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IE 6 deep-sixed in Microsoft browser overhaul

Microsoft

You may be waiting for the ball to drop for 2012, but Microsoft has another countdown underway that the company deems more urgent: Getting rid of Internet Explorer 6, a decade-old version of the Web browser that seems to have more security holes than Swiss cheese but is still in use by some.

"10 years ago a browser was born. Its name was Internet Explorer 6. Now that we’re in 2011, in an era of modern Web standards, it’s time to say goodbye," the company says on its IE 6 countdown site

More than 8 percent of the world still uses IE 6 (in the U.S., it's less than 1 percent), and the company would like to see global usage down to less than 1 percent worldwide. And soon.

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

To help expedite the farewell (or rather, the execution) of its ancient Web browser, Microsoft says next month it will start to upgrade Windows customers automatically to the latest version of IE available for their computer.

"This is an important step in helping to move the Web forward," wrote Ryan Gavin, Microsoft's general manager of Internet Explorer business and marketing, on a company blog. "We will start in January for customers in Australia and Brazil who have turned on automatic updating via Windows Update. Similar to our release of IE 9 earlier this year, we will take a measured approach, scaling up over time."

And, he wrote:

For consumers, the safety benefits are one of the key reasons that the industry has been moving towards automatic updates as the norm. This is increasingly important since the biggest online threat these days is socially engineered malware, which typically targets outdated software like Web browsers. The latest Microsoft Security Intelligence Report, which is based on data from over 600 million systems in over 100 countries, is good reading to give you a sense of risks that stem from outdated software.

But what if you don't want to update your version of Internet Explorer? Under a section of the post called "Respecting Customer Choice and Control," Gavin says that IE 8 and IE 9 Automatic Update Blocker toolkits "prevent automatic upgrades of IE for Windows customers who do not want them. Of course, we firmly believe that IE 9 is the most compelling browser for business customers, and we want them to make the decision to upgrade at their convenience."

Customers "who have declined previous installations of IE 8 or IE 9 through Windows Update will not be automatically updated," he wrote. "Customers have the ability to uninstall updates and continue to receive support for the version of IE that came with their copy of Windows. And similar to organizations, consumers can block the update all together and upgrade on their own. Finally, future versions of IE will provide an option in the product for consumers to opt out of automatic upgrading."

But say good-bye to IE 6 if you have it. And some of you may already be saying good-bye to IE in general. Google's Chrome appears to be gaining more of a foothold among users, as IE's market share continues to drop.

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