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Windows 7: Engineering POV

10 Aug 2009   #1

Engineering POV: IE6

The topic of site support for IE6 has had a lot of discussion on the web recently as a result of a post on the Digg blog. Why would anyone run an eight-year old browser? Should sites continue to support it? What more can anyone do to get IE6 users to upgrade?

For technology enthusiasts, this topic seems simple. Enthusiasts install new (often unfinished or “beta”) software all the time. Scores of posts on this site and others describe specific benefits of upgrading. As a browser supplier, we want people to switch to the latest version of IE for security, performance, interoperability, and more. So, if all of the “individual enthusiasts” want Windows XP machines upgraded from IE6, and the supplier of IE6 wants them upgraded, what’s the issue?

The choice to upgrade software on a PC belongs to the person responsible for the PC.

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. These people are professionally responsible for keeping tens or hundreds or thousands of PCs working on budget. The backdrop might be a factory floor or hospital ward or school lab or government organization, each with its own business applications. For these folks, the cost of the software isn’t just the purchase price, but the cost of deploying, maintaining, and making sure it works with their IT infrastructure. (Look for “nothing is free” here.) They balance their personal enthusiasm for upgrading PCs with their accountability to many other priorities their organizations have. As much as they (or site developers, or Microsoft or anyone else) want them to move to IE8 now, they see the PC software image as one part of a larger IT picture with its own cadence.

Looking back at the post on Digg, it’s not just IT professionals. Some of the ‘regular people’ surveyed there were not interested in upgrading. Seventeen percent of respondents to the Digg IE6 survey indicated that they “don’t feel a need to upgrade.” Separately, a letter to a popular personal technology columnist last week asked if people will somehow be forced to upgrade from their current client software if it already meets their needs.

The engineering point of view on IE6 starts as an operating systems supplier. Dropping support for IE6 is not an option because we committed to supporting the IE included with Windows for the lifespan of the product. We keep our commitments. Many people expect what they originally got with their operating system to keep working whatever release cadence particular subsystems have.

As engineers, we want people to upgrade to the latest version. We make it as easy as possible for them to upgrade. Ultimately, the choice to upgrade belongs to the person responsible for the PC.

We’ve blogged before about keeping users in control of their PCs, usually in the context of respecting user choice of search settings or browser defaults. We’ll continue to strongly encourage Windows users to upgrade to the latest IE. We will also continue to respect their choice, because their browser is their choice.

Dean Hachamovitch


My System SpecsSystem Spec

10 Aug 2009   #2

Engineering POV

To date, this blog has focused on the engineering specifics of what we've done with the IE product. From our point of view, it's been a useful forum both for talking and listening. Looking at the comments, we can understand what makes sense to readers and where we need to be clearer.

At the same time, we've seen many questions about broader topics, like IE6, HTML5 and other standards, or benchmarking. With IE8's release and Windows 7's "sign-off," now is a good time to add another kind of blog post. We want to use these posts to share our Engineering Point of View about broader topics and see feedback on them ahead of the next release.

Why? For many web technology questions, finding many passionate and often contradictory opinions is easy. For example, just on the topic of video codecs within HTML5 (much less the rest of the spec), finding strong language from smart people disagreeing with each other is easy. This blog is from the IE engineering team, and everything we write here continues to be from the “Engineering Point of View.” We simply want to be clearer about what we’re thinking and what we balance as we build and service IE.

Your comments are always welcome. We read all the comments on this blog (and many of the posts and comments on many other blogs). We'll also keep posting and reading comments on specifics, like How to make IE open tabs faster and How to log into two webmail accounts at the same time. Comments about other posts you’d like to see are also always welcome.

Thanks –
Dean Hachamovitch
General Manager

My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Engineering POV

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