For a long time, Internet Explorer refused to die. But as a result of people upgrading to newer versions of Windows (and, perhaps, the discontinuation of Windows XP), it’s finally reached a point where it’s used on less than 1% of systems worldwide.
That said, there are still some people who use Internet Explorer 6 to this day, and they’ve got some valid reasons.
The Curse of Legacy Software
Here’s the thing: Internet Explorer 6 is unspeakably terrible, but people still use it. One percent doesn’t sound like much, but still huge in the context of China and the United States.
One percent of the Chinese population is 13.6 million people. Of the US population, it’s 3.2 million people. So, why do so many people continue to use it?
In a word (or three): legacy enterprise software.
Back in the early 00s, lots of companies built web internal web applications. These allowed workers to perform tasks (often data-input tasks) from their browser, and were cheaper to make compared to desktop applications.
These applications were overwhelmingly built to work with one web browser, and one browser alone – Internet Explorer 6. At the time, it was the only real, viable choice for PC and Mac (yes, this was long before Safari).
Back then, there was no Chrome, Netscape Navigator was long dead, and Opera and Mozilla Application Suite (there was no Firefox) were still very much niche products.
Which is why, to this day, this relic of the past is still used. So, how can you get your hands on it?
Getting Internet Explorer Today
There are lots of ways you can get your hands on Internet Explorer 6 today. Some allow you to merely download an EXE and install it, while others let you emulate it in the browser.
The Microsoft Way
Microsoft still serves downloads of Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1. That’s rather surprising given that it’s been officially deprecated for a while, and Microsoft has very publicly campaigned to get people to stop using it.
To get your hands on a copy, simply click here, and download the exe. It’s also worth noting that IE6 runs really well on Wine, for those of us who don’t use Windows as their day-to-day operating system.
But while Microsoft still serves downloads of IE6, they’re prone to removing old software from their website. It’s only a matter of time until they remove it for good, which is why it’s worth looking at other sites.
OldApps.com, as the name suggests, offers downloads of old software. From retro gaming, to old Shareware apps, to unsupported system utilities, it offers everything. Including older versions of Internet Explorer.
Take note though, this isn’t an official source, and you should treat each file you download from here with extreme caution by checking it with a Virus scanner.
With WineTricks (For Linux Users)
WineTricks is a helper script for Wine, which streamlines the process of downloading and installing Windows applications on Linux.
To install IE6 with WineTricks, first install Wine. You can either install it through the Ubuntu Software Center, or through apt-get:
sudo apt-get install wine
Then, install WineTricks. You’re going to need to download the script using wget, give it executable permissions, and then move it to /usr/bin folder with superuser permissions.
chmod +x winetricks
sudo mv winetricks /usr/local/bin
Then, installing Internet Explorer is merely a matter of running the following command, and waiting for it to complete:
BrowserStack and Sauce Labs
There are some good reasons to be wary of installing Internet Explorer 6 on your main computer. It stopped receiving security updates a long time ago. If you’re going to use it, you should use it in an isolated, secure environment.
Or better yet, just don’t use it on your own computer. Use somebody else’s.
BrowserStack and Sauce Labs both allow you to test websites using a variety of browsers, whilst remaining in the browser. You don’t need to download an application, or use VNC, although BrowserStack works best when you install their plugin.
They work by leveraging hundreds of virtual machines, each configured to run different versions of Windows, Linux, Android or iOS. Each of these support a broad smorgasbord of browsers, including most versions of Opera, Firefox, Chrome, Yandex, and Internet Explorer.
Sauce Labs (which Christian Cawley covered in 2012) is one of the more mature options, and also has the best free trial of them all, as it allows you access to all of the possible browser choices for 14 days, no credit card required.
BrowserStack’s free trial is more limited, with only a handful of browsers available to use. If you want to use Internet Explorer 6, you’d better open your wallet.
What About Chrome Frame?
Finally, let’s talk about Google Chrome Frame. This was a browser plugin released by Google in 2009, in order to help companies migrate to Chrome, whilst still maintaining compatibility with their older apps.
Unfortunately, Google discontinued it last year, and they removed all downloads from their site. While it’s possible to find a copy hosted on a third-party site, it might not work with the latest-and-greatest version of Chrome.
If you do download a copy, make sure you check it beforehand, to ensure that it doesn’t come packaged with some unwanted malware.
Party Like It’s 2001
It’s also worth noting that although a vast improvement on IE 6, Internet Explorer 7 and 8 shared its idiosyncrasies, and lack of respect for standards. As a result, many sites still only work with those browsers.
Just like Internet Explorer 6, you can find these browsers on sites like OldApps.com, as well as on Browser Stack and Sauce Labs.
There’s also IE Tab, which allows Chrome to mimic IE 7, 8 and 9. Unlike switching your user agent, which merely pretends your browser is IE, this actually is IE, using the same Trident rendering agent.
Will You Install IE 6?
Feeling nostalgic for a simpler time? Curious to see what your favorite site looks like in an older browser? Or do you have to use a mission-critical web application that only works in IE6?
Tell me about it in the comments below!