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Design, random musings, and the Web. Since 1977

The Final Word on IE6

A friend of mine recently asked the question “Why the Hate on Internet Explorer 6?” He explains some very logical reasons why it doesn’t make sense to be so negative about IE6, and as I agree with him on just about all points, I thought I’d give the clearest answer I could.

Simply put, IE6 shouldn’t get any hate. Nor should it receive any love, either.

The best thing the web standards community (and any other smart web folk) can do is stop complaining about an ancient browser whose developer waited too long to replace, and just stop supporting it altogether.

One of the benefits of web standards is that our documents are marked up correctly before we reach the presentational stage. One of the benefits of IE6 (et al) is that we can target specific versions using Conditional Comments. The combination of the two means we can still send our content to old browsers, but not have to bother with the presentation, thus saving ourselves hours of needless headaches and frustrations, while not punishing the users of said old browsers by denying them access to our content.

There’s constant discussion about whether or not to continue support for IE6, and the only reason ever given these days in favor of supporting that browser is its market share. That market share is diminishing, and we’ve already reached the second beta of IE8, so let’s start dropping it already. Make the argument against supporting IE6, to your clients, your boss, your team—whoever needs to hear it, keep applying pressure and don’t back down.

It’s time to stop supporting IE6. Period.

This article has very kindly been translated to Serbo-Croatian language by Jovana Milutinovich from Webhostinggeeks.com.

This item was posted by Dan Rubin on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008.


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56 comments on “The Final Word on IE6”

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  1. Posted by Wade Winningham on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008.

    While I agree with you to an extent, I base my own decision as to whether or not to support IE6 on the audience of a site. I’m currently primarily doing intranets or extranets and I have to go by what the users of those sites use. One site has a fair number of IE6 users, who are still on Windows ME and unlikely to get upgraded anytime soon.

    Luckily, most of these are apps with simple designs and once they work in IE7, tend to work with only minor adjustments in IE6. I definitely leave IE6 for last and am not overly concerned if something is a little off as long as the functionality is there. So while I can’t completely stop supporting it, I try to give it as little attention as possible.

  2. Posted by Travis Beck on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008.

    I can’t wait until the day that IE6 finally dies for good. But it’s going to take a major campaign on part of the development community to finally put an end to it. As well as an educated user base to finally switch or upgrade. I recently launched my site and it was heavily featured in several CSS galleries, so I figured, given the user base it was exposed to, that I wouldn’t see very many instances of IE6 in my logs. To my surprise about 40% of users were on IE and about 60% of those were IE6 users. I was kind of shocked, but relieved to see that FF was on top at 50% overall. We’re making progress; it’s just going to be a long haul.

  3. Posted by Michael on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008.

    Many of my large clients report IE6 usage anywhere from 20% – 33%. There are many reasons for this, and may users cannot upgrade easily or at all.

    Until IE6 is under 2%, we owe it to our audience to support it.

  4. Posted by Elliot Jay Stocks on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008.

    *cough cough* Death to IE6, did someone say? ;)

  5. Posted by Dan Rubin on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008.

    @Wade: What I’ve been doing lately is telling clients that IE6 support isn’t included by default, and if they really want it (e.g. if enough of their users still use IE6) it is an extra fee, and that it doesn’t include full support for features that *can’t* be supported in IE6, but can in newer browsers (mostly design-related choices). So it’s still a contextual decision, but I expect designers and developers to be intelligent enough to know when to enforce the rule and when to bend a little :)

    @Travis: Like I said to Wade above, it’s contextual to be sure: about 7% of my visitors today use IE6, and that’s been dropping steadily over the last 2 years. For my clients, I make sure to evaluate their stats and make the proper recommendation to them, though IE6 support is still considered additional work and is charged as such. But I think it needs to be explicit that developers start dropping support visually, while retaining as much functionality as possible (by using progressive enhancement), making it clear to users of IE6—which, in a corporate environment, also means the IT staff—that its time has come.

    @Michael: Like I just said in response to Travis, the IT staff (in my experience) is responsible for pushing upgrades, so if enough web apps and sites that corporate users might need to use start requiring IE7 or better for full functionality, that will give IT enough reason to recommend an upgrade. I’ve seen it before as a tech in the past, and I know it will be the same with this issue.

    @Elliot: *cough* indeed :) Just try not to hate the browser or the folks who built it: it is, after all, just old, and it’s more the responsibility of IT managers and Microsoft to push upgrades, not the majority of users (in this case).

  6. Posted by brian warren on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008.

    Great idea Dan. I like the option of making IE6 an opt-in feature for clients.

    I like the point that you make that the burden isn’t on the users, it’s on the IT managers and MS to foster progress. And let’s not forget what a huge step forward IE6 was from 5.5. And double-points to MS making IE7 an automatic update.

    Now let’s start seeing some features like multi-columns and border-radius make their way into IE8. Progress, hurrah!

  7. Posted by Wade Winningham on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008.

    @Dan: I think you’re solution is perfect. Charge extra for it if it’s desired. That way you’re not shutting the door completely, just getting paid for the extra time you know it’s going to take. At the minimum it brings up the discussion before you’re finished with the project.

  8. Posted by Nate Klaiber on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008.

    I think your response is one of the better responses I have seen. It’s easy for us as developers to get upset and throw it out the window in frustration, but we have to remind ourselves that it is still something we have to work with/consider depending on the context of our projects.

    It’s easy to whine and complain, and educating isn’t always easy. I think your route, where you charge extra and can show why you are charging extra, helps eliminate the whining and complaining (you will be paid for the extra blood, sweat, and tears), and it helps with the education, as clients can now see why IE is a poor browser choice and the reasons behind it (from a business perspective).

  9. Posted by Chris Fullman on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008.

    You’re right, this was definitely better as a response/post than a simple comment on my blog! :)

    I’m all on board for people to some complaining about the browser itself (especially when they have the tendency to continually compare it to today’s browsers) and instead focus their frustrations on giving their users a valuable, legitimate reason for ending support for IE6 and getting them to upgrade.

    Just because we think the browser sucks (now) does not mean the browser was bad to begin with: my mentality in the matter is that IE6 did what it was supposed to when it was launched and up until Firefox 1.0 was launched, when a better option was publicly available. (As I noted in my post, up until Firefox 1.0 was released, there really were no other viable alternative options as Netscape was already dead and the Mozilla Suite was dying.)

    Now it’s time to move on. We can’t push the remaining 25% of users that still have IE6 as their browser of choice over to a newer browser just because we as a development community think “it sucks” and “some things may be broken on our site until you upgrade.” We need to give them an actual reason to upgrade.

  10. Posted by Andy on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008.

    We’re putting a quote together for a quite a large site, and are charging extra for 100% visual compliance in IE6. I’m up for the idea of dropping a fairly simple IE6 only stylesheet so it looks passable and, as you say, not punish the user by still giving them access to content.

  11. Posted by Dan Rubin on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008.

    @Brian: While I’d love to see what we all consider “proper” CSS support make it into IE8, I’m also not holding my breath—just like the “issue” of the broken page icon, it’s not really Microsoft’s priority to make us happy. We’re an incredibly small percentage of the market for them, and on top of that I’m betting that many people who complain about IE’s standards support don’t even use Windows (XP or Vista) as their operating system. Where is MSFT’s business justification for making us happy at all?

    @Nate: I’ve contributed my share of whining about IE6, but that’s ultimately a waste of time. The sooner we all move on and start doing things that will eventually result in change, the better.

    @Chris: amen brother, amen.

    @Andy: the next step is to see if your clients are ok with *no* visual support for IE6, and just hide the stylesheets from it and older versions.

  12. Posted by Patrick Haney on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008.

    It’s all well and good to say “let’s stop supporting IE6” or “let’s charge clients more for IE6 support”, but the problem here is for those of us who don’t really have a choice. Freelancers and design agencies can pick their clients, but support teams and design groups within companies and (in my case) universities are stuck dealing with up to 25% of its user base still browsing with IE6. Whether it’s Microsoft specific web applications (ActiveX is not your friend) or computer labs that haven’t been upgraded, some designers have to keep IE6 in the equation when it comes to HTML and CSS.

    On the other side, I think it’s our job as leaders in our field to push for the adoption of IE7 and IE8 sooner than later. Start documenting the time it takes you to add IE6 support into your websites and web applications. Ask clients why they’re using IE6 and recommend that they seriously think about upgrading.

    The time to stop supporting IE6 is overdue in my opinion, but it won’t be reality until we all step up and force the issue. Let’s tell our clients, our users, and even our bosses why we shouldn’t be supporting a piece of software that’s now over 7 years old and is full of bugs. Let’s make it happen.

  13. Posted by Jon Aizlewood on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008.

    Keep the momentum going! I’ve just written an article on this exact topic – http://www.carbongraffiti.com/2008/09/03/the-reverse-tipping-point-say-goodbye-ie6/. Getting guys like you to prove that you’re considering dropping IE6 support is crucial to starting the ball rolling.

  14. Posted by Dan Rubin on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008.

    @Patrick: very good point about in-house departments—people can still target IT departments at universities et al, since ultimately they are the folks who need to provide the justification for whatever investment is required to make the upgrades a reality.

    @Jon: The more the merrier :)

  15. Posted by Matt Robin on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008.

    I’m definitely going that way (stopping support for IE6) – I still conditional comment for it at the moment though. What concerns me more is that IE7, now widespread in use, became far more buggy when launched than anticipated, and the soon to be released IE8 could also go the same way (although I hope it doesn’t). What I mean is that non-support for IE6 is probably much less of an issue than the support for current and new versions of IE.

  16. Posted by Dan Rubin on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008.

    @Matt: I rarely have issues with IE7 from a CSS perspective, things seem to just work 99% of the time, especially using Eric Meyer’s CSS Reset (but even without resetting styles it’s been decent).

    Obviously we’ll still have to support IE7 and IE8, but the amount of time it will require will be much lower than with previous versions.

  17. Posted by icaaq on Thursday, September 4th, 2008.

    A suggestion to your suggestion is that you make it clear for the the clients that instead of sitting hours and hours to fix ie6-bugs that time can be used to make better enhancements for the standardsaware broswers. That’s if they have a budget for the project and needs to decide what to do with the money.

  18. Posted by Mark on Monday, September 8th, 2008.

    Hey, I never thought of that; charging extra for IE6-support.

    I had an idea as well: make standard conditional for IE6, which will show a box on top of the created website, stating the person is using an outdated browser, and should consider upgrading to IE7/8, Firefox or Chrome.

    If one of the mentioned browsers is being used, the css-box will be hidden.

  19. Posted by Bruno Miranda on Friday, September 12th, 2008.

    Hey Dan,

    This post and Nathan’s sprung the idea of creating http://idroppedie6.com/

  20. Posted by Noel Hurtley on Saturday, September 13th, 2008.

    Great discussion. I dropped support for IE6 on my personal sites about a year ago and I think I’m going to start charging my clients extra to support the ancient browser.

    Mark: I started doing this shortly after I dropped support for IE6. Check out Veglog in IE6 to see the special upgrade notice. I think it’s a clever solution that empowers the user to make a more informed decision about their browser.

  21. Posted by Chad on Monday, September 15th, 2008.

    IE6 should be death by March, or hopefully earlier…


  22. Posted by mingz on Monday, September 22nd, 2008.

    The only good thing of IE is that it is the first to officially support XMLRequestHttp() (ie5), which makes Ajax possible. Other than that, its strange box model, securiry model and DOM model bring a lot of trouble to web designers. Personally, I would say IE is sucessful in market, but technically it is a piece of junk. I am very glad to see IE is fading out, although clients pay more if they want complete cross-browser compatibility of website ;).

  23. Posted by Chris on Tuesday, September 30th, 2008.

    Our website’s users on IE6 are still in the 30-40% range. With millions of pageviews per month, we can’t afford to lose any of those users because we “didn’t want to deal with IE6.” There are still completely workable solutions for IE6.

    There’s got to be a balance between not showing any styles at all and trying to maintain the exact visuals/functionality on all browsers and versions. Anyone who says different is just being lazy.

  24. Posted by Dan Rubin on Tuesday, September 30th, 2008.

    @Chris: I totally agree—expanding a bit more on what I said in my first comment, my stance for personal sites and any projects that aren’t built for a client is that IE6 shouldn’t be supported. For clients, I explain why they might not need to support it, and that including support will require extra time and that they will be charged accordingly. No one has had a problem with this yet, and I’ve been using that approach for more than 2 years now.

    In many cases, IE6 works without any hacks or adjustments—I’m certainly not advocating removing support if it’s there, but extra effort should be balanced against need.

    The problem with stating a firm opinion publicly is that it loses its desired effect if you include an asterisk and list out all the cases where you might not want to make such a bold statement. The assumption is that everyone reading this can still think for themselves, and will continue to make the best decisions for their clients and their audience.

  25. Posted by Chris on Tuesday, September 30th, 2008.

    @Dan I do feel your IE6 pain. Ah, if only I had time to work on “personal sites and any projects that aren’t built for a client.”

    IE for Mac FTW

  26. Posted by Jonny Haynes on Tuesday, October 14th, 2008.

    Hi Dan,

    I totally agree with what’s been said, it should depend on the circumstance. If i get asked to build a site with IE6 support, I always ask to see there stats if they have any – to prove that it’s worth it.

    I like Andy Clarke’s stance on IE6 support or lack of it.

  27. Posted by jyoseph on Friday, October 17th, 2008.

    I love IE6!!! I want it to be re-released in a super-gold-platinum edition.

  28. Posted by Tony on Monday, October 20th, 2008.

    While I haven’t yet dropped IE 6, I spend much less time on it than I used to. Between JS frameworks doing the nitty-gritty of browsers for me and my tendancy to use IE conditional stylesheets to just rip out fancy detail that doesn’t work in IE6 and replace it with something much simpler, the pain of having to deal with IE is much reduced. Now all I need is for them to finish and release IE8 so I can do the same thing to IE7.

  29. Posted by Phil L on Saturday, October 25th, 2008.

    The primary reason why so many still use obsolete software is because they simply do not realize that it is obsolete, let alone how really obsolete it is.
    A major educational campaign geared toward “average” end users is required, rather than just a lot of bitching confined to a few relatively esoteric developer sites. And let’s face it, 75 percent of the “average” browser-using public still thinks html is just an abbreviation for “hotmail” ! And Microsoft solitaire is still the major use of cyber-time for quite a few……..
    What is needed is a campaign similar to the 1970’s when automakers had to post little stickers all over the cars and gaspumps that noted the new requirements….”Caution, Unleaded Fuel Only”.

  30. Posted by Adriaan on Thursday, October 30th, 2008.

    I hate IE6, but unfortunately can’t stop supporting it. I’m trying to help people to upgrade, by showing a warning message on the top of my sites to IE6 users, with a couple of links they can follow to get a better browser…

  31. Posted by Marty on Monday, December 15th, 2008.

    Let’s stop supporting the W3C standard, problems solved!!! Can anyone explain the box model??? If so, stop waising your time floating and margin !!!

  32. Posted by Aaron on Sunday, December 21st, 2008.

    I’m very much in favour of making IE6 visually different as this will be all most people need to be forced up upgrade their browser. The corporate world I think will make a jump from IE6 to IE8 when it is fully launched, when this starts to roll out would be anyone’s guess.

    If people who build websites do nothing and say nothing about IE6 then nothing is going to happen and we will be left spending a ton of time fixing for IE.

    Roll on the day.

  33. Posted by Azeem on Sunday, December 28th, 2008.

    Although I like every other developer agrees IE6 that should go – one very important point is I believe the developer has absolutely no right to dictate what browser a user should or should not use. This is not the decision of a developer.

    I fully agree with Chris who said we need to strive for a middle ground where IE6 is supported – but only to a reasonable extent. Unfortunately many of us don’t have that luxury – It would be suicide if I decided to even slightly stop IE6 support for the company I work for as our thousands subscribers could go to a competitor who does support it – this is a risk that the management would never take.

    There are 2 sides – From a standards progression point of view I agree that we need to get as far away from IE6 as possible and strive for a developers utopia where we didn’t need to worry about such problems and get on with the work – but sadly from a business point of view where money is at stake, supporting IE6 is always going to win. In the end it will always come down to money.

    Boss: “Will it cost us if we don’t support IE6?”
    Dev: “Yes”
    Boss:”In that case we must support IE6?
    Dev: “But it will take longer to develop”
    Boss:”Irrelevant – the money lost from IE6 exclusion will surely surpass the money spent on longer development”
    Dev: **cries**

    It’s a necessary evil.

  34. Posted by Dan Rubin on Sunday, December 28th, 2008.

    @Azeem: I completely agree, as I’ve stated earlier in the comments — if the audience requires IE6 support, then we have to support it. Agencies and freelancers should charge for that extra support however; that is within their rights for spending additional time on that browser.

    It’s also worth pointing to Jeremy Keith’s 24ways article The IE6 Equation, as it directly discusses what is meant by “support” for IE6.

  35. Posted by Lieven on Monday, February 23rd, 2009.

    “Final word on IE6” = best sentence ever.
    It’s just plain idiocy to claim that “That’s the way the webcoockie cumbles”.
    Design should be able to deal with it’s borders, but still, there’s a limit.

    Today, IE6 is past that limit.
    And I’m happy with it.

  36. Posted by Kids Wall Art on Saturday, March 7th, 2009.

    As a developer, I still work for clients who live in the dark ages when it comes to computers (and internet browsers), and most of them still believe IE6 is the standard web browser nowadays. It’s a personal mission of mine to educate them on why firefox is so much better or how IE has 2 newer versions since 6.

  37. Posted by msn on Monday, March 16th, 2009.

    very good point about in-house departments—people can still target IT departments at universities et al, since ultimately they are the folks who need to provide the justification for whatever investment is required to make the upgrades a reality.

  38. Posted by VisitCafe on Monday, April 6th, 2009.

    IE 6 is a big enemy of web designer. Unfortunately, So many people still like this f**** browser

  39. Posted by Andy Stratton on Wednesday, April 8th, 2009.

    Nice post, Dan. I’ve been fortunate enough to have clients (yay) but unfortunate enough that they want IE6 support.

    I’m honestly to the conclusion that defining support as pixel-perfection for IE 6,…,IE 8 is only worth it if it’s within the client’s budget. It takes time, energy, experience to tweak a lot of the quirks.

    Education is key. Screaming “Ugh that browser sucks” has yet to do anything for any of my clients; and ones in managed environments (schools/corporate offices) are ready to move to the next freelancer at that point.

    I’m personally a big fan of some graceful degradation for older browser (or those that have limited support for CSS/JS/etc.). I’m firm on the notion that content should be accessibly delivered to the user in a usable fashion, but if they want the goodies, they need to upgrade ;]

  40. Posted by sebastien on Wednesday, April 15th, 2009.

    I’m french, sorry for my english :-/

    Hello Dan, i’m sorry but i have a question and i don’t find a response anywhere.
    I want to write in the comments of my blog “2 weeks ago” or “3 days ago”, like you in your comments but i don’t know why do that. Could you help me please ? What is the code you use ?

    Thank you :-)

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