yeah…that one guy

the slow, painful death of IE6

This is a good week for me. I have given my company a solid business case to officially stop supporting IE6 for our public facing sites. I’ve waited a very long time for this moment and for well over a year I have been faithfully checking our Omniture and Google Analytics stats each month, watching the IE6 usage numbers decline. My manager and I agreed that when it hits 5% of total usage, we can begin the phase out. For months it had been fluctuating between 5.9% and 5.5% until it finally hit 5% on the head. I let my manager know and I put together a few bullet points for the business to explain why we had decided to phase out IE6 support. Here are of them, in case you find yourself in a similar position and need to support the rationale to discontinue support for IE6.

  • It doesn’t support current and widely used web technologies. Not only does IE6 obviously not support the latest standards for CSS 3 and HTML 5, but it has spotty compliance with HTML 4.0 and XHTML 1.0 standards. If you’re a developer, you have been doing hacks and workarounds for IE6 for the past 5 years. And with the newer standards that browsers are finally building in, you absolutely will be out in the cold with IE, unless you use what is known as an HTML 5 shiv file.
  • IE6 creates excessive amount of additional developer work to code workarounds, hacks and fixes for IE6, and we lose functional capabilities. Do you like that fancy lightbox effect for your pictures to pop open in? Do you like that non-flash based video player? Well be prepared to spend most of your time tweaking it for IE6. The problem isn’t that it CAN’T do it in this case, it’s just that it’s not as easy or straightforward to do in this 9 year old browser.
  • Two words. Transparent PNG’s. You need a CSS/Javascript filter to allow transparent PNG’s to preview correctly, so you’re basically supporting separate CSS files for this browser.
  • Numerous unaddressed security vulnerabilities. When you have Microsoft recommending that you upgrade, maybe it really is time to upgrade. Not to mention the number of companies and world governments who won’t use it due to it’s security vulnerabilities. Just ask Adobe or Google how they liked getting hacked.
  • Lastly, many large companies are abandoning it as well. Google, and YouTube aren’t the only ones, but they are probably the most visible, and many other smaller companies are following suit. One big problem has been the proliferation of corporate IT departments to standardize on Windows XP as the corporate OS, thus making IE6 the defacto browser you get when you join a company. Many IT departments are hesitant to move on to Windows 7 for fear of application support issues, and this is valid, but you have to make the move sometime, right?

In the end, depending on the stats on your sites usage and any number of other factors, you might be stuck with IE6 for sometime still. Technically Microsoft will be supporting IE6 until 2014, because that’s how long they will support XP, so you may still be messing with it for the next 4 years. Shudder to think. At least for now, I’m free!

4 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. Dipendra Bagchee

    You are one lucky dude. The time is nigh, we’ve been tracking the growing number of sites that are popping up messages to visitors. When you start getting that agressive, it’s time to go.

    Jul 08, 2010 @ 6:08 pm

  2. admin

    By the end of the year I’m sure we’ll be seeing ALOT more traction on this. Windows 7 adoption is growing which will be the major contributor to ending the reign of IE6. Hey did you get your HTML 5 book yet? Got mine today.

    Jul 08, 2010 @ 8:31 pm

  3. Dipendra Bagchee

    I’m hoping to get it tomorrow.

    It’s interesting to consider that Safari is generally in that <5% category too (though it's standards support is much better of course). I was at least able to get us to adopt Yahoo's graded browser support (augmented by our actual usage) so we'll probably drop it when they do.

    Jul 08, 2010 @ 10:15 pm

  4. admin

    Yeah too bad about Safari being so small, and in my case, Chrome popped up and has matched Safari in less than a year, and will probably overtake it soon!

    Jul 09, 2010 @ 9:50 am


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