Unintentionally Blank

Phil Nash on the Internet, Web Standards and Accessibility

IE7 Priority Update Not As Beneficial As You Might Think

Jul 31, 2006

by Phil Nash

Earlier this week CNET reported that Microsoft will be pushing Internet Explorer 7 as a high priority update to Windows XP users once the new browser is released. This was noted by Dave Shea over at mezzoblue, his main point being that if you are not testing websites in IE7 yet, you should. I certainly took note of this and have acquired my copy of IE7 beta 3. However, that isn't the point of this post. I was rather worried by the rejoicing amongst the comments of Dave's post that support for IE5.X and even IE6 could be dropped soon after IE7 is released. Surely this is a little premature. For a start, if a user is using IE5.X then they have not upgraded to IE6 and will almost certainly not be upgrading from version 5 to version 7. So, if IE5 is considered significant enough to be supported before IE7 is rolled out, then it will remain significant afterwards too. It's down to your audience. However, support for IE5.X does not bother me too much. IE6 on the other hand has approximately 85% share of internet browsers at the moment and is the most significant browser out there. If IE7 were to completely replace it, then web designers would never have to worry about supporting IE6 again! Will this happen? No, no it won't. Allow me to point out all the reasons why we will not be getting rid of IE6 in the very near future:
  1. "Although IE 7 will be pushed out over Automatic Updates, people will be able to choose whether they want to install it or not" - CNET
  2. The IE7 blocker toolkit for those not ready to upgrade straight away.
  3. Windows Genuine Advantage.
The first two points are down to the choice of individuals and companies when they come to update. However the third point needs a little more explanation. As we know, Microsoft don't like people to use their software or operating system without paying for it. So WGA has been appearing in updates for Windows XP in order to help those who have been a victim of counterfeit software and convince those who have installed a non-genuine version of Windows to do the decent thing and buy it. Repeated failure to purchase a genuine version of Windows results in Microsoft cancelling automatic security updates for the offending computer. Are you following me? Earlier this month The Guardian released an article criticising WGA with a few interesting facts contained within. The article points to Ed Bott's comments on the fact that 20% of the failures are not caused by counterfeit product keys. The article also cites Microsoft executive, Will Poole, claiming that, of 600 million installations of Windows XP, 219 million of them are pirated. Do you see the problem now? We have 219 million Windows XP, and IE6, users that will eventually fail WGA validation and be restricted from important security updates. On top of that, there are a number of users failing WGA checks without necessarily using counterfeit software that will also be unable to pick up security updates. This equates to between a third and a half of all IE6 users who will be unable to update to IE7 without buying themselves a genuine version of Windows XP. More than 200 million people still using IE6 after IE7 is pushed out as high priority, I don't think we can drop support yet.

Unintentionally Blank is Phil Nash's thoughts on web development from 2006-2008. Any code or opinions may be out of date.