Time to kill Internet Explorer 6

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%.

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TOPICS: Windows
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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

Topic: Windows

Simon Bisson

About Simon Bisson

Simon Bisson is a freelance technology journalist. He specialises in architecture and enterprise IT. He ran one of the UK's first national ISPs and moved to writing around the time of the collapse of the first dotcom boom. He still writes code.

Mary Branscombe

About Mary Branscombe

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.

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7 comments
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  • As I recall, the biggest reason for developing for IE6 is "The Sales Department has assured the customer that the application supports it.".

    Not that IE7 is a lot better, but at least IE7 doesn't crash in flames when confronted with slightly non-trivial Javascript.
    Zogg
  • I know of at least one major supermarket and one large UK police force that are still using Windows 2000 and IE6.
    aardware
  • Part of the upgrade issues are just as you state: "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.". As we all know, Microsoft had a difficult time adhering to standards back then, and sites that were specifically coded using Microsoft tools to specifically work with IE6, are caught in this mess now having to re-code in order for the content to render correctly in IE7, 8, etc. Hopefully this will be a wake-up call to get these sites on more standard platforms and coded so that they are cross-browser compatible. While this may take some more work initially, it helps keeping the sites compatible with browsers now and in the future.
    Chris_Clay
  • More and more websites don't support ie 6,i have used ie 6 over 8 years.so i try to use all kinds of browsers in my XP. Such as ,avant browser ,ie 8,firefox ,chrome ...and so on .Finally , i choose avant browser .fast ,no crash ,useful ,use less memory
    tripnon
  • @apexwm Except as I note, there's actually a very simple fix for most pages, due to a bug in IE 6!
    anonymous
  • IE6 should have been killed off by Microsoft years ago! Instead, continuing to support it until either A) world-wide usage drops below 1% (which it won't do any time soon in places like China), B) 2014 (to coincide with the end of life of Windows XP), means Microsoft are REALLY holdup up the future of the web right now!

    The problem, I believe, is two-fold: Firstly, with corporations that are still forcing employees to use IE6 in work because their IT departments/system admins are unwilling to migrate past IE6. Secondly, with Microsoft too scared to "rock the boat" and upset large corporations still using IE6!!

    Microsoft need's to stop pandering to these organizations and end support for IE6 much much sooner than 2014!

    I blogged about this very subject recently:
    http://blog.mid.as/index.php/2011/07/20/the-great-ie6-debate-are-microsoft-holding-back-the-web/

    ...if Microsoft are going to continue to support IE6 for another 3 years, webmasters and software developers alike should all pull together and end IE6 support for their sites/web apps - just as we, and countless others (Google, YouTube, Hotmail, Wordpress, etc) have already done!
    MID_AS
  • Am I mistaken in believing that 'downgrade rights' for XP end in 2020, the projected end of security updates for windows 7?
    roger andre