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Debunking the Myth: “My application requires IE6”

Posted by: Browsium Posted date:

With our release of Ion earlier this week, we have taken great steps to help enterprises migrate away from Windows XP and IE6 and to the world of Windows 7 and modern versions of IE.

Our first product, UniBrows, was released in early 2011 and we spent most of last year listening and learning as our customers evaluated UniBrows within their environments. UniBrows was unique in that it embedded the IE6 layout engine in IE8 or IE9 on Windows 7 desktops and enabled client PCs to render content using that layout engine. Initially, we felt that providing the IE6 engine was the best and fastest route to application compatibility within the enterprise.

In working with customers, we repeatedly found that only a very small fraction of applications that we came across actually needed the IE6 layout engine. Most, if not all layout issues could be solved with the legacy layout engines already built into IE8 and IE9 by Microsoft. Instead, the really nasty compatibility problems were more often caused by changes/improvements in the browser application itself, such as JavaScript parsing or security hardening (with features like Data Execution Prevention [DEP/NX] enabled by default). And in many cases the problem resided in independent platform components, such as the need for a legacy version of the Java Runtime Environment (JRE), and our software already had the ability to mitigate these issues without the IE6 engine. So the challenge was to make the entire environment like IE6 (just for those applications that need it), rather than just rendering with IE6.

Thus was born Ion, our second generation solution. It builds upon the concepts and technology we first shipped in UniBrows, but does so entirely without the IE6 engine. Ion utilizes the variety of modern and legacy rendering engines already built into IE8 and IE9 to provide great IE6 compatibility. Through Ion, you can fix pages on the fly (though String Replacement & Script Insertion), tune security features (like DEP/NX), create custom registry settings to securely enable old behaviors (through Feature Control Keys and the Custom Registry Manager), all while isolating these changes to a specific site or even a page on a site. We’ve added more features, levers, and options to tune the behavior with IE than ever before. In fact, despite the complete lack of IE6 in Ion, we’ve found that Ion is compatible with more IE6-dependent web applications than UniBrows ever was. In addition, we re-architected the product to be more robust, faster, and easier to use.

The benefits of leaving the IE6 engine behind are seen most simply in the product’s footprint: it’s a mere 6MB of space on your client PC hard disk with one simple installer. And yet Ion allows true enterprise-class applications like Siebel, Hyperion, Brio, and Clarify to run inside IE9 on Windows 7 (something UniBrows couldn’t do). But it’s not just the big applications that work with Ion – we’ve seen our share of custom, home-grown applications working with Ion too. There’s a myth that legacy web applications “require” IE6 to work properly, and Ion is proof that it’s not true. These applications require the proper settings in IE8 or IE9, and maybe a few tweaks with script injections and string replacements, and Ion is the only tool powerful enough to provide those configurations.

If you’re familiar with UniBrows but would like to learn more about how Ion works, we’ve written a whitepaper called “What’s New in Browsium Ion” to help familiarize people like you with the differences and similarities between Ion and UniBrows. Use this document alongside an Ion Evaluation Kit to get more productive in your Ion evaluation today.

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