The troubled little browser known as IE6 has been a thorn in the side of developers since it was first released over six years ago. It’s buggy, non-compliant and inflexible. To design a web site to work with IE6 requires either multiple hacks on the CSS side of things or extreme patience. (Just to note, I never used hacks to get something to work with IE6. Yes, I’m very proud of that.)
I don’t think anyone besides web developers can truly appreciate what a monstrosity IE6 has been. You think doing your taxes is bad? Try getting hundreds of lines of CSS code to work with a now antiquated browser that somehow still attracts a notable percentage of internet users.
But I think that’s about to end.
Numerous companies and services including 37signal’s Basecamp and Google’s Gmail have begun to systematically phase out IE6. If you’re using IE6, these services still work, but new updates are not supported for this browser. Instead, alerts will pop-up asking you to please update your very old browser.
What irks me the most about this is Microsoft’s continued inability to push out updates. Their operating systems make the most annoying attempts to get you to subscribe to their automated updates and Microsoft can’t figure out how to do this in a user-friendly fashion. I mean, just look at Mozilla Firefox, arguably the best web browser out there. Firefox will very simply alert you when a new version of the software is available and give you the option to update now or later. The update process is very quick, does not require a restart and will even re-open the browser instance to where you were before the update. That’s what I call a good user experience.
But no, for Microsoft, you must go through the painful Windows update process which can take more than a few minutes. Their bloated browser packages take extended amounts of time to download and even more to install. It ties up computing resources and requires a needless restart.
Gee Microsoft, maybe this is why so many people are still stuck on IE6.
And sadly so. On some of the high-traffic sites I host, I still see 30% of Internet Explorer users on IE6 with 68% on IE7, 1% on IE8 (beta), and less than a percent on IE 5.5 (thankfully).
It has come time to finally start making plans to phase out support for IE6 in my own projects. I’ll make sure the site works in IE6, but beyond that, any little glitches will have to go by the wayside. There are far superior browsers with bigger user bases than IE6. I’d rather focus on them.
When you have groups of developers creating campaigns against your browser, you have problems.