Business of Law

Lost Explorer

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Illustration by Jim Frazier

If you have a computer with the Microsoft XP operating system, you might still be using the Internet Explorer 6 Web browser. And though the choice of browser may not seem critical, be aware that Net giant Google is phasing out support of the widely used IE6 browser.

According to Microsoft spokesman Ryan Bartholomew, version 6 was the default browser shipped with Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. It was also made available for Windows NT 4.0, Windows 98, Windows ME and Windows 2000. But that version has been criticized in some publications for security issues and lack of support for modern Web standards. Windows Internet Explorer 7 was released in late 2006, and the most recent version available is IE8.

If users are running the XP operating system—even more popular with the advent of XP-powered netbooks—they may run the risk of not being able to access files parked in applications such as Google Docs, Google Sites or Google Mail.

Google began phasing out support of older browsers on the Google Docs suite and the Google Sites editor in March, said a company e-mail sent to webmasters. “After that point, certain functionality within these applications may have higher latency [slower response time] and may not work correctly in these older browsers.

“Later in 2010 we will start to phase out support for these browsers for Google Mail and Google Calendar. Google Apps will continue to support Internet Explorer 7.0 and above, Firefox 3.0 and above, Google Chrome 4.0 and above, and Safari 3.0 [Apple’s browser] and above.”

According to the website W3schools, an online IT certification portal, nearly one of every 10 browsers in use is IE6. As of February, 9.6 percent were using IE6 compared with 11.6 percent for Chrome. Firefox led all browsers with 46.5 percent.

An analysis of visits also indicates there may be a large number of lawyers using IE6. In 2009, 72 percent of visitors accessed the site from an Internet Explorer browser. Of those, more than 35 percent were still using version 6.

Google spokesman Andrew Kovacs denies the move is related to cyberattacks against Google. “It is being done so we can continue using the latest Web technologies to bring new, innovative features to our users,” he says.

However, some posters to the Official Google Docs Blog object to the move. One wrote: “Dropping support for IE6 is a bad move—IE6 may be an older product, but Windows XP works. … As an IT professional I recommend that my clients do not upgrade—yet—and I remove IE7 as it slows machines to a crawl. … If Google wants to get more business/users on their Docs and Sites, etc., dropping support for IE6 is not a good idea.”

Microsoft is urging IE6 users to update their browsers, but it acknowledges larger enterprises may lag in making the switch.

“While we recommend Internet Explorer 8 to all customers,” Bartholomew says, “we understand we have a number of corporate customers for whom broad deployment of new technologies across their desktops requires more planning.”

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