The recent attacks against Google from somewhere in China have brought significant mainstream media attention on the security deficiencies of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, particularly the much-hated IE6. Whilst IE6 seems to have been the culprit in this case, the French, German and Australian governments have all issued warnings to all their citizens, suggesting they stop using Internet Explorer altogether, no matter what version. This has lead to sharp increases in downloads of Firefox and Opera. Meanwhile, Microsoft is issuing an emergency patch for IE, apparently due out today.

IE6 usage is from two places. The first culprits are companies who enforce its use because they need it to run their legacy intranet applications. The second are people with old versions of Windows who have no idea about browsers or automatic updates.

The latter group will never learn – they bought Windows before Microsoft enabled automatic updates by default, and they’re only going to stop using IE6 when their machine haemorrhages its last under a mountain of viruses and malware.

But maybe the IE6-loving companies will look a bit harder at their choice of browser with the current furore. The UK government has already warned its departments that using IE6 might not be such a great idea. Companies may also have to consider upgrading to Windows 7 in a few years, and there’ll be no IE6 there, not without some crazy hacking around anyway.

The fact that mainstream media is bringing the security failures of IE6 to the masses is great news. Channel 4 News specifically mentioned IE6 last night. Hopefully this is going to filter down to some suits and persuade them it’s worth upgrading their legacy intranet web applications.

It won’t be too long before all the crazy IE6 hacks and workarounds currently needed in mainstream-targeted websites are a thing of the past. Hurrah!

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