Google adds Reader to 'kill IE6' campaign

More bad news for the 17.6% stuck on Microsoft's 'antiquated' browser

Google expanded its anti-Internet Explorer 6 campaign Thursday by announcing that it will phase out support for the nine-year-old browser for its Google Reader service June 1.

Google Reader is an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) service that posts page updates, or "feeds," via the RSS or Atom standards.

Beginning June 1, Google Reader users running a slew of older browser -- including IE6; Firefox 1 and 2; Safari 2 and 3; and Chrome 1, 2. and 3 -- will see notifications urging them to upgrade to a newer edition.

"Reader is a cutting edge Web application, and this will allow us to spend our time improving Reader instead of fixing issues with antiquated browsers," said Mihai Parparita, an engineer with the Reader team, in a post to group's blog last Monday.

Elsewhere on Google's site, the search giant spelled out what the move meant to users still running IE6 and other outdated browsers.

"New features may not be available in your browser, and some features may even stop working," the company said. "Google Reader is available 'as is' for older browsers, and Google isn't able to respond to any feature requests or fix many bugs on those browsers."

IE6 is the oldest browser on the soon-to-be-dumped list, but some of the browsers are relatively new. Google released Chrome 3 in September 2009 , for example, and only replaced it with Chrome 4 in January 2010. Mozilla replaced Firefox 2 with Firefox 3 in June 2008.

On March 1, Google dropped Microsoft's IE6 from the list of supported browsers for its Google Docs online application suite; it later announced that it would do the same for the Gmail Web-based mail service later this year.

IE6 has been getting the cold shoulder from prominent Web sites and services for some time. YouTube, Facebook and Digg have all announced that they will no longer support IE6. And last March, a Denver design firm hosted a mock funeral for the browser; Microsoft sent a floral arrangement with a card reading, "Thanks for the good times."

Microsoft has been begging users to leave IE6 for almost a year, most recently earlier this month with a campaign in Australia that said the browser was long past its expiration date .

This week, however, Microsoft officials gave conflicting comments about IE6.

Ryan Gavin, the director of platform strategies for Microsoft, told the U.K.-based Web site PC Pro that he had been given the job of driving "IE6 share down to zero as soon as possible."

Thursday, however, Microsoft's Australian chief security adviser Stuart Strathdee told ZDNet that companies are "happy to stay with IE6" because the creaky browser won't properly render sites that the firms don't want workers visiting, such as Facebook.

According to the latest data from Web analytics company NetApplications, IE6 accounted for 17.6% of all browsers used in April. While that put IE6's share down 12.5 percentage points in the last year, representing a decline of 42%, it still exceeded the share of 2006's IE7 by more than five percentage points.

Microsoft will support IE6 on Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) until April 2014, but it has been pushing users to upgrade to IE8 as soon as possible. IE8 can be downloaded from Microsoft's site.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld . Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com .

Read more about browsers in Computerworld's Browsers Topic Center.

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Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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