In a couple of recent blogs, I’ve examined various approaches to keeping access to Web sites and pages that are built to work with IE 6 rather than newer Internet Explorer versions in a Windows 7 environment (The Downside of Virtualizing Web-based Apps? Legal entanglements, for one… and Less than a VM, More Compatible than a Plain Host OS: App Virtualization for another). The issue of how to do browser virtualization to access IE 6 on a Windows 7 desktop without incurring potential legal liability for the pieces and parts of XP that must be integrated into the runtime for the IE 6 wrapper is apparently “interesting” in both the legal sense and in the sense of a celebrated Chinese curse (“May you live in interesting times”).
Windows maven Paul Thurrott suggests an interesting technology fix in a recent SuperSite blog entitled “Solving IE 6 Compatibility Issues Doesn’t Require Expense, Complexity of Virtualization.” In a nutshell, his prescription is a software solution called Browsium Unibrows that enables IE 6 access only to those pages or Websites that specifically need it, often on an organization’s own intranet. It’s set up to run as an IE 8 (or 9) child process that hides all the underlying complexity from its users and involves a minimal (under 100 MB) memory footprint. It enables users to acces sites with older, incompatible software versions of Flash, Java, and so forth on a per-page basis, and works with Group Policy rules to do its thing. Microsoft does require that IE 6 support elements be downloaded separately during installation, with relevant licenses for XP to match, so legal entaglements are avoided.
The program is in beta right now, but is expected to go commercial sometime soon. The software may be licensed for a mere $5 per seat per year. As Thurrott observes this is a good deal for a temporary solution to compatibility problems before April 8, 2014, when everything will have to migrate anyway as XP support vanishes completely. Sounds interesting…maybe you should check it out!