Google has announced that from March 1, 2010 it will start to phase out support for Internet Explorer 6 in Google Docs and Google Sites. IE 6 users who have visited YouTube (owned by Google) over the last 6-8 months will already have seen notices telling them to switch to a more up to date browser but now that policy to stop supporting the browser is spreading to Google’s other services. Microsoft has said that it will continue to support the browser with updates until 2014 (BBC News Microsoft backs long life for IE6), which hardly encourages organisations to upgrade. Hopefully, Google’s announcement will sound the death knell for this antique.
I am still gobsmacked by the number of organisations that still use IE6. About 20% of the in-house workshops I do have to be run on computers using IE6. Many people highlight local government as the major culprit but there are major international corporations who are still using it. The most common excuse I am given is that in order for them to use bespoke internal databases they have to program an interface between the browser and the databases. Changing the browser means rewriting the code. The scariest set-up I have come across was in an international investment bank whose CIO told me that the easiest way for them to connect a browser to a key database was to make use of a security loophole in IE 6, which means that they can’t install security updates!
You may think that removing IE 6 support from Google Docs and sites won’t affect the general user. Check the results from your Google searches over the next few weeks. I bet there will be formatted files such as PDFs, spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations in the mix. If you want to preview the file before downloading the HTML option is still there for some, but an increasing number are being previewed in Google Docs. And when it comes to accessing web sites it is not just Google services and applications that suffer under IE 6. Forget about fancy Web 2 applications: I am finding in my business information workshops that essential features of many web sites are not displayed in IE 6 .
For the web to move on and integrate new technologies IE6 really must die