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Browser Support, Here’s looking at you IE6!

Internet Explorer version 6 is currently the bane of most web developers’ existences. If you don’t believe me just do a Google search with something like, “why support IE6?” You’ll find a site dedicated to all those that have officially dropped support for it along with many other blog posts like this reasoning why it’s high time to start moving on.

Who’s still using it and why?

  1. So if I’m telling you that IE6 is so bad, why are people still using it?  Mostly it’s because these users don’t have a choice.  Why don’t these users have a choice?  It’s the IT departments.  There are a lot of large companies in the world with a lot of employees that use the internet or the company’s intranet everyday to get their work done.A company’s intranet may have been built on IE6 and consequently, the IT department is afraid of it breaking. Sometimes these IT professionals even cite security concerns as a reason to stay with IE6.  However, it’s come to light recently that IE6 is significantly more vulnerable to attack than newer versions of Explorer (specifically, IE8). In fact, Microsoft – a company that supports old programs for a long, long time – recently asked users to stop using IE6 due to security concerns that would not be repaired.
  2. A big reason for old browser support is operating systems.  If you have a PC that is running Windows 2000 or Windows 98, then you can’t upgrade your browser even if you want to. in the world of the internet, these operating systems have been left far behind, unfortunately.
  3. Another reason is that some people don’t know that there’s a newer version or alternate choices available. If they are aware of the choices but still have IE6 they probably do not know how to upgrade to the newer version. They might also think IE6 is just dandy and since it does what they ask it to most of the time, why change? There are people who are still intimidated by the  internet and aren’t aware of innovations like keyboard shortcuts or tabbed browsing.  They just want to get on, get in and get out, and that’s as far as their computer experience, needs and desires take them.

In general most people at home no longer use IE6 unless they have a very old computer. Most of the IE6 stragglers are in a work environment.

So why drop support?

Upgrading has become a way of life on the internet. Whether it’s your browser or your a web app, they’re constantly improving to make life better and more secure for the user.  If you happen to have one of those nifty smart phones then you’re probably no stranger to getting almost weekly updates to some of your favorite apps.

I want to have the best experience I can get when surfing the web and you should too!  I’m not the only one that wants you to have a great experience online, all those companies delivering media along with social and organizational apps do to.

Google officially dropped support for IE6 in March of 2010. The sites and web apps that Google runs will still retain their main functionality but new features added after that date may or may not work. It’s not just Google that’s dropping support. Facebook – everyone’s favorite social app – supports IE6 but it does so by providing users a decidedly poor user experience. Not only that, Facebook straight out tells you why you’re getting such a crotchety experience and even provides you with links to more modern browsers.

Most of us web developers like to support web standards. I won’t get into too much detail on the subject, but if a browser does a good job of supporting web standards, then life is much easier for everyone involved.  You will have a site that loads and runs efficiently, is easy to maintain, is accessibility and is widely compatible.

To get a site to lay out correctly in IE6 usually requires a decent amount of effort.

  • You need to apply a special filter for every PNG used.
  • CSS issues are one of the main culprits here. From not supporting certain pseudo-classes or mis-interpreting how an attribute is supposed to be applied, the CSS flaws in IE6 require a mix of CSS/JavaScript to patch.
  • Plus a minor batch of other rendering or layout- related issues that also require hacks to get the desired results.

As of June 2010, fewer than 10% of internet users were using IE6. Is it worth making all of these expensive accommodations for this small group of people hanging on to an outdated technology? Probably not.

It’s time to move on – and leave Internet Explorer 6 behind.