Microsoft announced today that it has released a new version of its flagship web browser, Windows Internet Explorer (IE). IE version 8 brings many upgrades, most importantly continued security improvements and much improved web standards compliance. IE 8 is available for Windows 5.1 (XP) and Windows 6.0 (Vista) for free download from Microsoft’s web site.

If you still use Internet Explorer on one of these two supported operating systems, I strongly recommend you upgrade as soon as possible to IE 8. For the best web experience, I recommend switching to one of the excellent, free alternative browsers—Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, or Opera.

If you are still using Internet Explorer version 6, please pay attention to the following important Off on a Tangent Support Notice:

ie6-warningWith the release of IE 8, I am officially ending support for Internet Explorer 6. IE 6, which was originally released in 2001 and never even came close to being secure or supporting web standards, is the bane of every web developer’s existence. It requires incredible, time-consuming code contortions to make things work correctly in it and supporting it is simply not worth the effort anymore, especially when its users have two newer versions of IE and many other browsers to choose from.

As part of this effort, IE 6 users will receive a warning (thanks to the ‘Stop Living in the Past‘ WordPress plugin) whenever they visit this site (see image).

Things aren’t going to fall apart in IE 6 tomorrow, but I’m not testing my site in it anymore and I’m going to start pulling IE 6-specific code out of the site with each revision from here on. You should expect, if you choose to continue using IE 6, that this site will not operate correctly in the future!

There are a number of upgrade paths from IE 6:

If you are using Windows XP and IE 6, you can upgrade to IE 8, Mozilla Firefox 3, Google Chrome 1, Apple Safari 3, or Opera 9.

If you are using Windows 2000 and IE 6, you can upgrade to Mozilla Firefox 3 or Opera 9.

If you are using Windows 98 or Windows ME and IE 6, I strongly recommend you upgrade to Windows 2000 or Windows XP. You can, however, upgrade your browser to Mozilla Firefox 2 [Firefox 3 is not compatible] or Opera 9.