14 Mar 2010 — Support for Internet Explorer
Next week sees the first anniversary of the release of IE8, the latest version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser. Since its release, Microsoft has encouraged users of older versions to upgrade. Internet Explorer (IE) is currently the most widely-used web browser, being the standard choice because it has been supplied by Microsoft as part of the Windows operating system. This has been particularly true of IE6, which was released in 2001, and was supplied as part of Windows XP. Currently, it appears that Microsoft will be keeping to their commitment to maintain it for as long as support is maintained for Windows XP (currently 8 April 2014, provided Service Pack 3 is installed).
Although IE6 will still be maintained, it is generally recognised as being the least secure of the three Internet Explorer versions currently available. Readers may remember that earlier this year, a number of GMail (a web-based e-mail service, provided by Google) accounts in China were compromised. This security breach was attributed to IE6, and some governments, including those in France and Germany, went as far as recommending that their citizens stop using Internet Explorer and adopt Firefox or Google Chrome instead. Microsoft has issued an update to IE6, and repeated its recommendation that users upgrade to the latest version, which also benefits from speed and usuability improvements.
IE6 is noted by web designers and maintainers for not properly adhering to web standards. The dominance of IE6 means that most web designers take additional steps to ensure that their websites work with it. Historically, a very small number of designers have used Internet Explorer's dominance as an excuse not to meet standards, so their website would only work properly in IE6, but fortunately this is now very rare. Microsoft has not forgotten this heritage, and has provided IE8 with a compatibility mode. This means that websites that were designed for IE6 will still work, but users have the benefits of using a modern, faster, standards-based product.
The special design requirements for IE6 have led to a number of websites and service providers announcing that they will no longer support that browser. Of these, the most notable is Google, who has announced that it will start withdrawing support for IE6 from some of their services, with effect from 1 March 2010. Users of IE6 visiting YouTube or Google Docs, for example will see a message to this effect. User of the Facebook social networking site have seen a similar message since July 2009.
There will be no immediate change to nwhg.org.uk and north-watford-history.org.uk, but future development will not necessary accommodate obsolete browsers. This may mean that new features will only be available to visitors with the current version of their chosen browser.
Users of browsers other than Internet Explorer should not feel complacent. Microsoft has been in the news because of the company's profile, but the sentiment is equally applicable whatever product is used. Do check that you are using the current supported version and apply updates as they become available. This will ensure that you benefit from features, fixes and security updates, for the most reliable on-line experience.
[Added by Glen: 11:13pm 14 Mar 2010]