IE6: "I'm Not Dead Yet"

Beacon Blog Article

By Beacon News | Published December 4, 2010 | Categories: Web Development

 I've been with Beacon for almost 11 years.  That makes me feel really old (or dedicated, one of the two).  Thus, it's really hard for me to fathom that Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 has been with me almost my entire career.  IE6 was released on August 27, 2001.  That was a glorious day back then.  Think about how much IE6 revolutionized how we experience the Web, and how us coders could now start that revolution.  Who knew almost 9 years later, IE6 would be defying our death wishes.

Whenever I think about IE6 and how it should have been long gone from our minds years ago (like Netscape), I think about that scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  You know, the scene where the "Dead Collector" encounters someone trying to put a man onto the dead cart.  Problem is, the man isn't dead.  He pleads not to be cast off with the forgotten, but his carrier insists that he's pretty much a goner.  Eventually after a lot of pleading, the man is hit over the head and wheeled away.

I can't believe IE6 is still around. And whenever I try to admit that it has to be dead, someone calls and says, "This site doesn't look right in IE6."  In fact, according to the W3C Schools browser statistics, 7.9% of users are still on IE6 (April 2010).

Why haven't those 7.9% users upgraded yet?  I have a few theories, one of which I came up with all on my own, the other I'm quoting from one of our university clients:

  • Many home users don't know how to upgrade, so they leave well enough alone and continue to use IE6.  I always wondered why we move along so quickly in dropping all other browsers (Netscape, for example).  My theory is that all other browsers do not come pre-installed with Windows,  so it takes know-how and desire to go out and download that browser.  Those users are more apt to keep up with browser versions.
  • At many institutions (such as universities), desktop support personnel lock down machines so that people can't install other software.  Even if this doesn't include disabling Windows Update, this feature only downloads & installs critical patches...IE upgrades are considered optional.  Thus, the machine never gets upgraded to the next version of IE.

So what's a Web Designer to do?  The way I see it, we have two options:

  1. Drop IE6 support altogether.  Give IE6 users a message stating that this site will not work properly in IE6, and they should upgrade.  (Translation:  Join us in this decade.)
  2. Live with it.  Continue to code for IE6, and enjoy the daily challenge.

The good news?  IE6's market share has been dropping about 1% every month.  If this trend continues, by the end of 2010, IE6 will be gone!  We developers will get to do all of that fancy XHTML/DHTML/CSS 2.0/JavaScript programming without having to worry about IE6's attitude.

IE6 isn't dead yet.  But IE6, enjoy your time left:  "You'll be stone dead in a moment."

Will we have this same discussion in a few years for IE7?

Let's get to work!

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