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Starting with Internet Explorer 8, Microsoft provided built-in developer tools for Internet Explorer. IE8 provides IE8 Standards, IE8 Compatibility View, IE7, and Quirks Mode. IE9 provides IE9 Standards, IE9 Compatibility View, IE8, IE7, and Quirks Mode.

I have often wondered why Microsoft choose to provide IE6 testing VMs instead of offering it as a convenient browser mode, while still providing Quirks Mode. Nobody wants to fire up a VM (now or three years ago) just to test a random IE6 report, so why did Microsoft choose to make IE6 testing so difficult for IE7 and every version following? Has Microsoft ever commented on that decision?

EDIT: I know IE6 should be avoided and Microsoft wants to wipe it out for good as a browser. My question is looking for historical significance. I am wondering if Microsoft ever publicly announced that IE6 would never be supported by developer tools from IE8 on, which was released at a time that IE6's market share was still significant to developers. Even X-UA-Compatible Document Compatibility Modes lists everything, including IE5, but IE6 is missing from the list. Perhaps Microsoft began phasing out IE6 through developers long before they made a campaign targeting users, but I'm not sure why they provided VMs at all if that is the case.

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If you go to the VM download page you linked to, you'll notice that the Windows XP image (which is the only image that contains IE6) is due to "shutdown and become completely unusable" on July 26, 2012. That suggests to me that mvark's response is spot on: Not even Microsoft wants to support IE6 any more. –  Kat Jul 23 '12 at 12:37
    
Hmm, I'll have to double check this, but I'm not aware of this limitation in the Windows XP Mode - which allows users of Windows 7 to run an XP mode VM for compatibility issues, and comes with IE6. –  Zhaph - Ben Duguid Jul 24 '12 at 9:55
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2 Answers 2

Testing with browser modes that IE8 & IE9 provide is not the same as testing compatibility in lower versions of the actual browser. It is just an emulation.

Even Microsoft wants to kill IE6. In several countries around the world, IE6 usage is dropping to less than 1%. So it's no surprise that it doesn't provide IE6 emulation.

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IE6 is old and should go, and IE7 is a nightmare and should also follow. Microsoft need to stabalize the rendering of the browsers (which I think they have now - we will see with IE10)... A website even adds a 'tax' for using IE7 (which is quite a fun read) - bbc.co.uk/news/technology-18440979 –  Dave Rook Jul 23 '12 at 8:24
    
@mvark Hey, thanks for the answer. I have edited my question for clarity. But are you suggesting in IE9 that IE7 and IE8 modes are emulations, not the actual rendering engines used in the original releases, and simply no such rendering emulation of IE6 exists? Perhaps IE7 was the rewrite of the codebase that allowed emulation to exist going forward (and whichever historical modes, like Quirks Mode, are worth emulating)? –  jimp Jul 23 '12 at 14:55
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I believe it's to do with the changes MS made to the Trident Layout Engine between 6 and 7, along with issues around the binaries not running side-by-side.

Changing the "Document Mode" to "Quirks" allows you to view the site as IE5/6 would have rendered it:

The Document Mode declares what mode IE’s Trident engine will render the markup in such as IE9’s Standards Mode. Changing the Document Mode through IE’s Developer Tools refreshes the page, but does not resend the UA string or retrieve new markup from the server.

[...]

  • Quirks
    This behavior matches IE when rendering a document with no doctype or a Quirks doctype. It is similar to the behavior of IE5 and the Quirks mode behavior of IE6, IE7 and IE8.

*Taken from Testing sites with Browser Mode vs. Doc Mode - IEBlog

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