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IE 6 is dead

Filed under: Blogs,News,Tech — Andy @ 4:28 pm

April 8, 2010

According to today’s statistics Microsoft Internet Explorer v.6 has dropped to 8.9% share of browser usage worldwide (have a look at www.w3schools.com for the latest stats – it might be even less by the time you are reading this).

This has prompted us to make a decision which we have been agonising over for quite a while: by default we are not going to support it any longer.

Why? Well, in short it doesn’t really work. We have to do things to our websites that we’d rather not do to make them work in IE6 – things that often break the site in other browsers.

That’s an oversimplification, of course. IE6 was OK in its time. But its time has passed. Things we take for granted just didn’t exist in August 2001 when it was released. No PNG transparency, lack of proper CSS support, non-standard rendering of pages and bugs galore were not so much of a problem when there were no standards to stick to. However, times have changed and browser manufacturers – despite still arguing about details – are making an effort to standardise the way websites display and work in order to deliver a better user experience.

The Web 2.0 revolution that has happened since the release of IE6 depends on technologies that just don’t exist in that browser. Neither YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or Google want anything to do with it any more because they don’t want to be held back. Other browsers allow them to move forward and innovate.

The biggest problem we have is that we are constantly told that “large corporations” still use IE6 because their IT departments insist upon it. We’ve never actually seen proof of this but we do come across clients who have shown their new site to somebody who is still using IE6 only to see it break or just look plain ugly. This, of course, makes us look incompetent. The hacks we need to do to avoid this often cause a huge amount of lost time as it involves actually finding out what the problem is first before embarking on a long quest around the internet to find a solution which doesn’t have the opposite effect on the other browsers. Then we have to actually implement that solution. Naturally the incompatibility is usually spotted at 4:45pm on Friday.

If we allow for this when quoting for work our prices will look expensive. If we don’t and take the chance everything will be OK, we’ll probably lose out. It’s always a dilemma.

We’ve read endless tirades against IE6 and why it should be killed off. Calls on discussion groups for militant action and rants and raves (which just usually end in general Microsoft-bashing), usually made in the early hours of the morning by web developers who are at the end of their tether trying to make their site work in a crappy, obsolete browser and not getting paid anything for it, whilst trying to explain to clients in simple terms what’s actually going wrong. We understand this – we’ve been there ourselves.

But mouthing off on the internet isn’t going to help, so we’ve decided to do something a bit less confrontational and, hopefully, helpful.

We’ve decided to make IE6 support an option with the websites we build. From now on our quotations for web work will have an “IE6 compliance” line which will detail the extra costs involved in making the site backwards-compatible for this browser. It’s not a way of charging extra…believe me, we’d really rather not have to bother supporting IE6 at all – life is just too short. But we can and we will if we have to. This way the client has the option. Long term, we hope if more web development companies calm down a bit and do the same IE6 will just become a ghost in the browser’s graveyard along with AOL, Netscape, Mosaic and CyberDog.

We’d like to hear people’s thoughts on this approach.

3 Comments

  1. Do not use W3C stats to make decisions about usage; they even say on their own website:

    “W3Schools is a website for people with an interest for web technologies. These people are more interested in using alternative browsers than the average user. The average user tends to use Internet Explorer, since it comes preinstalled with Windows. Most do not seek out other browsers.

    These facts indicate that the browser figures above are not 100% realistic. Other web sites have statistics showing that Internet Explorer is used by at least 80% of the users.

    You cannot – as a web developer – rely only on statistics. Statistics can often be misleading.

    Global averages may not always be relevant to your web site. Different sites attract different audiences. Some web sites attract professional developers using professional hardware, while other sites attract hobbyists using old low spec computers. ”

    If you want more accurate stats, try
    http://marketshare.hitslink.com/browser-market-share.aspx?qprid=2
    and
    http://gs.statcounter.com/#browser_version-ww-monthly-200903-201004

    Comment by Bradley — April 10, 2010 @ 11:18 am

  2. Bradley…

    Agreed, but as I said – I’m simplifying things a bit.

    Providing a comprehensive roundup of stats would mean me never having got round to finishing this post, and, more importantly, bored most of our readers to death!

    I liked the W3C stats as you can see the relative losses / gains of the browsers on one page over time. It’s comparative rather than absolute and therefore I just used it to show a trend which can’t be argued with rather than to show an actual usage figure. You’re right, of course: the W3C figures are based on a slightly more anoraky set of people than you would normally like to share a room with; however, it could be argued that it is this group who predict the future by early-adopting and having a willingness to try the latest technology to see what’s likely to become popular amongst the general internet population.

    We would never really base anything on one set of figures – there is no such thing as an unbiassed statistic. Every web project we do involves a certain amount of research into the target audience, part of which is what browser they are likely to be using. We take all web surveys and stats with a pinch of digital salt.

    Also, it’s worth remembering that we are talking specifically about IE6 rather than just IE as a whole – something which even Google Analytics blurs somewhat in places. I’m guessing some average Windows users are not aware of the distinction.

    Another interesting (although slightly irrelevant) point is that a lot of our clients are in the media / music / creative sector and that our experience of Mac and Safari usage amongst this subset is often skewed in relation to that of the world as a whole (I nearly said “compared to people from the real world” there!).

    Thanks for adding to the discussion. I liked the StatCounter graph. We used to use them a lot, but I’d not looked at their site for ages. The MarketShare guys need to learn about GIF dithering, though!

    Andy

    Comment by Andy — April 12, 2010 @ 10:34 am

  3. Just to add…

    Even Microsoft agree with us these days!

    http://www.ie6countdown.com/

    Comment by Andy — March 14, 2011 @ 12:04 pm

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