Thinking of IE6

“Internet Explorer 6, I’m breaking up with you. I feel like it’s been over for a long time.

Actually, I’ve been seeing someone else. Well, a couple other browsers. Firefox, Safari and Chrome, not to mention your younger sisters, IE7 & IE8. They are so much faster than you and prettier than you. Not to mention I feel more secure with them. Don’t get me wrong, I want to have those same feelings for you, but I think we’ve just grown too far apart and I just don’t see a future with us. Technology is advancing and you just want to live in the past with your tables and your single-tab browsing.

I know, we have the same friends and hang out in the same places, so it’s going to be hard for me not to run into you all the time. That’s why I’m going to ask all my friends to stop supporting you, and ask all my web sites to stop allowing you access. I can’t keep lying to myself… I just can’t do it anymore.

Honestly, I can’t believe you didn’t see this coming.”

One year ago, 37signals made headlines with the announcement that they were stopping support for IE 6 across all their products. Their reason was simple and straightforward. And obvious:

Continued support of IE6 means that we can’t optimize our interfaces or provide an enhanced customer experience in our apps. Supporting IE 6 means slower progress, less progress, and, in some places, no progress.

YouTube and Digg have started hinting that they too will be dropping support for IE6 in the near future. And for good reason too. IE6 was released in 2001. That was before the release of the first iPod. Before Xbox. IE7 was released 3 years ago in 2006, around the same time PC Magazine ranked IE6 one of The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time. But somehow, web statistics show that three years later, 15% of Internet users are still surfing with an outdated browser from 2001. Actually, if you call that surfing, then I guess using a modern browser is like rocketeering.

So 3 things.

1. IE6ers, please upgrade your browsers.
Trust me, everything will be ok. It will actually be better than ok. You won’t believe how much better. Firefox, Safari and IE8 and other modern browsers provide exceedingly better security and online experiences. But we all know that, so let’s move on.

2. Designers and developers, stop supporting IE6.
Just say no. Saying no is a hard thing to do. But once you stop supporting IE6, people will be forced to upgrade or change their browser. They’ll start to get the message when every web site starts to render upside-down and backwards. We, as designers and developers, understand that IE6 does a terrible job of supporting web standards and we try to compensate for that. But if we keep working hard to add fixes and hacks to support it, IE6 will never show it’s ugly face.

If you feel uncomfortable with offering no warning to the outdated few, you can always add a script that detects IE6 (which you’re already doing anyway) and displays different content (which you’re already doing anyway) that points IE6 users in the right direction: to a different browser. At Explorer Destroyer, Google is supposedly paying $1 for each new Firefox user you refer. IE6Update offers IE6 users a familiar and legitimate looking update toolbar that directs them to the IE8 download page (or whichever browser your heart desires).

IE6Update

Other sites, like idroppedie6.com and iedeathmarch.org, are encouraging designers and developers to add their site to an ever-growing list of URL’s that have dropped support for IE6, in order to demonstrate that you are not alone.

3. If clients really want IE6 support, start charging a premium for IE6 compliance in all design work.
Most stress and headaches seem to come around the time we start debugging for IE6. Every time another hack or conditional statement is written to help support IE6, I start to feel like the site’s design has been compromised. Also, since Windows only allows for one install of Internet Explorer, testing between three versions of Internet Explorer becomes a little tricky (assuming your not also testing for IE5.5).

Adobe just launched a preview of their BrowserLab, which allows designers and developers to preview and test web sites on multiple browsers and operating systems, on demand. Currently, BrowserLab is an online service that also offers some integration with Dreamweaver. Hopefully, it will serve as a better solution for quick cross-browser compatibility testing. Expect a review shortly.

In the meantime, I just hope Microsoft isn’t planning another Internet Explorer anytime soon. They should really think about phasing out IE6 before they move forward with any other project. Update: They read my mind: this week, Microsoft released that they are dropping IE6 support in Office Web Apps. This isn’t really that far fetched of an idea. After all, in the last year television stations have stopped supporting analog signals.

I just think it’s about that time.

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