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Nick Plante

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

Help Us Kill IE6

July 29, 2009

Internet Explorer 6 has been the bane of just about every professional web developer for at least the last 3 years. It's lack of support for modern web standards and epic rendering quirks have earned it much well-deserved hatred, yet it's broad corporate installation base has forced us to continue to struggle to support it in order for our applications to be accessible by everyone.

Facebook, Digg, and YouTube are the next in a series of major web applications that are preparing to drop support for the antiquated browser, and this is A Good Thing. Many other sites have already made the decision and have no problem bragging about it publicly. Isn't it time you did the same?

Digg published a report awhile back on the demographics of the problem, noting that 5% of its pageviews were still coming from that browser user agent. Of course, that is not in and of itself an insanely high percentage, but is still noteworthy. Digg went on to publish a survey that asked users why they were using IE6, and the majority of those users replied that it was because they didn't have administrator access to their Windows PC or that their workplace simply wouldn't allow it. So there's your culprit -- thanks, Big Corporation A.

Now, slow to upgrade is one thing -- this was certainly understandable in 2003 -- but fast forward to 2009 and IE6 is causing major problems for the advancement of the web in general. We have to kill it to move on. It's a mercy killing, people! As James Edwards notes in the article 10 Cool Things We'll Be Able To Do Once IE6 Is Dead, the browser is plagued by general security problems, a number of prolific rendering bugs, and lacks support for PNG transparencies and even more importantly CSS2 (not to mention 3).  All this means that it is stifling the rate at which major web applications embrace these technologies, in turn translating to less-than-ideal user experiences for all of us.

Ben Parr's excellent article at Mashable, which inspired my rant here, goes further to point out that HTML5 is clearly the next major leap for the web, and that IE6 does not understand it. For web applications to make the leap to HTML5 -- to take advantage of its innovative new features like video and audio tags, local storage, geolocation, and the canvas element -- users and their slow-moving corporate IT overlords need to finally toss their outdated browser or risk becoming obsolete. The web will, hopefully, move on with or without them. 

So that's it. Kill IE6. Don't do it for yourself, or for me -- do it for everyone; so that the web can move on and deliver better experiences for all of us.

How can you do that, you ask? Just stop supporting it. Stop testing your websites in it. Seriously. Let them break in IE6. Better yet, there are a number of more elegant solutions that allow you to  warn the user that the site is inaccessible with their older browser and redirect them to Microsoft to download IE8 (or better yet, Firefox, Safari, or Chrome).

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