Presenting IE6 with the Lifetime Achievement Award

I want to take you on a journey. A journey to a land that is at once both familiar and strange.

Step into my time machine and let me take you back to the last decade. Sit down and buckle up!

We’re eight months into the new millennium. George W. Bush has recently started his first term of office, Enron has recently been named “America’s Most Innovative Company” by Fortune magazine, the first Lord of the Rings movie is still in production and the most famous wardrobe malfunction since Lady Godiva is still three years away. This is the era of Internet Explorer 6.

I thought it might be amusing to take a look at the web that IE6 was built for, with thanks to the Wayback Archive, Bing and a few other resources.

Here is the news from CNN the week that IE launched:


Yahoo is promoting Free 56K Internet Access:


Wikipedia has reached the giddying heights of 6,000 articles:


Apple have just launched some cool new iMac models and a G4-based workstation:


What about web browsers? Firefox is just some dude’s blog:


OK – so what’s the alternative to Internet Explorer then? Glad you ask – let me introduce you to Netscape 6:


The system requirements for IE6 were pretty demanding: you needed Windows 98 or greater. If you were running a six year old operating system, you had to upgrade first. (Sounds familiar?)

pcmagBut it was worth it – after all, Internet Explorer 6 won PC Magazine’s “editor’s choice” award, with the reviewer praising it for “offer[ing]few quirks and many superb features”.

Back to the present. Times have moved on a long way since IE6 was the belle of the ball. It’s dying quickly – in the US and many developed countries, it has 5% or less market share. Some have already held a funeral for it – we sent flowers, naturally.

We are as keen to see the world move on from IE6 as everyone else: but while it’s not necessarily a popular message to convey, we don’t think it’s up to us – it’s our customers’ choice when they choose to move, even if it makes our lives harder. Over the nine years of IE6’s existence, going back to the days before web standards were as well established as they are now, developers (particularly in enterprise environments) took a dependency on IE6 that takes time to migrate away from. Backwards compatibility and long support lifecycles are a reality for enterprise development, as we all know.

In closing, IE6 is a poor choice of browser for the internet of 2010. But it’s fun to look back at the world it was engineered for, and perhaps it explains a little why IE6 doesn’t support HTML5.

More on the history of Internet Explorer can be found here.

Comments (4)

  1. Rick Barraza says:

    LOL Fantastic post, Tim. Great way to end the week remembering how far everyone has come and looking forward to the next 10 years!

  2. But who knew? Mashable reports on the retirement of this iconic device as Tim presents IE6 with a lifetime

  3. Niall Connaughton says:

    I understand what you mean when you say "We don't think it's up to us", but if MS doesn't at least gently shuffle IE6 towards the door, then that 5% will not shrink very quickly. 5% seems like a small number, but in fact it's often entire industries that are stuck on IE6.

    Banks in the UK are terrified to move past IE6. Many developers over here are left to cry themselves to sleep every day. The only thing that gets banks to move on to the next oldest technology is the end of the support lifecycle for the current one.

    Banks will stay on XP/IE6 as long as MS extends the support lifecycle for it, and not a day less. At that point, they will switch over to whatever the next thing is at the time, which will be a monumental effort because they are migrating from something that is 10+ years old. The cost of the effort will be the justification for staying on the next thing for the next 10-20 years.

    Stability is great and obviously banks are risk averse (well, it's fine to take risks with money, but not computers), but stability to this extent is just a euphamism for stagnation.

    Ironically, I had to open this page in IE6 to write this comment because the comment box expansion doesn't work correctly on Firefox 🙁

  4. Cyril gupta says:

    On one of my websites I have this little script that detects whether the user has IE6, and if he has it, a pop up appears asking him to upgrade to one of the newer browsers cause we can't be compatible with IE6.

    Long live!

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