be presented with a message from youtube asking you to upgrade to either Google Chrome, Opera 10, IE8, Safari 4 or Firefox 3.6.

The campaign to stop supporting IE6 started as early as August 2008 when a band of startups launched the IE6 No More campaign (http://www.ie6nomore.com/).

Why should you leave IE6? IE6 is very outdated and slow. Being an old browser means more hackers know how to bypass IE6 ‘security’ measures to hack into your system and introduce malware to your PC. So why take the risk?

Its been recently revealed that Chinese hackers swiped Google IP via an IE6 vulnerability. However, according to a The Register story, a Google spokesperson said that the changes to Docs, Sites, Calendar, and Gmail were not motivated by the attacks, but is being done to allow Google apps users to use innovative features available on these apps.

Microsoft has a 5-year support policy for most of its software products. According to Microsoft Support, IE6 support will continue be supported as long as the Windows Operating Systems on which it is running remains supported. IE6 came as part of Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows 2000 Service Pack 4,  and Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1. (http://support.microsoft.com/gp/lifean24)

So what does this all mean to you? If you don’t care about the Internet and you use your PC primarily to run your business applications which do not use the Internet other than for email purposes, nothing changes. However, if you use web apps like those provided by Google, you better start thinking about which browser you want to use as your days are numbered.

For those of you who will resist the change, here is a video of why you want to stay on Internet Explorer 6. Enjoy!