Microsoft is doing something very odd indeed: the technology giant is asking you to stop using its products and has even set a deadline.
The product in question is Internet Explorer 6 (IE6), a web browser it released in 2001, when Microsoft was intent on conquering the Internet by making sure websites only looked good and worked well in its own browser. So it did all sorts of weird things with the browser and ignored international standards.
We'll spare you the details, but that strategy failed thanks to a combination of legal action and technology moving on in ways that made Microsoft's tactics irrelevant. IE6 was also laughably insecure, which drove lots of people to alternatives like Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.
But because IE6 was given away free with Windows, hundreds of millions of people ran the software. This meant website publishers had to make lots of odd little tweaks to make sure IE6 would work. Doing so was costly and added unwelcome complexity to the chore of building a website.
Over time, Microsoft upgraded IE. Today it has climbed aboard the same standards bandwagons as other browser-makers.
But web publishers still have to deal with the large population of IE6 users.
Microsoft has now said enough is enough and has created a website, theie6countdown.com, dedicated to reducing IE6 to less than 1 per cent of the world's browser population.
It's not the first time Microsoft has made the plea: I spoke to a Microsoft security manager about two years ago and the company was making the same call back then. At the time it wasn't making a lot of headway, in part because Windows Vista was such a poor product that there was little reason to upgrade Windows and get a new browser into the bargain. Facebook and other modern websites also work badly in IE6 and the Microsofter I spoke to suggested this was a good thing for some people: if Facebook doesn't work, staff won't waste time there!
Microsoft says a better reason to move from IE6 is that "The web has changed significantly over the past 10 years. The browser has evolved to adapt to new web technologies, and the latest versions of Internet Explorer help protect you from new attacks and threats."
Which is true.
But there's also a subtext that says: "If you need a new browser, why not buy a new PC too?" because every new PC means a new sale of Windows for Microsoft.
So if you decide to drop IE6, it's a good move. But don't forget that Firefox and Chrome are also browsers, also standards-compliant and also free.
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