Blog Post

37signals Stands Up For Modern Browsers

ScreenshotAn unusual notice appeared on the 37signals blog today:

On August 15th, 2008 we will begin phasing out support for Internet Explorer 6 across all 37signals products. In order to continue using the products without any hiccups, Internet Explorer 6 users should upgrade to a newer browser.

37signals make Basecamp, Campfire, Highrise, and Backpack, among other web applications – and this makes them one of the first major online vendors to dismiss IE6. While this will make the Save the Developers people happy, I wonder whether anyone else will dare to follow their lead. I know that for some of the markets I’m working with, IE6 support remains critical, and Net Applications still shows IE with a 26% market share. Seems like a lot of potential customers to throw overboard.

Are you ready to leave IE6 behind? Or are you resigned to a few more years of support?

22 Responses to “37signals Stands Up For Modern Browsers”

  1. Mike Celano

    As I developer, I would want IE6 to go away. As a businessmen – I can not ignore 25% of the market.

    “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. In this case we are talking about those 25% ignored users – that’s a treasure business opportunity.

    No wonder that other companies are taking steps. Like 5pm announced that they will still support IE6 and introduced an easy Basecamp-to-5pm data migration:

  2. @Jillian one more thing before I finally STFU:

    As of IE8 these clueless internal shops can have all of the crappy platform support they need, if the devs will just take the time to read up on the triggering mechanism.

    However, I think I’m being generous and optimistic by even hoping for that much.

    I don’t believe it’s possible for my expectations of internal enterprise shops to sink any lower than they’ve been for the past year or so. I routinely wonder how in the hell any of these people manage to keep their jobs.

  3. Has it ever occurred to anyone that the doormat issue artificially depresses common expectations of user experience in a way that’s grossly unfair… to pretty much everybody?

    …And on the issue of “but I get these huge traffic numbers” please see my comment to the effect of “if it matters so much” above.

    I still believe – in the same way I believed in the Tooth Fairy’s gifts if not her actual existence – that if enough people say “to hell with this” then the clueless will get the hint and start upgrading their browsing platforms.

    Of course, I think it would take some serious come-to-Jesus talk from pretty much every well-known agency before that became a possibility.

  4. @David+Jillian:

    The focus of my concern is on public-facing materials, and let’s not forget that I *did* mention the ossification of enterprise environments in my original comment (though not the reasons behind that phenomenon).

    Let’s just say that in my private thoughts I will stay unsympathetic and ranty.

    As for the issue itself – jeez, if it matters that much, then do it.

    But I stick to my original case that as long as professional devs continue to march around with the word WELCOME stamped on their backs when it comes time to face the issue of first-tier support for legacy browsing platforms, we are continuing to work against our own best interest.

    When you need to build Tool X and you can’t find anyone with actual talent to build it because all of the good people are working to practices that are actually current, what then?

    …But nooo, there are always enough doormats to ensure that what the enterprises want, they get, at the expense of turning the medium into yet another vast wasteland.

  5. Jillian

    Ben, the problem is not that home users won’t upgrade. The problem is that an awfully large number of businesses run out of date Microsoft servers and systems which will either cost a fortune to upgrade, or will break if upgraded.

    That’s part of the reason why Microsoft is so behind with standards compliance as well – they can’t afford to p!ss off all these businesses whose intranets were designed around the flaws inherent in older versions of IE.

    Convincing home users to upgrade is just a matter of education. But most of them probably do the majority of their web browsing at work where they are still stuck with whatever setup the company supplies.

    I would love nothing more than to ditch IE6 altogether. But I simply can’t afford to lose that many customers.

  6. Unless you’re doing some serious CSS or JavaScript ninjitsu, you can safely phase out IE6 support.

    Keep in mind that 37Signals (a) didn’t give a timeline for a total end of support and (b) attracts a web-savvy, developer-heavy audience. This could be a two-year process. And their audience is loaded with Firefox and Safari users.

    Most other sites probably can’t make this move yet.

  7. David

    Ben, it’s not that we don’t get that an upgraded browser is better – but if you have hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of visits from a browser, you’re tossing away a lot of people if you don’t support it.

  8. Gawd, this is one of the few subjects that makes me ranty.

    Let’s marshal arguments, hmm???

    [1] IE7 is a more secure platform. I don’t have statistics, but I do know that the decrease in patches for IE7 (y/o/y per lifecycle) speaks for itself.
    [2] IE7 had a few UI boogers when it shipped (menu bar, anyone?) but those’ve been attended to.
    [3] Tabs.

    IE7 has definitely earned its higher version number.

    “…But my visitors won’t upgrade!” For those who have a clear choice, this argument is a case of confirmation bias. Just because Joe Schmoe Client is afraid that breathing on his computer (much less installing a critical software upgrade) will cause it to break, does not necessarily mean that all of his customers are the same way.

    (And how is it that people will download Dancing Babies by the millions, but they won’t download a new browser? This logic, it confuses me.)

    …To which I add that the kind of technophobes who aren’t keeping their systems up to date probably aren’t spending a hell of a lot money online anyway, so why are we worried about them?

    Finally, this death-grip on legacy support creates a vicious cycle: the more sites still work in older versions, the less incentive people will have to commit system updates.

    The one relevant issue that I can’t shoot down here is the love that the enterprise feels for the status quo… and that’s a discussion unto itself.

  9. The bottom line is that each company that sells a product, web, cars or whatever, are making decisions that they think are in the best interest of their company, to do otherwise would be business hari-kari. I know that as a start up in the software on demand world that it is in the best interest of our company to continue to support IE6. For us we would be cutting a large part of our customer base.

  10. David

    If you have a large audience, you don’t phase out support for a browser, your audience phases out the need for it. Being able to declare you’re no longer supporting IE6 just lets everyone know what demographic your users are, little more.

  11. I agree with Luke’s comment: we too have a bunch of customers that are not in anything resembling the IT industry. They have no clue if they are using IE or FireFox, let alone what version! Anyway, I switched over to OnStage Project Management a while ago (for cost purposes) and now, boy am I glad I made that move!

  12. maybe they should consider developing these applications in flash / flex , where it isn’t browser dependant, and at least when there is an update, its a lot more of an automatic process.

  13. hoberion

    we are a paying customer (full plan) but we will certainly migrate to another platform if IE6 is nog supported since 95% of our desktop is still IE6

  14. Just checked with the stats of my Nozbe – Simply GTD web application and out of all of my IE traffic:

    IE7 is 65%
    IE6 is 35%
    and IE5 is 0.1% (we don’t support IE5)

    Bottom line: maybe 37signals can afford to drop support for IE6, I can’t. Too many business users don’t have their computers updated to the IE7, so dropping support there for IE6 would mean a loss of quite a number of users.

    But hey, maybe 37signals’ stats are different and maybe they can afford to drop support.

    Nozbe can’t.

  15. Jillian

    I don’t blame them. IE6 support is an absolute nightmare. I wish more large web companies would do the same because right now the majority of my userbase is IE6, and I can’t see it changing without this kind of push from the bigger players.

  16. I recently tried (and failed) to convince a client that dropping IE6 support was the way to go. They’re convinced that people would rather die than upgrade, which I don’t agree with.

    Given that Microsoft has called the update to 7 ‘required’, it’s really a call that’s already been made, and it’s up to web developers to follow that lead for the benefit of customers and their own business.

  17. @ Luke – IE7 is an automatic update. It’s not hard. And note that they’re NOT discontinuing IE support… just IE 6 support. Honestly, that’s not too much to expect – IE7 has been out for awhile. It’s IE for companies that can’t/won’t switch from IE. Yes, there will be transiitonal pain, but dropping old browsers is a reality – the don’t support IE 5 etc… And can you really expect IE 6 to be supported forever?

  18. My guess is that they will continue to quietly try to ensure that things work with IE6, but not spend time fixing bugs and adding workarounds as problems are discovered.

    Many of our customers still use IE6 though, at least 25%, so we’ll keep supporting it for the foreseeable future.

    37s has always believed in “opinionated software”, though, so I imagine this will make some people happy, and annoy others.

  19. Matt Hussein Platte

    The pro-IE arguments sound a lot like the justifications of an “enabler” in the family of an alcoholic or other abuser.

    Not a perfect analogy, but close.

  20. By contrast I can see this raising hell. We use basecamp every day at work to communicate with clients, many of whom have no idea what a ‘browser’ is. For us to have to ask them to upgrade is going to cause a lot of future troubles for sure.

  21. I guess if it’s good enough for Apple it’s good enough for 37Signals. I would venture to say that this won’t be an issue for the majority of people using their applications.