What's the deal with Internet Explorer 6?

by Matt Chatterley Matt Chatterley
Anti IE6 Logo 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!.

Comments (14)

  1. KevJaques

    Yay :)
    I've only been advocating this for the past 2 1/2 years ;)

    Time to move with the times, not get stuck in a backward time loop ;) Hmm what's the song? "Let's do the time-warp again?" ;)

    I think MS were scared due to vendor lock in and IT policies that don't advocate adhering to standards have been one of the main issues.

    Unfortunately "The Web" stands still for no-one! ;)

    by KevJaques (@KevJaques)
  2. (Keywords Removed)

    I am glad IE6 is on its way out... I do find it odd that MS is pushing the majority of IE6 users directly into IE8 though. It has been unfortunate as a designer to have to use work arounds to get transparent pngs to show properly.

    by (Keywords Removed)
  3. Ian Barnes

    I think the image which has been posted says all. Most of the internet users have moved from IE6 to the other explorers and I am also one of those. I started using firefox about 3 years ago and never thought of going back to IE.

    by Ian Barnes
  4. Timothy Adams

    IE6 should've been out of the market a long time ago. I don't understand why old fossil companies still want their employees to use it.

    by Timothy Adams (@ebookreadercent)
  5. jill

    wow. i have thought ie6 have these problems. thanks!

    by jill
  6. Paul Friar

    I hate to confess I was once one of those people that absolutely hate to upgrade anything unless I have to.
    I stuck with windows 98 until my brother needed help with his xp computer, and even then I tried changing every setting I could to make my pc feel like a 98 environment again.
    Its amazing the new features you can take advantage of with every update of your op system and other programs.
    I got to admit I did not exactly love the vista experience, but onward and upwards is my (new) motto - never look back!

    by Paul Friar (@yearn2earncash)
  7. (Keywords Removed)

    I couldnt agree more as far as web browsers are concerned i love chrome but lets c what the new safari 5 has to offer. great blog!

    by (Keywords Removed) (@appyzilla)
  8. nancy

    I think MS should take the initiative of updating every PC with IE 6 and a internet connection asking them to upgrade to a better version

    by nancy (@neeshu)
  9. Steve

    I don't see what the big deal is, when people can upgrade to the latest version for free, why remain on the old ones!

    by Steve
  10. (Keywords Removed

    I can't imagine any web developer shedding tears at the much-hyped funeral of IE6 ;) - and I certainly wouldn't have, had I been in attendance. It's cost me hours of work more than once, tracking down a solution to some bug or idiosyncratic behavior not shared by any other browser. Unfortunately, I believe IE6's market share is understated at ~7%. The main problem is that many corporations won't take the plunge until they're forced to, i.e. (no pun intended) when MS support expires. The reason for this is apparently that many have intranets designed for IE6 that won't run on anything else. Furthermore, there are a surprising number of home users (my guess is middle-aged to seniors) who are lagging 10 years or so behind the technology curve, particularly in our part of the USA, which is mostly rural. (Believe it or not, our analytics recorded a hit on one of our sites the other day from a PC running IE6 on Windows 98!) Personally, I can't wait for the day we can close the book on this rather painful chapter in the history of web development, but for us, that day hasn't come yet.

    by (Keywords Removed
  11. Jackrabbit.com

    From a web developer perspective, you're absolutely right... IE6 is a nightmare. The only reason it's still in the dialogue is because big businesses, with their slow moving IT departments, are the last to make the switch.

    by Jackrabbit.com (@jackrabbitcom)
  12. Dave Jenkins

    It really is a pain having to ensure compatability for IE6 when designing new sites. The problem though as pointed out above is that a huge number of businesses still use it. So for the moment, I'll still keep designing sites that work with it. I can't wait to drop it though.

    I've seen lots of statistics on current web browser usage (which are all drastically different from each other!), and it seems that IE6 still has at least 10% market share. That's still quite a chunk of business to lose out on.

  13. Stuart

    IE6 is down to 3.8% as of Jan 2011, but to be honest that still amazes me there are that many people still using IE6 considering all of the newer versions available and obv now we have Chrome and our beloved FireFox is just getting better and better as time goes on.

    What is the reason for people to still use IE6? Why do you think people still do?

    by Stuart
  14. Matt Chatterley

    @Stuart, it amazes me too. We have a few customers whose sites support IE6, but none who use it as their own browser - in general it's worries related to "losing" a chunk of the viewing audience and therefore the impact that has on revenue.

    by Matt Chatterley (@MattchedIT)

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