“Friends don't let friends use Internet Explorer 6," Microsoft said last week in launching a new site that tracks the progress of pushing IE6 market share below 1%.

“10 years ago a browser was born,” Microsoft's Internet Explorer 6 Countdown site says. “It's name was Internet Explorer 6. Now that we're in 2011, in an era of modern web standards, it's time to say goodbye.”

Worldwide usage of IE6 was still an astounding 12% in February, lower than the previous year but too high given the security risks associated with using such an ancient browser.

In the United States, usage of IE6 is only 2.9%, but the ten-year-old browser accounts for more than a third of all users in China, a quarter of users in South Korea, and more than 10% of users in such countries as Japan, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and India. The stats published on the IE6 Countdown site come from usage tracker Net Applications.

Some users running pirated copies of Windows XP never upgraded to more modern browsers out of fear they might expose themselves to Microsoft's license tracking systems. But many businesses, even in North America, have legitimate reasons for still using IE6 because of business applications built specifically for the browser. Reliance on IE6 has stalled some efforts to upgrade to Windows 7, and virtualisation companies have had to build tools to ease the migration process.

Windows XP users can upgrade to IE7 or IE8, and Windows 7 and Vista users can opt for the beta version of IE9. Chrome and Firefox are also widely used alternatives to Microsoft's Internet Explorer browsers.

Microsoft's goal is to push IE6 usage under 1%, saying that it will save website developers the trouble of supporting the out-of-date browser.

Microsoft urged website owners to display the IE6 countdown banner on their sites, and urged everyone to educate acquaintances of the dangers. “Friends don't let friends use Internet Explorer 6,” Microsoft said.