Tuesday, August 9, 2022

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Tech Talk

The Internet Explorer fall-out


After a long, hard-fought battle, one of the world’s worst evils is almost completely eradicated. No, I’m not talking about a heinous disease or tyrannical dictator. This evil is the resilient tech scourge known as Internet Explorer 6 (IE6).

Once upon time, in an age known as 1994, a little company called Netscape changed the way information was consumed with its innovation of Netscape Navigator, the very first Web browser. Within a couple years, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer completely dominated the browser marketplace and held onto the No. 1 spot until only recently. 

During its reign as king of the browser, IE6 was at one time the crown jewel. It was the default browser on Microsoft’s most popular operating system, Windows XP, an OS so popular and stable that users were reluctant to give it up when its successors turned out to be bug-riddled duds. While IE6 was the Cadillac of its day, the Internet changed during XP’s reign with the dawn of interactive content, videos and other Web 2.0 wonders, and IE6 was completely unprepared to deal with them.

Beyond its inability to handle modern content, IE6 was also a magnet for virus attacks. Users unaware of the ability to update to IE7 and IE8 became victims of malicious websites and emails. On top of the user issues, Web developers were forced to program their online content to properly display on an outdated browser.

While only 4 percent of the world’s population still uses IE6, its tie to XP was ultimately the cavity that caused Microsoft’s Web-browser dominance to rot. Savvy users jumped ship for more secure and modern browsers, such as Firefox, Safari and most recently Google Chrome.

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Today Internet Explorer 10 isn’t the world-beater IE6 was, but it is a very powerful and competitive tool. Still, the scars of IE6 remain only as a joke in Web developer circles and an unwarranted caution flag to Web users. Thankfully Microsoft has learned from its past sins and built a very important feature into IE10: auto-update.

I’d like to think as it was being programmed someone was whispering, “Never again.” CV

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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