Why IE6 Thrives in China

No, it’s not illegal copying that keeps IE6 going in China. Surely illegal copiers would choose something better to copy.

According to Net Applications IE6 has a higher proportion of usage than any other country save S. Korea which is also many times higher in usage than most other countries. The two countries are conspicuous. What makes them different?

Back in 2007, IE6 had a large share everywhere. M$ and its friends decided to lean on the government of China to combat illegal copying of M$’s software. They sparked a prosecution that put away an organized criminal outfit for years. The result is that there exist, out there, many millions of CDs of XP with IE6 and no one is updating the version… Talk about unintended consequences. M$ was trying to get everyone to go legal and buy the latest koolaid. Instead they have frozen XP and IE6 in time, creating a generation of users of PCs that are unfamiliar with M$’s current products.

So the cause of IE6’s prevalence in China is not illegal copying of software, but the prosecution of illegal copiers.

The reason this effect is so large is that while China has many users of PCs, the country as a whole still has a very high ratio of users to PCs. The current wave of prosperity is enabling huge uptake of PCs but folks are not buying new PCs with IE6 on them. They are buying Android and GNU/Linux on small cheap computers instead. Otherwise, IE6’s share would plunge like a stone.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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7 Responses to Why IE6 Thrives in China

  1. Zombie Chan says:

    ” I know a lot of users who prefer XP to “7″. Is that it?”

    That could be it.. People hate change.

  2. That’s probably a factor but why aren’t the illegal copiers illegally copying “7”? If they were, XP would sink and take IE6 down with it. There seems to be a mechanism to prefer XP. I know a lot of users who prefer XP to “7”. Is that it?

  3. Brian Page says:

    Here’s my take on it:
    Updates require Windows Genuine Advantage.
    Windows Genuine Advantage will not allow pirated versions of XP to update to higher versions of IE.
    The persistence of IE6 in Chine is due to the the prevalence of pirated copies of XP that don’t pass WGA – and therefore can’t update.

  4. So, people love IE6 so much that they are installing it on “7”? That is surprising… Nope. “7” comes with IE7 or 8, not 6. The only explanation for the prevalance of IE6 is that folks are using XP. If they are using illegal copies, why do they bother with XP and IE6 when they could get “7” and IE8?

  5. Yonah says:

    “folks (in China) are not buying new PCs with IE6 on them.”

    Correct. They are buying PCs with Windows 7 installed, either a legitimate copy or a pirate copy. However, you can still buy a “Ghost XP” disc in the markets.

    “So the cause of IE6′s prevalence in China is not illegal copying of software, but the prosecution of illegal copiers.”

    Incorrect. Prosecution of anything in China is pretty weak. That’s hard to grasp if you are coming from the West, but it’s something you grow accustomed to when you live here. Yes, big headlines in the press about how the PRC did this or did that. It’s a display, that’s all.

    The real reason for IE6’s prevalence is laziness and ignorance on the part of PC vendors who grew complacent installing XP on a box and forgetting about it. That’s changing, as Windows 7 is gaining popularity here. You can find a pirate copy of Windows 7 in Beijing for just 10 yuan ($1.49 CAD).

  6. Ray says:

    Wait, if people are buying small, cheap computers, that don’t run IE6, then why didn’t IE6 share still high over there?

  7. Blumenkohl says:

    “The result is that there exist, out there, many millions of CDs of XP with IE6 and no one is updating the version… Talk about unintended consequences

    So the cause of IE6′s prevalence in China is not illegal copying of software, but the prosecution of illegal copiers.”

    hm.. let me think about this.. no, doesn’t make sense.

    Here’s why:

    EVERY XP CD ships with IE6 anyway. Even the legal ones, even in the west. MS doesn’t upgrade the Internet Explorer version on the Windows CDs. Yes, a new XP SP3 CD comes with IE6

    Microsoft dropped the WGA requirement for newer IE, everyone can download and install it:

    http://www.lacisoft.com/blog/2007/10/07/microsoft-drops-wga-validation-for-ie7/

    The main reason: Most people in China apparently don’t care about upgrading to a higher version of IE or even using another browser.

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