Let the Internet Explorer 6 death watch begin

All praise the great gods of the InterWeb for their divine intervention. March 1, 2010 is Internet Explorer 6's judgment day, when mighty Google and Microsoft looked down from the heavens -- or Mt. Olympus, if you prefer - and cast IE6 into the abyss. Starting today, Google is beginning to phase out support for Internet Explorer 6, while Microsoft presents European Union Windows users with a ballot screen for choosing even the most obscure browser, but not IE6. Microsoft's once mighty browser has fallen -- and not a second soon enough.

IE6's heart turned evil long ago. Microsoft released the browser in 2001 only to later let development languish. Only after Mozilla released Firefox in late 2004 and, around the same time, Google showed that bundled search could make browsers profitable did Microsoft start seriously working on IE7. But by the then, IE6's cold-hearted proprietary standards had polluted the InterWeb with wicked metatags.

During IE6's reign of terror -- before there were real alternative browsers other than Opera -- Website designers paid tribute by using a DOCTYPE (or Document Type Declaration) tag to open browser-specific pages or stylesheets. DOCTYPE was created with other page-rendering purposes, but because of IE6's wicked dictatorship -- ah, proprietary standards -- it came to be mainly used for setting the browser's layout mode, mainly "quirks" or "standards."

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Meanwhile, IE6 amassed a great group of worshipers -- malware writers looking to exploit security vulnerabilities for profit. In the early "noughties," IE6 brandished ActiveX as a great sword and shield, unleashing lightning that promised to spread a great horde of plug-ins across the InterWeb. IE6 blinded enterprise IT managers with great ActiveX promises. By adopting ActiveX, IT managers could automate processes, thus saving time and money. Their promised reward: Heavenly respite from their labors -- the chance to leave the office at 5 p.m. and enjoy a real life, rather than be chained to Web servers demanding manual servitude.

But IE6 betrayed enterprise ActiveX followers by allowing malware worshipers to spread malicious code across the InterWeb and Intranets. The promise of early work days became long hours of work nights trying to repair the damage done by ActiveX and other IE6 security exploits.

Like Zeus, who often couldn't keep his god children in check, Microsoft did little to reign in Internet Explorer 6 for far too long. After all, IE6 was Microsoft's child, as wicked as it had become. Parents love even the wickedest child. Now, with the birth of Internet Explorer 8 and growing InterWeb population demands to oust IE6, Microsoft has finally taken action. But only after the great god Google acted first. Google pledged to smite IE6 before Microsoft, even though their first strikes come the same day.

IE6 will be missed by malware worshipers and enterprise IT managers too dependent on ActiveX controls to easily switch browsers. ActiveX remains in IE7 and IE8, but Microsoft caged the plug-in architecture by changing the default settings. ActiveX is "Prometheus Bound," unless freed by IT managers or end users changing the default settings.

Google and Microsoft may have struck down IE6, but the browser won't easily or suddenly go into the abyss. Too many worshipers remain. According to Net Applications, 19.76 percent of Internet users used IE6 in February -- that's more than IE7 (13.57 percent) but not IE8 (22.52 percent). IE6 usage share was more than Apple Safari, Google Chrome and Opera combined (12.41 percent). Even for the great gods Google and Microsoft -- and the massive powers of monopoly -- IE6 won't easily be vanquished. But at least they're finally trying.

The IE6 death watch is finally underway. The question: How long before the browser is cast down into oblivion? I ask Betanews readers for predictions. How long do you think it will take before IE6 usage reaches zero? When will you and all the InterWeb population be free from IE6's lordship? Please answer in comments.

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