In an Australian marketing campaign, Microsoft is urging those using Internet Explorer 6 to upgrade already.
"You wouldn't drink nine-year-old milk, so why use a nine-year-old browser?" asks the Web site urging IE6 users to upgrade to something closer to the front of the fridge.
The shelf life of software and dairy products is not often considered to be in the same range, but leaving that aside, Microsoft does offer a good reason to upgrade: better security.
"When Internet Explorer 6 was launched in 2001, it offered cutting-edge security--for the time. Since then, the Internet has evolved, and the security features of Internet Explorer 6 have become outdated," the site said, showing scary statistics about online fraud and enumerating various advantages in Microsoft's preferred alternative, IE8.
IE6 is scorned by technophiles not just because of its security vulnerabilities but also for its nonstandard or nonexistent implementation of various Web standards. Web developers have plenty of pains supporting the diversity of browsers on the Internet, but IE6 is a particular problem given its continuing, though dwindling, widespread use.
According to research from Net Applications, IE6 accounts for about 17.6 percent of browser usage worldwide today, with No. 1 IE8 recently picking up steam as people upgrade.
One reason for IE6's continuing use is that it's built into Windows XP, which remains in widespread use. Windows 7--which, unlike in-between Vista, is showing signs of catching on--comes with IE8 built in. Convincing corporations to change operating systems can be harder though, especially those with in-house applications designed to run specifically with IE6.
IE's future is looking brighter. Microsoft has lit a fire under its IE development team to come back with a strong IE9. One big selling point of the new browser, which is available only in a developer preview version for now, is support for Web standards.
IE9 is emerging in the midst of a highly competive browser market, with four primary competitors: Opera, a small, scrappy company with a long history of going up against Microsoft; Google, a relatively new contender but one with serious Web skills and a strong brand; Apple, with a major incentive to improve browsers as a replacement for Adobe Systems' Flash; and Mozilla, whose Firefox browser is in second place after IE.