Microsoft Celebrates IE6 Death as Google Downranks Chrome
Microsoft has celebrated the imminent demise of version 6 of its Internet Explorer browser by baking a cake.
The software giant held the light-hearted celebration as it revealed that the program was used by less than 1% of US internet surfers.
It is keen to kill off the old version of the browser and persuade users to move to IE8 or 9.
Meanwhile rival Google has been forced into an embarrassing climbdown on the promotion of its Chrome browser.
It has downgraded Chrome in its search listings after the discovery that a marketing campaign paid bloggers to promote a video about it.
The search giant has distanced itself from the campaign, blaming third-party marketing firm Essence Digital.
The issue was discovered by Aaron Wall, who wrote in his SEO Book blog, how he found that a search for "This post is sponsored by Google" threw up more than 400 pages written as part of a marketing campaign.
Search expert Danny Sullivan said the revelation was "jaw-dropping".
"Google, the company that has been fighting against paid links and 'thin' content seems to be behind a campaign that's generating both on behalf of its Chrome browser. File this under 'what were they thinking?'" he wrote on his SearchEngine blog.
Google told the BBC that it had never commissioned Essence Digital to approach bloggers and place sponsored links.
In its own statement, Essence Digital said: "Google never approved a sponsored-post campaign. They only agreed to buy online video ads. Google have consistently avoided paid postings to promote their products, because in their view these kind of promotions are not transparent or in the best interests of users.
"We apologise to Google who clearly didn't authorise this."
Over at Microsoft headquarters, the mood was more upbeat.
"Time to pop open the champagne because based on the latest data from Net Applications, IE6 usages in the US has now officially dropped below 1%," blogged Roger Capriotti, Microsoft's director of Internet Explorer marketing.
"We hope this means more developers and IT pros can consider IE6 a 'low priority' at this point and stop spending their time having to support such an outdated browser," he added.
In dropping below 1% of usage, the United States joins Austria, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway, which have already seen usage fall to very low levels.
In the UK, IE6 usage remains at about 1.4%, although some countries have far higher usage levels. In China, for example, it remains at about 25%.
Richard Edwards, a principal analyst at research firm Ovum, is unsurprised Microsoft is glad to see the back of IE6.
"I think it was rated one of the worst software products of all time by one tech magazine at the time of its release," he said.
The browser was plagued by security issues which has its own knock-on effect, he thinks.
"In many ways, corporate computer networks have been locked down since partly because of the vulnerabilities found in IE6," said Mr Edwards.
Industry watchers have predicted that despite Google's current marketing woes, Chrome could overtake IE as the leading global browser in 2012.
Many had previously said that Mozilla's Firefox would be the most likely candidate to end Microsoft's dominance.
According to data from measurement firm StatCounter, Chrome increased its market share from 15.6% in January 2011 to 27% by the end of the year. At the same time, Microsoft dropped from 46% to 38.6%. Firefox also fell, from 30.6% at the beginning of 2011 to 25.7% by December.
Mr Edwards is more cautious.
"As long as Windows dominates, IE9 will remain the number one browser," he said.
He added that the browser wars were moving to mobile.
"That will be the next battleground. That's where Microsoft has to focus because that is its Achilles heel. Its mobile browser is some way off those for Android and iOS devices," he said.