Google Jan. 29 said it would cease fully supporting Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 and other older Web browsers for its Google Docs and Google Sites applications on March 1.
Google recommends that its Docs and Sites users upgrade to IE 7.0 or higher, Mozilla Firefox 3.0 or higher, Apple Safari 3.0 or higher, or of course Google Chrome 4.0, which the company rolled out Jan. 25 with a host of extensions.
“Many other companies have already stopped supporting older browsers like Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 as well as browsers that are not supported by their own manufacturers,” Google Apps Senior Product Manager Rajen Sheth wrote in a blog post.
Users will still be able to access Docs and Sites through older browsers, including IE 6, Firefox 2.0, Safari 2.0 and Chrome 3, but “newer features may not be available and some features may even stop working.”
Closing the book on IE 6 is an interesting choice at a time when many companies are still stuck using that version of the browser, which Microsoft released in 2001 to accompany its Windows XP operating system.
Many corporate workers-Forrester Research says 78 percent of enterprises-still use IE 6 because their IT shops say they must use so that their applications remain usable.
However, using this dated browser version is unwise due to the glut of security holes in the application. Indeed, it was a flaw in IE 6 that hackers exploited to gain access to access to Gmail accounts in the China hack attack that has disrupted relations between Google and China. Google seized the opportunity to tout Chrome 4.0’s security.
IE 6’s infamy even lives large on Wikipedia:
““This version of Internet Explorer is widely derided for its security issues and lack of support for modern web standards, making frequent appearances in “worst tech products of all time” lists, with some publications labeling it as the “least secure software on the planet.” Campaigns have been established in order to encourage users to upgrade to newer versions of Internet Explorer or switch to different browsers, and some websites have dropped support for IE6 entirely.”“
Add Google to the list of companies campaigning for jettisoning of IE 6, even though it cites application speed, not security, as the main reason.
“The Web continues to evolve at lightning speed, and using an up-to-date browser enables you to use the very latest Web apps,” Sheth wrote.
Of course, there is a strategic element to phasing out support for IE 6. Google stands to gain considerable market share if businesses begin dropping IE 6, paving the way for Chrome. Net Applications has said IE commands 63 percent of the browser market and Google would love to eat into that.