IE6 is still not dead, and why we are to blame

While Internet Explorer 6 is still alive and breathing, it is dying a slow death, too slow for our liking as web developers.  The process has been long and arduous.  With the advent of CSS3 and HTML5, browsers like IE6 are like the cars with carburetors and low MPG ratings.  They harm the environment, create an unpleasant atmosphere for development, and we need a virtual Cash for Clunkers to fix it.

One developer stated the following on his blog, “When Internet Explorer 6 is truly dead, I’ll stop supporting it.”  It is exactly this type of attitude that hinders our progress.  We are in an age where upgrades are simple, quick, and take very little effort.  I was a little disappointed this morning when I saw an article on Nettuts about “lesser known JavaScript libraries” which included some IE6 hacks.  I honestly thought we were done with this kind of thing.  There are years of articles and tutorials on the web detailing every IE6 hack known to man.  It’s just a waste of bandwidth, hard disk space, and time at this point.

Personally, I do not and will not support Internet Explorer 6 anymore.  At work, I recently released the second version of an Internet-based reporting application that we use in 21 different car dealerships.  Many of our users were still using Internet Explorer 6, and those users were complaining that certain features weren’t working.  In the past, I would have found a way to make IE6 work with the application, but it just isn’t work the time and money anymore.  As a result, I got about a dozen people off IE altogether, and onto Mozilla Firefox 3.5.x.

The point is, we won’t be able to fully support new technologies until we stop producing workarounds and hacks for older browsers.  Stop supporting IE6, and the rest will follow.  If we as a community do this, we will definitely see results.  Let’s put IE6 to bed once and for all…

Not-So-Fun Facts about Internet Explorer 6

  • Release Date: August 27, 2001 (over 8 years old)
  • Market Share among IE Users:
    • IE6 – 40%
    • IE7 – 32%
    • IE8 – 27%
  • Lacks support for PNG alpha transparency w/o use of special Microsoft filter or hack
  • IE 6 acts like IE 5.5 in quirks mode
  • No support for HTML5 or CSS3

Anti-IE6 Links

12 thoughts on “IE6 is still not dead, and why we are to blame”

  1. Over and over I hear this type of arrogance.

    Read your own figures – 40% of IE users, more than any other version.

    Some people have IE6 with their machine. The machine is older than most and they have a dial-up so won’t upgrade because the download is large and offer no benefit to them. Are you seriously suggesting you will drop these users? If so, make sure you tell your employer because they won’t want you working on any project that isn’t geared up for everyone but those users…

    It’s time this argument was over.

  2. You’re fortunate that you did not investigate user requirements before development and were able to compensate for it afterwards. But not everyone will be so lucky. IE6 is still around for many more reasons than designers still support it. Some business are locked in to either support older web apps or because the IT department doesn’t have resources or won’t upgrade. Some people use what came with their PC and don’t care about using other options.

    We all want IE 6 to die, but designers won’t have a lot of influence. If people can’t use your site, they’ll just go to someone else’s site. There are few websites important enough to make people switch.

    The good news is we’ll likely see it die in another year or two all by itself. Many companies will likely switch to Windows 7 over fears of falling too far behind and the natural computer upgrade cycle will convert more and more home users.

  3. @Jose Fernandez
    Hey Jose,
    It wasn’t that I didn’t investigate user requirements, it was just that I knew keeping a handful of folks on IE6 while the rest of us are using the newest version of IE/Firefox would hold us back. It was an educated decision, and the right one in my mind. Because I work in-house for this company, I had the knowledge to rule out any possible compatibility problems (most of us were way past IE6 anyway).

    If enough web sites started making the switch to newer technologies, eventually people would ask themselves… why isn’t this working, and they would figure it out. Another way to do it would be to give IE6 or even old FF users a warning message like, “We will be updating our web site and will no longer support . Please update using the links below…”

  4. This issue has been discussed to the death… Of course we’d all like to forget IE6, but as Jose correctly pointed out, it isn’t necessarily the users who are to blame. The majority of IE6 users are locked in due to corporate environment and policy constraints. Corporate users have no control in what browser or software they use. Custom ActiveX controls, intranet applications, policy control, and upgrade paths etc. all contribute to IE6 being so stubborn and widespread.

    You can’t just exclude a vast majority of Internet users. Chrome Frame is a welcome effort, but will IT departments adopt it? Unlikely, at least until thorough testing and security audits have been concluded. And even then, without support, I can’t see it happening. Get over it, with a bit of experience IE6 really isn’t all that difficult to design for. Use 8-bit PNG’s, learn to use box models properly and keep a list of common hacks. The biggest limitation, in my opinion, are IE6’s javascript and rendering engine speeds. As for HTML5 and CSS3, they aren’t even standardized yet!

  5. @Rob Hofmeyr
    Hi Rob,

    I agree that there are some people who just can’t help it, but in my situation I could make that difference and I did. You cited HTML5 and CSS3, but it’s so much more than those… there are many things that just don’t work in IE6, and never will, which is why there are so many “hacks.”

    My article was about taking action as developers and designers. *WE* create the web sites for the client, or ourselves. If *WE* make web sites that do not support IE6, they won’t need it anymore. My point was that if we adopt this way of thinking as a community, the rest will follow.

  6. Bob Saggett misinterpreted those figures – that is 40% OF IE USERS, not of all users. Given that big sites like YouTube are dropping support for IE6, I don’t have a problem following suit. Overall IE6 commands a mere 12% (see w3Schools). At the moment the ideal primary browser target is Safari/WebKit, not only does it have the best standards support, but it’s also now responsible for >60% of all mobile web browsing (since it’s standard on iPhone, Android, Nokia and Palm WebOS) and is rising in other areas (such as in Google Chrome), a trend that seems likely to continue. Generally all browsers are getting better at a fantastic pace – even IE8 has made it to the realms of “not bad”.

    While I wouldn’t go as far as blocking IE6 users, I’m not about to put in the excessive amount of work necessary to improve their life since it only makes mine harder – and if they really cared they wouldn’t be using IE6.

    You can provide a gentle hint to upgrade through projects like
    Ultimately, Microsoft needs to push out IE8 as a hands-free default upgrade. That will put the final nails in the coffin. But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

  7. I see good reasoning on both sides. Since I write in php and can call a routine to see if a client is using IE6 and then run the code to fix any issues to my site, I see no reason not to offer it. Why lose the business from people with old computers with 128 megs of ram. Really, you only want money from those that have fast computers. I know a millionaire that still runs on windows 98 cause he likes it and will use what he wants cause hes a fricking millionaire and can do what he wants. I don’t about you but I would still like for him to visit my sites and my clients sites and spend his money with me. The cost to the site is the time it takes to find out what browser is currently being used. And if you are good web builder you are already finding that information out to use faster code works with certain browsers better. Yes it takes longer for YOU to do your job. But it helps your client and brings in the money. Removing support for old browsers because YOU want to control the internet user and what he has on his computer is just going to take money out your pocket. It is like saying I don’t want you to see my website cause you don’t use the programs I want you to have your computer. What is next, you want to limit what websites they come from before they can see your site, or just how much income they have. As web designer we have no right to attempt to force anyone to do anything on their computer. We work with with they have and make the best site within their current enviroment.

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