back to article Ex-Microsofties' IE6 kill squad hits UK

A team of ex-Microsoft staffers have set up shop in Blighty to finally wean British netizens off IE6. Browsium has arrived after just a year of doing business in the US. It is making and selling a plug-in for IE8 and 9 called UniBrows, which runs your legacy IE6 apps while letting you ditch IE6. The idea is that UniBrows lets …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Some people might say that anyone using IE6 was still in the stone age. Anyone using MS *anything* might as well be in the stone age. Actually no, scratch that - in the stone age, tools were not prone to being hacked...

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


      "in the stone age, tools were not prone to being hacked"

      they were easy to chip though

  2. Greg J Preece

    Shurely shome mishtake

    "Redmond hates IE6 so much, it has launched a global campaign to encourage downloads of IE9 to push IE6 use down to less than 1 per cent of worldwide market share."

    If you're on an early enough system to be using IE6, you can't get IE9 anyway...

    1. MJI Silver badge

      So use Firefox

      This is what we used to do when we had to keep IE6 for our email software (since upgraded)

    2. Valerion


      I was about to say this. IE9 will not run on XP, and Vista shipped with IE7.

  3. TonyHoyle

    So.. you can keep running IE6, and pay $5 per user, and.. keep running IE6 (because if you're tied to apps that were written years ago and are ie6 specific, rewriting them probably isn't going to happen at this stage).

    I bet a lot of the Ie6 usage in this country is government - and they're mostly running ancient PCs that couldn't run windows 7 either, so no point in upgrading.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ...and banks

      There's no chance of our bank moving away from XP and IE6 any time in the near future (2013 at the absolute earliest, if we start to plan for it now). Which we won't, because we're cost cutting like crazy, and a migration to new platforms, new hardware, and re-jigging all our systems to ensure they work is just far too expensive.

      Admittedly, this UniBrow thing would be cheaper, but even cheaper still is just to keep things how they are. After all, our traders are bound to hit the big time and bringing the big money deals, and with them the big bonuses, sometime soon, right? so lets wait until then before green-lighting any project that isn't directly profit related.

  4. hplasm Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    For unibrows- who run IE6...

    (and PHBs)

  5. Neill Mitchell

    Bloody IE7 whilst their at it.

    The NHS hospital on the Isle of Wight has just done a massive program to upgrade the browser on all machines from IE6 to (drum roll) IE7. Makes you weep how clueless public sector departments are.

    IE7 is in some ways worse than 6. Kill it off now and make all our lives easier! Having to put loads of tweaks and hacks into the CSS to get sites working with these ancient browsers is an utter nightmare.

    BTW, according to the usage percentages are higher. Over 9% for IE6 and 6.25% for IE7. That's a lot of people who you simply can't write off.

  6. Jess

    There are two other options to do a similar thing.

    IE Tab for firefox. Which means you don't have to run IE at all except for sites that need it.

    Chromeframe, which works the other way around. (Certainly worth putting the line in the HTML header to use this, when it's installed.)

    They are both free, and not used that much as far as I can see.

  7. Lee Dowling Silver badge

    XP / IE

    Not surprised at all about the XP statistic - there just isn't good reason to move for many, and many reasons NOT to move for most - but the fact that people still rely on IE working for their business to survive is scary. It was when those programs were written, and it's even more so today.

    By all means kill off IE. Anyone stupid enough to still be using that heap of junk, especially for anything business-critical, gets everything they deserve. I believe it's *technically* still on machines that I manage but only because its a pain to remove all traces of it and still be stable. I haven't used it for browsing on any machine for, what, a decade? It certainly doesn't get on the net where I am.

    But if you try to kill off XP you will hit more barriers than you expect, especially at a time when IT budgets are falling and XP "has always worked".

    1. Ragarath

      XP "has always worked"

      Initially it didn't. But eventually it became very stable and very well loved.

  8. AndrueC Silver badge

    I won't move to IE9 until/unless they pixel sub-addressing becomes optional.

    1. Fuzz

      the early problems with pixel sub-addressing seem fixed. To me it looks loads better, I have it turned on in both IE9 (when I use it) and Firefox.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        I just installed it on a VM and although it's not as bad as I remember it's still blurring the text. This is what I don't understand. I grew up with CRTs and at the time people used to be desperate to get a small enough dot pitch to produce clean and crisp text. Now we finally have LCDs people are using technology that blurs the pixels.

        If that's their choice then fair enough but unfortunately I'm one of a number of people who start to feel physically sick with ClearType. It'll be interesting to see if I can tolerate grey-scale SPA but I have my doubts. Something about my eyes/brain just can't handle the concept.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Secure environments

    are universally rife with XP.

    That shit really needs to go, but sadly browser lock-in is not the problem. It's the civil service being at least ten years behind everyone as usual.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      It's not the civil service being at least ten years behind

      its the consultants and suppliers they have had to get in over the last twenty years to advise them.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        @Tom 7

        Too damned right.

        Fairly recently here, in the comments section attached to an article on migrating to Se7en, some commentard chipped in with one of the most priceless comments of all time.

        Their long gestating upgrade from XP project run by ${big_consultancy} had finally turned in its recommendation for the next strategic platform...........32 bit...........Vista!

        Next week's white paper: "Glaciation and Continental Drift, the immediate threats to the IT change process.". A study by EDS, Capita, Accenture, etc ad nauseum.....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      From my experience, providing web based applications for local government, it is not that the application is written for IE6 - indeed we keep being asked to add web 2.0 prettiness and jquery this and Ajax that - then we get loads of support calls / complaints, 'cos all the users are running IE6 which can't cope with the pretty bits, so we have to spend ridiculous amounts of developer time to provide kludgie work-arounds so the sites look and work ok.

      If we mention "upgrading" the local government IT managers have a seizure...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        And from the perspective of one of those local government IT managers the reason we have a seizure is because *every other* badly written web application requires IE6 or it won't work. No, we can't upgrade every browser to the latest and greatest version, because then the clinical staff can't do things like get their x-rays etc. This presents "clinical risk", which means we can't do it. Killing people by stopping mission critical apps from working is not considered to be an appropriate way to persuade users to fund upgrades by most operations professionals.

        Yes, we appreciate one of the IE6 app's being killed off. No, until or unless your willing to slay *every other* IE6 app we can't upgrade every desktop to any other browser.

        1. johnny19

          Install Chromeframe!!

          In fact isn't this product basically the same as Google tried to do with Chromeframe, only Microsoft slammed them for it?

        2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          @AC 19:15 GMT

          "unless your willing to slay *every other* IE6 app we can't upgrade every desktop to any other browser."

          Can't you provide a standard environment with *two* browsers?

          IE6 for the crapppy written stuff.

          Something else for everything else?

          Maybe even a software firewall so IE6 can only connect to local IP addresses to improve security if anything can reach outside. Though given its lubed-up nature in Windows that may be difficult...

          1. Goat Jam

            Standard Environment with 2 browsers

            Most IT departments refuse to do that because it offends their inner BOFH.

            IE is the only browser (that I am aware of) that is tied into Active Directory and hence subject to all the user lock down functionality that AD provides.

            Put Firefox, Chrome or Opera out there in the hands of the great unwashed and you are forced to rely solely on filtering users at a proxy and lose all the ability to apply "security" policies to users and groups on your network.

            Before you know it they would be installing FF plugins all over the place to do all sorts of unapproved stuff.

      2. Eeep !

        Supporting IE6 can be a big advantage in other sectors/industries - so much so that actually testing and fixing in IE6 before release is worthwhile.

  10. jake Silver badge

    During the meanwhile ...

    The sane amongst us ditched IE entirely a decade and a half ago ...

    1. BlueGreen

      Not the point

      It's mainly organisations not users who keep it. We're currently dealing with ie6 compat issues for one large company, and it won't be the last.

      1. Joefish
        Thumb Down

        The same organisations who made all their developers redundant

        the second they finished programming, and 'outsourced' the support abroad ten years ago.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So what they are saying is

    We need to spend money in order to move away from a browser that works with our line of business applications to a newer browser that has been backwardly buggered to emulate the browser we have that we know works, so that we can then spend more money (and disruption) in upgrading to newer versions of windows?

    I am sure there is some logic in there someplace.

    1. Anonymous Cowerd

      not to mention

      that we would need to upgrade our desktop hardware (c.7000 PCs) if we upgrade to a later version of Windows

  12. HMB

    The Right Way

    I'm impressed, this is the right way to do it.

    What a shame Microsoft (as opposed to 3rd party) didn't include this sort of functionality as a default part of Windows 7. It might have increased commercial uptake of their product.

    1. Steve Knox

      The Right Way?

      So the "right way" is to have everyone download still-insecure code to their desktops, and use it to process still-non-standard web apps? Just keep applying kludges to kludges and never actually fix the underlying problem?

      UniBrowse - a layer which sits atop your IEs and makes you look and act like a throwback.

      I was HOPING they'd brought consulting services to actually FIX the underlying issues, but instead it's just more lipstick for the pig.

      1. Jess--

        don't forget that when these apps were written ie6 was STANDARD.

        if you were writing software for use within a company you wrote it for what you could be certain was on every single machine that would need to access it, with 95% of users on the net as a whole using ie6 and nearer 99% within companies it made more sense to write for ie6 than for any other browser.

        also remember that adding workarounds for other browsers that didn't support ie6's way of doing things took extra time (and therefore added costs) so it simply wasn't done.

        now 10 years later we have the situation that ie6 is still firmly entrenched in businesses because standards have changed and newer browsers dont work in the same way, companies have a few options.

        1. continue to run XP on newer hardware and use ie6 for internal systems with $browser_of_choice for external browsing

        2. upgrade beyond XP and get all of the apps modified to support newer browsers (with the extra costs that entails)

        3. upgrade beyond XP and find some way of running ie6 where needed for internal work until the apps that need it are retired.

        I can see a lot of companies going with option 3 since most of the apps that need ie6 will themselves be coming up to 10 years old and are probably showing their age and are also likely due to be replaced anyway.

        1. Steve Knox

          Yeah but no but yeah but..

          "don't forget that when these apps were written ie6 was STANDARD."

          Except it wasn't. There were established standards and ie6 was deliberately written to be incompatible with them. (Earlier versions were, to give MS the benefit of the doubt, accidentally incompatible with the HTML and CSS standards, but MS made the conscious decision to make IE6 default to IE5 compatibility, rather than standards compatibility.)

          "now 10 years later we have the situation that ie6 is still firmly entrenched in businesses because standards have changed and newer browsers dont work in the same way, companies have a few options."

          Correction: standards have, for the most part, NOT changed. Microsoft has (to some degree) given up on trying to change them to their (non-standard) way. This isn't entirely one-sided, however. Some good standards changes were actually begun by Microsoft (XMLHTTPRequest, for example).

          As for the options companies have, you've missed one:

          4. Investigate whether the app is ACTUALLY incompatible with IE7/8/9 -- I've seen quite a few cases where companies read "IE6" in the system requirements line and gave up without even trying.

          In most cases, one could write to the standard and not really fall foul of any IE6/standard problems. It was only when writing (then edgy) CSS styles or (then bleeding-edge) AJAX applications or (sadly all-too-common) crappy browser sniffers that would break even when minor versions of IE were changed that problems arose.

          But developers being what they are, they wrote to the bleeding edge, and now we're suffering the bloody consequences.

          1. Jess--

            I was assuming option 4 had already been tried and the app was not compatible (since if it was ie would have probably already been upgraded beyond 6)

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Fair play to them for identifying the need and providing a reasonably cheap interim solution. $ 5 per seat is probably a lot cheaper than buying new licences from Oracle, SAP and the rest who wrote these fucking awful "intranet applications".

  13. kevin biswas
    Paris Hilton

    Two-thirds of business PCs still run Windows XP.

    Microsoft's chief operating officer Kevin Turner called Windows XP and IE6 "dead".

    Hmmm. I am getting a mixed picture here.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Kevin Biswas

      No mixed picture at all:

      two thirds of businesses have not paid any extra money to MS to upgrade their XP desktops to Vista / Windows 7.

      MS COO called XP & IE6 "Not making us any more cash - for fuck's sake people give us your fucking money by upgrading an OS you already have to an OS you don't need"

    2. El Andy

      @kevin biswas

      IE 6 and XP are dead, but the same old customers who clung tightly to their aging NT4 infrastructures are repeating the same mistake with XP. And just like back then it'll probably take numerous large scale security vulnerabilites leaving their network wide open and critical applications like Office moving on too far for them to ignore before they'll try and dig themselves out of it. Which inevitably ends up costing far more in the long run.

  14. big_D Silver badge


    It would be more sensible to tackle this problem from the opposite direction and put an extra layer on the server, which takes the broken HTML generated for IE6 and reformats it in HTML 5, then the company can upgrade to whatever platform and whatever browser they want... :-S

    1. dogged

      That won't help

      It's not kludgy HTML that's the problem, it's ActiveX applications.

      And don't call me Shirley.

  15. Antony Riley
    Thumb Up

    Write crap software, give it away "free", then charge for cleaning up the mess later, sounds like win-win.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Siebel CRM

    Insert dot-bomb era flashback here.

    And for the article, insert Microsoft upgrade treadmill observation here.

  17. Absent

    Egg Banking

    If you try to log on to Egg Money Manager using Chrome, the site tells you that you should download IE6 for improved security.

  18. Lloyd


    We have clients who have it written into their contracts that we have to support IE6 until 2016, we've just left them on a 3 year old site, migrated everyone else off onto a new site and will only develop the new site.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    always happens

    A horrible thought occurred to me. I think there's still tons of COBOL code written in the 1970s running in big companies.

    If you know all the IE6 quirks and can stomach it, you could probably get paid doing maintenance programming, upgrades, and such, for IE6-only websites for a long, long time. Kind of like the current greybeard mainframe programmers... "Say hello to 2038, IE6. Hope you are not experiencing any integer overflows, our CRM use depends on you keeping on running on this VM running in compatibility mode to run this plugin to run you".

    I do wonder which is a more developer-hostile environment? 1970s-era programming languages, operating systems, and applications, or IE6?

  20. nematoad Silver badge


    "Microsoft delivered IE6 a decade ago and despite three successors, it remains firmly entrenched because so many businesses-critical apps in the public and private sector – things like Siebel CRM – were hardwired for the browser at the time."

    Now that's what I call lock-in. Shame that MS is not actually benefitting from it though. Hah!

  21. Mike Flex

    "It is making and selling a plug-in for IE8 and 9 called UniBrows, which runs your legacy IE6 apps while letting you ditch IE6."

    What a lot of effort. Running IE6 for the IE6-specific apps and FF for everything else worked for me.

  22. J.G.Harston Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Public Sector purchasing strategy is "we've bought it, we'll keep using it until it absolutely utterly falls to pieces". Public Sector don't have oodles of cash to throw away every year at the whims of software companies. If a bit of gaffer tape keeps it going, it's going to keep going.

  23. Jamie Kitson


    Can't you just use the compatibility mode and dev tools to do this in any newer IE version?

  24. DJV Silver badge


    Do the sweet natured and loving siblings, the Gallager brothers know about this?

    Mine's the one with a wonderwall in the pocket...

  25. Anonymous Coward


    My monobrow isn't working.

    Tru dat

  26. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    There's more to worry about....

    I signed up at a Three store less than a year ago. The PCs in the shop were running Win2K.

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      Warships run on W2K as well

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      @There's more to worry about....

      I still use w2k for some things because it works well enough and I don't want to pay for changes that bring no direct improvement to me.

      Of course, it runs in a VM now so I don't need to worry about hardware drivers, nor do I use it for email/web browsing/etc so security is much of a headache than when it was new & supported...

      Tux, my friend.

  27. OhFFS


    A workaround for those old corporate apps written in IE6 JScript (as opposed to JavaScript).

    Embrace and extend wasn't such a smart strategy for MS after all.

  28. Christian Berger

    Use Virtualisation and move on

    Put your old Windows and IE6 into a virtualised machine and move on. There's little need to run legacy systems natively.

    1. N2 Silver badge


      When youve got it all locked down and working how you want it, turn off automatic crap dates to prevent external sabotage from MS

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      @Christian Berger

      Now *this* sounds like a plan.

      Keep the nasty stupid stuff (probably with a bunch of ActiveX DLLs involved) in their box and move everything else on.

  29. Christian Berger

    Why move away from W2k?

    I can seriously understanding businesses sticking with W2k. From the users point of view it was the high-point of functionality. For example if you want more fileserver licenses, you could just tell the system you bought n... and it would just believe you.

    W2k also had network functionality, like being able to join Windows domains, or providing a primitive telnet server. In fact the larger versions even had a working RDP server.

    XP has very little advantages over W2k. It requires activation, it removes vital networking features and it needs more resources. Same goes for Vista and 7.

    The only problem is that W2k won't get any bugfixes any more, but well companies typically don't care about security. If they would, they wouldn't run Windows.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Which tree have you just fallen out of?!

      My company very much cares about security and it's nothing more than a typical financial trading house with around 1,000 bums on seats. We get the updates of the Windows support mob as often as required and they are about to start user testing Win7 on the desktop as WinXP now has to go.

      "If they would, they wouldn't run Windows.", sorry?!

      I use OSX home and Linux/Solaris at work, so I personally avoid Windows but I am not so far up my own fundament to even contemplate suggesting that a typical company like run anything other than Windows. Sorry but fact of life, the business world runs on Windows front-ends, quite a lot of backends too when they are not on *nix platforms.

      No you shouldn't upgrade for the sake of it but sometimes moving forward carefully is not the end of the world and there are benefits. If we all had that attitude we'd still be up trees picking nits of each other and eating them! Another fact of life, systems need to be kept upgraded to most often ensure support contracts are maintained. You go to MS right now and say something in W2K is not working properly and they will most likely say, "Well tough luck I'm afraid. Check the MS support forums else you will have upgrade, sorry!".

    2. Hans 1 Silver badge

      Re: Why move away from W2k?

      W2k was the first and last good OS that came out of Redmond. Especially because you would use *nux file, print and DNS servers instead of cheating on the licenses.

      It is true that the move from w2k to wxp was proof of deep stupidity. Apart from USB2, XP had absolutely NO advantage over 2k, only disadvantages - just plain proof that WIndows admin = cretin! USB2 has absolutely nothing to do on a work desktop ...

      I have yet to come across a Windows Admin with any sense whatsoever, counting out *nix admins with too small balls to convince management and forced to administer wincrap.

      Once you take the *nix pill, you are outside the matrix ... free as a bird. I understand, though, that for n00bs, it's scary to leave the matrix.

      1. James O'Shea

        yeah, right.

        "USB2 has absolutely nothing to do on a work desktop ...

        Looks at external drive. Looks at thumb drive. Imagines what would happen if they were connected by USB 1.1. Looks at post obviously made by complete cretin. Sighs.

        "Once you take the *nix pill, you are outside the matrix ... free as a bird. I understand, though, that for n00bs, it's scary to leave the matrix."

        Ah. So Mac OS X is outside the matrix and free as a bird, eh? Nice to know. You _do_ know that OS X is a 'NIX, don't you? It uses the Mach kernel, and is based on FreeBSD and NetBSD. However, 'free' is one thing that it ain't. Looks at post, now conclusively shown to have been made by complete cretin.

  30. JDX Gold badge

    Not a bad idea...

    Telling giant companies "just upgrade" is a huge ask for the obvious reasons already mentioned. But having them stick with IE6 for existing apps means new apps will likely also require or be limited to what IE6 offers.

    This kind of solution (also the Chrome/FF tools) lets you develop new apps for modern environments and upgrade old ones as convenient, rather than being an all-or-nothing decision.

    You'd think the company would market to China though.

  31. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    It looks like the issue is how to pressure *developers* to drop this

    My gut tells me a bunch of this is to do with specialist apps (Siebel and some kind of X ray viewer for hospitals have been mentioned so far but I'll bet there are a lot more).

    Until they *all* change (IE all that are used by a particular environment EG NHS, local govt, etc) the *cheapest* option is to not move.

    Customers *let* themselves be f**ked back then. They should know better now. At least put contract requirements in to say the supplier has to compatibility test for later versions of Windows. Better yet *insist* on open standards. WTF are things *not* browser neutral these days?

    That's what you get when you've got 1 supplier who can supply an app to do this.

    You think you own the supplier. The reality they own you.

  32. CyberCod

    MS - "We have to make sure your old system is completely broken, so you'll have no choice but to migrate to the new crap we give you."

    Translation - When you're ready to migrate, migrate to linux. These guys are asshats.

  33. Mr Larrington
    Thumb Down

    Is there a browser out there that ISN'T completely shit? IE6 was teh suxx0r in many respects, IE8 has two speeds (dead slow and completely wedged) and FF6 is even more reluctant to wake up in the morning than I am.

    Also the GUI for Win7 sucks donkey balls.

  34. MayContainNuts


    IE6? I'd be more worried at the fact that there's at least one major UK financial organisation I'm aware of that is still running on IE5.5, as they can't be bothered to upgrade to IE6!

  35. Hans 1 Silver badge

    A title is optional

    MS created a browser with broken proprietary features, got everybody to write software for it, and the worst is, most companies did and have been stuck for a decade. Why anyone would want to make business with a company like that again, I don't know ... masochist n00bs!

    Here comes the guy who is co-responsible for the mess and tells you he will gladly tie you in for another decade ... bet most companies will open their arms and let the fellow in ...

    He who has not switched to Linux by now is an idiot and should leave the profession immediately, no "ifs", "buts" or "maybes" ... Do your job correctly ... I keep hearing mere idiots bringing invalid arguments like .... eehhh we have 6000 desks to migrate blahblahblah ... The transition MS Office 2003 to OpenOffice or whatever is WAY cheaper than the transition MS O 2003 to 2007 or 2010, same goes for Windows ... XP to Vista or 7 is just as hard as XP -> Linux.

  36. Jigr69

    NHS = IE6

    The main culprit from my experience is the public sector, the NHS still has a very high percentage of computers running IE6 due to legacy applications. I somehow doubt that the NHS is going to spend any money in upgrading thousands of computers simply to see mainly external websites in their full splendour!

  37. JDX Gold badge

    Back then, browsers weren't all magical like now. IE6's proprietary features were pretty neat and let you do cool stuff which managers probably demanded so they could "have apps in the browser".

    I get this kind of demand for 3D graphics - everything has to be "in the browser" these days regardless if it makes any sense.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Die fucker, die|

    Sums up my feelings on IE6 pretty well.

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