Microsoft has begun a campaign to actively urge users of its 8-year-old Internet Explorer 6 browser to upgrade.
After launching IE 8 in March, Micosoft has concurred with critics that IE 6 is outdated. Many people have dropped the older browser, but the remaining users are often the tough cases--those who don't have a choice because of corporate computing policy or who aren't tech-savvy enough to realize there's a reason to move on.
It's this latter population Microsoft is targeting with a campaign that runs through June 2010 that touts its own IE 8 as a better alternative. The campaign's first visible elements are a video aimed at online holiday shoppers and a Web slice to promote daily deals at eBay. Web slices are basically live bookmarks that can show miniature Web pages in the browser.
"What we're doing with the outreach is help users understand how to protect themselves against social engineering threats that exist and to help people understand how Internet Explorer 8 puts people in control of their own privacy online," said Ryan Servatius, senior product manager for Internet Explorer. Security was one of the big problems with IE 6, and Microsoft now boasts that security features in IE 8 block 2 million malware sites a day.
According to Net Applications' statistics, Internet Explorer 6 is still the most widely used browser, with 23.3 percent share of usage in October, followed by IE 7 at 18.2 percent and IE 8 at 18.1 percent. The newer browsers are gaining on IE 6, but so are rivals including Mozilla's Firefox, Apple's Safari, and Google's Chrome.
Web developers often gripe about having to support IE 6, which doesn't support many modern features for more sophisticated Web sites and even applications. Microsoft acknowledges that it's holding back development of the Internet, too.
"The best thing a user can do to advance the Web is to help move people off IE 6," Servatius said.
Of course, many will upgrade to IE 8 by buying Windows 7. IE 6 was the browser that shipped with Windows XP, which remains entrenched, but there are signs Windows 7 is a more compelling successor than Windows Vista. That could help the corporate customers move away from IE 6, Servatius said.
"As enterprises migrate from whatever operating system they're using today to Windows 7, that's going to help deprecate IE 6," he said. "What we're doing is working both with consumers worldwide and IT professionals to help them understand what the benefits of a modern browser are."