What's the deal with Internet Explorer 6?And why should you care?
Support for IE6 (or lack of) has been a highly charged and controversial topic for quite a long time. Well, perhaps not "highly charged", but drama is in short supply in the web development arena!
Our Terms & Conditions list the browsers which we support - which does not include IE6 by default - a policy which we occasionally have to explain to clients. To be honest, the main reason is cost. As a web developer, IE6 is awkward to work with. Getting the same results as modern browsers takes a long time and ultimately, time is money.
Faced with a choice between increasing all our prices or dropping IE6 support and making an extra charge to those clients who really need it, you can guess which we chose!
This encourages our clients to carefully evaluate if they need to enable users of IE6 or not. In some cases it's appropriate to offer support - in others it isn't. The real issue, though, is that most site-owners want as much of the worldwide audience as possible to be able to see their website.
Why is IE6 such a problem?
IE6 was released by Microsoft on August 27th 2001. Since it's release, IE7 has come and gone - IE8 is the current version and IE9 is fast approaching. Even Google are phasing out support for IE6!
At the time of writing, security site Secunia lists 24 outstanding security vulnerabilities for Microsoft Internet Explorer 6. Given past history, it's unlikely any of these will be patched before IE6 is retired in 2013 (when Windows XP reaches the end of it's extended support phase).
Add to security concerns the fact that IE6 offers relatively poor support for common web standards, won't support any of the exciting new things you may be hearing about (HTML5, CSS3 for a start) and that it can be crashed with a single line of code in a malicious page - and suddenly an upgrade starts to seem more attractive.
The latest W3C Browser Statistics show that in May 2010, approximately 7.1% of pages were requested via IE6 - and you can see the downward trend taking place. We believe the majority of these users to be workers in medium/large corporate environments where company IT policies prevent upgrades from taking place.
What do you do if you don't support IE6?
The real problem is - if a site isn't tested (and fixed) for IE6, it can sometimes look decidedly strange if an IE6 user does land on it. We try to mitigate this when our clients choose not to support IE6, by displaying a warning message - and linking them to some information about what they are seeing and why.
This helps our clients to reach a compromise between the extra cost of full support - and risking alienating users who for one reason or another are not able to upgrade their systems.
If you'd like to learn more about the situation with IE6, there are lots of sites out there, including Bring Down IE6 and IE6: Do NOT Want!.