For those of us in the web business, it’s well known that Internet Explorer 6 is the bane of a UI developer’s existence. It’s not standards compliant, it has peculiar rendering bugs, and it requires many custom adjustments to get standard HTML/CSS to format nicely. There was a lot of hope when the IE7 update came out that we would be rid of this pest. That didn’t work as well as we hoped, but then IE8 was released as a “required update”, automatically downloaded and installed via Windows Update.
Despite these two updates, both free, both compatible with older systems, and both offering better features and performance, many of our clients’ sites register over a third of users as still using IE6. Now what? It seems that many users will never update, without someone “forcing their hand”. In fact, even forcible attempts (such as pushing IE8 through Windows Update) are being countered. Must we wait until everyone has purchased a new computer? Maybe not--if those of us in the web community can encourage the update by gradually dropping IE6 support. Credit goes to a few big players that have started this movement, such as Digg and Youtube: http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/07/14/youtube-will-be-next-to-kiss-ie6-support-goodbye
This is scary stuff for a lot of companies. Who wants to jeopardize turning off customers just because they’re using an old browser? This is a valid point, but the other question is, how long do we want to keep humoring users and supporting outdated and costly technology? At some point we have to get the world to move forward. This will have to be done gradually, of course. To get us there, however, we need someone to “lead the way”. In this case, I think we in the web business need to be the leaders. Instead of pulling our hair out trying to get our sites to look good in IE6, we should follow the example of gently telling people that IE6 is no longer supported--but here are some links to update your browser. After, all, we should feel good about promoting something that is better, free, and will allow us to build better and less costly websites. Let’s keep this community activism going and solve this problem once and for all.