Spooked by the use of an Internet Explorer exploit to attack Google and other firms in China, France and Germany are both urging their citizens to stop using Microsoft's Web browser.
This argument is sure to meet friction from Microsoft as it already has from others, including my colleague Tony Bradley. According to the BBC, the attacks on Google only hit computers running Internet Explorer 6. Though newer versions were also vulnerable, Microsoft said the risk is minimal. Still, I think we can all pray together, once again, for the death of IE6.
Rallying cries against the decade-old Web browser hit a fever pitch most recently in the summer of 2009. Weebly chief executive David Rusenko led nearly 40 Web start-ups in a campaign urging their users to switch or upgrade browsers. Around the same time, an "IE6 Must Die" petition on Twitter gathered nearly 10,000 supporters. Notable Web developers publicly aired their grievances.
But here's the thing: upgrading Web browsers often isn't up to the individual user. As Microsoft's Dean Hachamovitch noted on the Internet Explorer blog last summer, "Many PCs don't belong to individual enthusiasts, but to organizations. The people in these organizations responsible for these machines decide what to do with them." Hachamovitch explains that there's a high cost for IT departments to upgrade software, even if it's free, because they must make sure it works with their infrastructure.
That's why the Internet Explorer exploit in China could be a turning point. With entire countries decreeing that Internet Explorer should be abandoned, IT departments are sure to take notice, especially in those countries, but hopefully beyond. I agree with Tony Bradley that an outright ban on Internet Explorer is an overreaction, but maybe, just maybe, this will be the kick in the pants organizations need to upgrade their Web browsers, at least beyond IE6.
IE6 won't disappear anytime soon. Microsoft's Hachamovitch said IE6 will be supported through the support lifespan of Windows XP, which if you count extended support means an end date of April 8, 2014. But that doesn't mean users can't have an early retirement.