Time to kill Internet Explorer 6

Summary:The Internet Explorer 6 deathclock continues to count down, with global usage now less than 10% - and the UK clocking in at only 2.4%.

The Internet Explorer 6 deathclock continues to count down, with global usage now less than 10% - and the UK clocking in at only 2.4%.

So what does that mean?

It means you should stop developing for IE 6 right now. There's no point in developing for a decade-old browser with such a small market share, and one that needs so much work to even approach the capabilities of a modern browser like IE 9 or Chrome. We're on the march to an HTML5 world now, and the work needed to build for IE 6 is holding us back.

One of the biggest arguments against simply wiping IE 6 from your development machines is the purported cost of updating pages that run in IE 6 and which don't run in IE 7 or IE 8. After all, rebuilding and testing all those pages will be complex. It turns out that there aren't actually many issues in upgrading pages and sites from IE6.

Chris Jackson, who blogs as The App Compat Guy, is one of Microsoft's trouble shooters, hitting customer sites and walking them through upgrade scenarios. He's been writing about upgrading large enterprise sites from IE6 for some time, and his blog is essential reading for anyone making the move away from ancient browsers to something a little newer. He's full of tips and tricks (and we'd recommend looking for videos of his presentations from conferences like MMS and TechEd).

It actually turns out that the biggest problem facing any IE 6 upgrade is actually a simple bug fix. If you've got a DOCTYPE in a page header, it turns out that IE 6 renders it in quirks mode – so all you need to do is remove that DOCTYPE and let other versions of Internet Explorer render the page in quirks mode while you work on building new versions of the page using modern web technologies. If you don't want to change the HTML across your site there's a group policy you can push to force all intranet pages to be rendered in quirks mode, no matter which version of IE you're using.

Wiping out IE 6 simplifies cross-browser development (especially if you're also upgrading from Windows XP which is now less than 50% of the installed base), and makes it easier to start developing new features using AJAX – giving your users a better designed, more user friendly web. It's a consumer-led world out there, so why not bring some that JQuery goodness into your internal web applications? And once you've removed the dependency of IE6, you can start to migrate away from Windows XP, giving you access to many more management policies and tools.

Now that HTML 5 tooling is starting to appear, with tools like Adobe's Edge, there's a lot of scope for a new generation of enterprise applications that make users happy to work with their browser, rather than cursing IE 6. It's also an opportunity for you and your development teams to learn many new skills, letting you prepare for tomorrow's cloud world – where HTML 5 is a lingua franca for phones, desktops and any of a million other channels.

IE 6 is dead! Long live the web!

Simon Bisson

Topics: Windows

About

Born on the Channel Island of Jersey, Simon moved to the UK to attend the University of Bath where he studied electrical and electronic engineering. Since then a varied career has included being part of the team building the world's first solid state 30KW HF radio transmitter, writing electromagnetic modelling software for railguns, and t... Full Bio

About

Mary Branscombe is a freelance tech journalist. Mary has been a technology writer for nearly two decades, covering everything from early versions of Windows and Office to the first smartphones, the arrival of the web and most things inbetween.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.