Microsoft to Developers: Sorry About the Whole IE6 Thing, Won’t Happen Again

Dear Web developers: Microsoft knows how many hours of your life have been wasted trying to troubleshoot designs and functionality for Internet Explorer 6, and they’re sorry. They promise they’re never going to do that to you again.

To ensure such nightmares are never relived, the company will start rolling out automatic upgrades to Internet Explorer across Windows 7, Vista and XP, the company announced in a blog post today. Rather than relying on users to update the browser themselves or requiring you to trick your parents into updating theirs around the holidays, Windows will update to the latest compatible version of IE on its own.

By adding this feature, Microsoft borrows from other browser manufacturers like Google, who enables automatic updates for its frequently-updated Chrome browser. If this kind of functionality were available on Windows ten years ago, it could have help saved many headaches for front-end developers and designers, who have long wrestled with multiple versions of IE to get things looking just right. Microsoft has come a long way in terms of supporting the latest Web standards in recent versions of IE, but version 6 has stubbornly lived on. It’s now to the point where even Microsoft can’t wait to see it die.

This doesn’t mean that every Windows machine on the planet will automatically be updated to the latest stable build of Internet Explorer overnight. The automatic update feature will be rolled out in Australia and Brazil first, and then to other countries over the course of next year. The software will upgrade to the most recent version of the browser that’s compatible with one’s operating system. Thus, Windows XP users can only go as high as Internet Explorer 8. Still, that’s a huge and worthwhile improvement from version 6.

The feature will be available to most Windows users, but it can easily be disabled, much to the delight of corporate IT departments everywhere.

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