Blog Post

Is It Time to "Just Say No" to Internet Explorer 6?

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

ie6nomore-logoAs web workers, sometimes we have to walk a fine line between keeping clients happy, and providing the best possible services. For web developers like me, the issue of whether to continue supporting Internet Explorer 6 (s msft) is becoming a major headache.

It would seem to be a no-brainer to ditch support for a browser that is slow, prone to malware attacks, and incompatible with modern standards. Those of us who design and maintain web sites have to resort to all sorts of time-consuming (thus expensive!) tricks to make the sites we create work with IE6 — a browser that is now almost nine years old.

Unfortunately, up to a quarter of web users still use IE6, and in big companies, the percentage is even higher. According to Forrester Research, “60 percent of companies use Internet Explorer 6 as their default browser.”

There have been a few “kill IE6” sites for a while, but a new one, “IE6 No More“, is getting attention thanks to some very high-profile backers. They’ve come up with some simple code for insertion into web sites that I think is prominent without being obnoxious.

My company is still discussing the issue, but it’s likely that we’ll offer clients a choice:

  • ignore IE6 altogether during testing for browser compatibility;
  • include the “IE6 No More” code, or something similar to it; or,
  • provide IE6 compatibility at a significant cost premium.

Even YouTube (s goog) is reported to be phasing out support for IE6. When some more major sites do the same, IE6 users may finally be forced to upgrade. In the meantime, though, the extra costs to provide IE6 compatibility are passed on to everyone. In this economic environment, when every dollar counts, corporations, nonprofit, employees, customers and taxpayers need to ask why money is being wasted on maintaining old browsers.

How do you deal with IE6 compatibility issues?

16 Responses to “Is It Time to "Just Say No" to Internet Explorer 6?”

  1. We at artViper have officially dropped support for IE6 since a while now, but as you describe, if absolutely vital for the client, we still take the effort to make the sites work with IE6 – at additional costs, as it’s a slow economical death for any company providing this additional time and manpower to fixing IE6 issues for free.

    We acknowledge that some companies rely on IE6, as their tools were specially written for this platform, but imho also these companies have to rethink and maybe put some money in their hands to get a system that is independent of the browser used. It’s nearly 10 years now since this browser has been released – simply compare it to a car, it won’t take you from a to b forever. One day it’s time for a change.

  2. If you stick to progressive enhancement of your applications, there’s no reason why applications can’t at least be usable in IE6. Many of the websites I’m working on still have 20% or so of the site visitors using IE6 – the cost of supporting it is not so high that these businesses can afford to turn away 1 in 5 customers.

    Those who have been building web sites for a long time (since IE3 for me) seem to have little or no trouble supporting IE6, but it’s a real problem for newer developers who see nothing but roadblocks with it.

    @MRL had some really good tips, but you can skip the rule about always applying position and just use zoom: 1. It won’t validate but it will trigger hasLayout in IE6. hasLayout is the main reason layouts break in IE6. Learn how it works and how to fix it and you’re mostly set.

  3. I guess I just don’t get what the big deal is. If you’ve been designing long enough to have been able to design for IE6 already, what’s the problem with continuing? If you didn’t learn to design in the pre-IE7 days (and I’ve been around long enough to remember designing for Netscape and IE), it just seems like laziness or petulance. If banks and trading sites can managed to keep their sites secure for customers using using IE6 (and even earlier browser versions), why can’t you?

    • DigitalBlade

      I’ve been a designer since around 2002 and anyone can tell you that sites back then didn’t look like what they do today. IE6 was a decent browser back then, but it has not kept up with the requirements for modern sites. As some of the other users mentioned, yes, it is possible to have an IE6 compatible site. But that’s my time and money that goes into it.

      For me, my job is over when I provide a beautiful, error-free code, that works on all the current major browsers. Troubleshooting a dinosaur should be a premium. Banks and large corporations have no choice but to offer backward compatibility. But you are overlooking one important point: They have extremely high resources and entire teams of developers working on specific aspects of their site. I don’t have those resources.

  4. @Eric: I do think about it from a business perspective… specifically, my own business. :)

    There’s no need to be religious about IE vs Firefox vs Safari, etc. I just tell my clients that IE6 isn’t supported, but if it’s important to them I can add another 10-15 hours to the project, because that’s how long I’ve found it takes to patch an otherwise standards-compliant website to work.

    Funny, it’s stopped being important to them.

  5. Migrating users to more secure browsers is an opportunity and in some cases a responsibility to help protect their data, computer and privacy. The challenge is to position this as a benefit and not a intrusive. The recommendation OTA is working with members is to specifically encourage them to migrate to the most current version of their browser for their benefit. Done right this reinforced the brand value of the site they are visiting. Read more at Our research shows trying to move a user to a competitive browser will only cause confusion and may be perceived as self-serving . Attend our Town Hall in Oct to learn more

  6. @Ryan — any way you measure it, it’s way past retirement age. I can’t understand why some some corporations still use it as their official browser: it’s a security nightmare. Maybe the rollout of Windows 7 will finally kill it off when corporations that are still holding onto XP might finally make an upgrade?

  7. At our company, Mitto, security is a top priority, and as such our service does not support IE6. However, we understand that some people at work have no other option other than IE6. As a response, we created a document for them to send to their IT guys which outlines reasons why they should offer an alternative to IE6. This doesn’t necessarily mean getting rid of IE6, but at least offering another updated browser as well.

    Your Safe and Secure Online Password Manager

  8. Bold statement: Supporting IE6 is not difficult.

    For this who struggle with it, here’s some tips:

    1. Structure your entire page/theme/template before you start applying any CSS rules. Adding major DOM elements after you’ve started writing your CSS rules is a recipe for CSS bloat (i.e. disaster).

    2. Use a CSS reset before you start writing any CSS rules.

    3. Use a good cross-browser Javascript framework like jQuery.

    4. Make sure you give *every* major structural DIV a position: relative or position: absolute CSS attribute.

    5. Understand that IE6 will get the z-order wrong if it guesses them, and work correct z-orders into your CSS. This will also save you time in other browsers BTW.

    6. If you find yourself using negative values in CSS for margin, top, left etc go back and revise – you’ve either got a crappily defined DOM or you’ve fallen victim to CSS bloat.

    7. Use a good IE PNG fix, and include it using conditional statements along with the defer attribute.

    8. Just be better at what you do. If you’re struggling with IE6 support, it’s just because there’s some key browser differences you just haven’t clicked on yet. In these cases, you’re probably also missing some Opera and Safari specific quirks too.

  9. According to Moore’s Law, computer power doubles roughly every two years. I take that to mean that a lifetime in computer years (like dog years) is about two human years. Assuming that the average human lifespan is 70 years (if we’re optimistic), then one human year is worth about 35 computer years.

    If IE6 has been around for 9 years, then 9 x 35 = 315. That would make Internet Explorer 6 almost 315 years old!

  10. Can’t we just ditch IE fullstop. Was at a clients today, He uses IE8 beta and that fucks up the rendering of one of my sites as well.

    Can someone go postal at MS HQ and put us all out of our misery please

  11. Don’t just look at it from a technological perspective. Look at it from a business perspective.

    Yes, we all hate IE6 as designers or developers.

    But our customers don’t know that.

    Most don’t even know what IE version they’re using.

    Bank of America, Facebook, Twitter, imagine if they stopped supporting a still-highly-used browser.

    Millions of users would see quirks. Millions….

    If you can afford to drop it, go for it!

    Most big business can’t…so until the usage rate comes down (like, I’m talking IE 5.5 levels), don’t look for a mass exclusion anytime soon.

  12. From a (bootstrapped) service providers standpoint, we simply can’t afford to support IE6. The quirks are so many, and yes- it’s quite strange to see so many out there that are still using 6.

    So- we just ignore IE6, and offer a “use-it-at-your-own-risk” disclaimer.