It's been roughly eight years since Microsoft released Internet Explorer 6, but in many ways the company is still very much tied to the aging product.
Although Microsoft has released two major versions of Internet Explorer in the past couple of years, for many, the face of Internet Explorer is still IE 6 in all its tabless glory.
In large part, that's because many of Internet Explorer's users are the ones who tend not to change the browser that comes with their operating system--either because that's the type of consumer they are, or because they are working on a work machine in which they are not able to upgrade to a later version of IE or switch to another browser.
Amy Barzdukas, the general manager for Internet Explorer, said in an interview this week that Microsoft's perception is "being built by a browser that was fine technology eight years ago or a decade ago."
But that's frustrating, particularly since Microsoft has invested a fair amount of effort in the last couple of years trying to rebuild IE after letting it languish for several years. Microsoft added things like tabbed browsing and a phishing filter back with Internet Explorer 7, which debuted in October 2006, and earlier this year launched Internet Explorer 8, with anti-malware features as well as a private browsing option and improved standards support.
Even with that work, though, IE 6 remains not only the most widely thought of version of Internet Explorer, but also the most widely used version of the browser, at least by a narrow margin. According to Net Applications, IE 6 accounts for 27 percent of the browser market, compared to 23 percent for IE 7. Microsoft's new IE 8 has more than 12 percent of the market, while Firefox 3.0--the most widely used version of that product--has 16 percent (See chart below).
Overall, Microsoft has been losing ground for several years to Firefox and other browsers. After reaching near ubiquity in the post-Netscape era, IE's global market share is now less than 70 percent. However, Barzdukas is hopeful that the trend is starting to shift with the release of IE 8.
"To the extent that IE was losing share over the winter, any rate of loss has substantially slowed since we came out with IE 8, and in some geographies IE overall has actually gained significant share," Barzdukas said.
One of the biggest things that could help Microsoft, Barzdukas said, is if more people understood that there were better browser options available from Microsoft. She has taken part of that task upon herself, making a pest of herself when she is at friends' houses for dinner--checking to see what version of the browser they are using.
A growing chorus of Internet users have asked Microsoft why, if it really wants people to move to IE 7 or IE 8, it doesn't just end support for IE 6. After all, there have been plenty of calls for the death of IE 6, particularly from Web developers, who are weary of the work required to make their sites work in multiple versions of Internet Explorer, as well as Safari, Firefox, and other browsers. … Read more