Internet Explorer 6, the old version of Microsoft’s web browser, is the bane of many a web developer’s existence. I should know, I used to be one.

IE6 is extremely slow, doesn’t comply with many web standards, and therefore requires around double the amount of work. How bad is it? So bad that Google, one of Microsoft’s chief rivals, is even willing to recommend another Microsoft browser, the newer Internet Explorer 7, rather than its own in an attempt to phase out the old version.

When you open Google’s email service, Gmail, in IE6, there’s a red link along the top that reads “Get faster Gmail,” as Google Operating System caught today. Clicking on this link takes you to a page that reads:

We noticed that your current browser, Internet Explorer 6, is out of date. In order to improve your Gmail experience, we suggest that you upgrade your browser to a faster Gmail supported browser that works on Windows.

What’s odd is that, while you might expect such a message to suggest Chrome, Google’s own Windows-based web browser, or Mozilla’s Firefox — which Google helps finance — it actually directs you to download IE7.

IE6, despite being released in 2001 and horribly out of date, still has a nearly 20 percent market share — or roughly the same as Firefox. That is just sad. So Google appears to be doing its part to help the web move on. A recent campaign launched in Norway by several large web sites also hopes to help banish IE6 from existence.

Of course, the version of IE7 that Google points you to is one with the Google Toolbar built-in and has set as the homepage, as Google Operating System notes. So Google’s act isn’t entirely selfless.