Microsoft Out Of Cycle Patch Highlights Anachronism Of Internet Explorer 6

Ask any webmasters working on fairly large projects what their biggest bug bear is and it is likely that they will come up with the words, IE6, short for Internet Explorer 6, Microsoft's long obsolete web browser.

The software giant has just announced that it will launch an emergency patch for the browser in the next few hours after it was revealed that it contained a critical vulnerability that was used by Chinese hackers to get access to sensitive information from a number of high profile companies.

Despite the fact that it is nearly nine years old, Internet Explorer 6 is still the most popular browser around according to Market Share, with 21 percent of the market, just ahead Internet Explorer 8 and more than four points in front of Firefox 3.5.

And it is this popularity that is making life for many webmasters worldwide a real pain in the backside especially given that IE 5.0 only accounts for a fraction of the total market share of Internet Explorer globally.

The browser lacks support for modern web standards which make it a real headache for those who must design websites that appeal to a very wide audience.

It is also widely rilled for its poor security, causing some publications to call it one of the least secure applications on the planet. Even before the French and German government advised their citizens to abandon it for newer versions, some websites went as far as to call for a boycott of IE6 as early as March 2009.

Add to this the fact that its Javascript performance is abysmal, that it suffered horrible memory leaks and it doesn't support multi-tabs and you can start to wonder why it is so popular even now.

Part of its success lies in the fact that Windows XP, the operating system that was its partnering platform for several years, is by far the most popular OS out there with more than two thirds of the market according to Market share.

An overwhelming number of organisations including governments, major banks, financial institutions and global corporations still coerce their staff and customers to use the browser as they have yet to move to subsequent versions of Windows.

Microsoft has confirmed that Internet Explorer 6 will be around for as long that Windows XP is supported, which means that the browser will be around until 2014, more than 13 years after it was released.