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Google Docs, Sites Dropping IE 6 Support

Old browsers are being put out to pasture so new Web technologies can run free.

Web developers have been urging Internet users to abandon Internet Explorer 6 for years. Now Google has decided to join the cause.

The company on Friday warned users of Google Apps and Google Sites that it will begin phasing out support for older browsers in about one month.

"Many other companies have already stopped supporting older browsers like Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 as well as browsers that are not supported by their own manufacturers," explained Google Apps senior product manager Rajen Sheth in a blog post. "We're also going to begin phasing out our support, starting with Google Docs and Google Sites on March 1st."

The ostensible reason for doing so is that older browsers like Internet Explorer 6 can't render modern HTML elements properly, a problem that can hinder the functioning of modern Web applications.

In place of Internet Explorer 6, Google suggests using Microsoft Internet Explorer 7+, Mozilla Firefox 3+, Apple Safari 3+, or Google Chrome 4+.

Another problem with older browsers is that they tend to be less secure. When cybercriminals in China attacked Google and some 33 other companies last month, they relied on a vulnerability in Internet Explorer 6 to compromise computers.

A Google spokesperson insists that the two events are unrelated and that Google had planned to discontinue Internet Explorer 6 support before the attacks were detected. "It's really is being done so we can continue using the latest Web technologies to bring new features to our users," he said.

Even so, the exploitation of an Internet Explorer 6 vulnerability in the attack on Google prompted the governments of France, Germany, and Australia to urge their Internet using citizens to consider an alternate Web browser. Those warnings have led hundreds of thousands of Internet Explorer 6 users to download Firefox.

According to NetApplications, Internet Explorer 6 is still the most popular browser in the world, with a global market share last month of 20.99%. But Internet Explorer 8 is close behind, with 20.85% global market share in December. In third place, Firefox 3.5 had market share of 16.32%, less than a percentage point more than Internet Explorer 7.

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