Farewell IE6

Mar 11 2011 by Arley McBlain | 48 Comments

Farewell IE6

The year was 2003. I was working on my first website out of college. It was a personal portfolio geared towards landing my first job in the industry. I was trying to build a site unlike anything prospective employers would have seen before.

The grungy homepage wasn’t built with tables as my college education had taught me. I needed to create layers to allow my random Polaroid photo to change beneath its frame, so I used a bizarre element called a <div>. It was alien to me, but it worked.

There was only one catch: Of the modern browsers of the day, it only worked on Internet Explorer 6.

It was frustrating to think that my site would only work for those who kept their browsers up to date.

IE6 Glory

When it came out in August 2001, IE6 was slick. For a couple years, it was the standard by which other browsers were measured. There was actually a period when it was the browser of users in-the-know (like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox today).

For a time, Internet Explorer enjoyed an incredible 95% market share across the globe. Think about that. That is a staggering statistic that will probably never be repeated by a single web browser again.

Farewell IE6

For five years, IE6 ruled the web almost completely uncontested. This is why it’s so well rooted today. Large organizations, companies and even the government began to use IE6 extensively, and they developed intranet applications that, in many cases, will not work in any other browser. For some, switching would mean incurring millions of dollars of development and testing.

Ironically, my desire for people to use IE6 back in the day would become my burden as a web designer later on. People adopted Windows XP and IE6 in droves — but five years later, they didn’t upgrade their browsers as readily.

People were just comfortable using IE6.

IE6 Infamy

The problem began in 2006. Microsoft announced the release of the new and improved IE7, so one day during work I installed the upgrade. I would soon realize that sites did not render the same in the two versions of IE.

To my horror, I would realize that — not only could I not rely on users upgrading their browsers — but that I would, in fact, have to test sites I made on both versions.

It was an inconvenience I thought would only last a few months.

Two years later, IE6 usage was still beating IE7 in many regions.

Today IE6 is still considered by many to be one of the worst tech releases of all time for its lack of support of web standards and for its security flaws (as any product receiving patches monthly for a decade should).

For the last few years there have been some dazzling campaigns against the browser, from the IE6 Funeral and Crash IE (which literally kills the browser), to websites listing all the things younger than IE6 (which includes digital SLR cameras, the iPod, and Xbox).

For nearly five years now, making sites backwards compatible for this aging browser has been a fact of life. When building a new site, it’s just a given that an IE6-specific stylesheet is going to be needed to hide advanced content and to hack layouts to work around the browser’s bugs.

The Beginning of the End!

Last Friday, I read a startling tweet from Microsoft announcing the impending demise of the browser. For years, the usage has been in slow decline, and it seems that finally even its manufacturer is calling for users to make the switch.

Farewell IE6

IE6 Countdown, by Microsoft, is rallying the final holdouts to do their part to get the browsers usage down to 1%.

My surprise was only multiplied when, that same day, I started hearing about large corporate clients announcing that they were in fact no longer concerned with IE6 compatibility. It was the moment I’ve been dreaming of since 2006.

I then felt something unexpected.

Even as a front-end developer who suffers the worst of IE6′s drawbacks, I’ll admit I actually felt a small pang of sadness and nostalgia at the news. IE6 will always have a prominent place in Internet history, but the time has come to move on.

A Call to Action

If you or your company are still using IE6, I would whole-heartedly encourage you to upgrade to something more modern. Excellent browsers are free, and the improvements made since 2001 (the birth year of IE6) have been vast. In terms of presentation, capability — and perhaps most concerning, security — IE6 can’t begin to compare to today’s browsers. Many of them will even update themselves rather than let your system age into obscurity.

There are many browsers to choose from, here are some of them:

So long, old friend.

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About the Author

Arley McBlain is a web designer, web developer, in Burlington, Ontario, Canada. If you’d like to keep in touch with the author, check out his personal site, ArleyM, and follow him on Twitter as @ArleyM.

48 Comments

Saad Bassi

March 11th, 2011

Great article Arley loved it :) However I think Microsoft could have created this count down timer for ie8 rather than ie6 :D

Aslam Najeebdeen

March 11th, 2011

You can use this fawsome banner as well http://beatie6.frontcube.com

Filip

March 11th, 2011

Epic introduction!

Koen

March 11th, 2011

Do you web developers and designers still design and develop for IE6? I dropped mine when YouTube and other major websites started to drop it… Isnt it that a lot of company’s still use IE6?

Josh Kohlbach

March 11th, 2011

Goodbye and good riddance I say!

Hard to believe it’s really been that long.

James

March 11th, 2011

I sent our infrastructure team the link to the countdown site. Our organisation, with tens of thousands of employees only allow IE6 to be installed and used on corporate machines (unless you know how to hack windows). I thought that with Microsoft itself abandoning IE6, surely a change in policy must be at least considered. Their response: ‘Microsoft does not dictate network policy for . We have no plans to change the default web browsers on our corporate image’.

Adrian

March 11th, 2011

“…I actually felt a small pang of sadness…”

No you didn’t! =)

Sean

March 11th, 2011

Companies who still run IE6 are not doing it out of laziness or lack of knowledge. They are doing it because critical business applications their employees use REQUIRE IE6 to work. Porting these apps to something that would work in modern browsers would consume an enormous amount of resources…resources that most companies don’t have right now.

So unless Microsoft is going to volunteer their time to help these companies upgrade these applications for cheap or free, migration isn’t going to happen any time soon.

If we really want these companies to migrate, what is going to have to happen is one of the modern browsers gets an extension that lets it switch to running in an IE6 mode, allowing companies to upgrade their browsers without having to upgrade these large business applications.

Theo

March 11th, 2011

“…the time has come to move on” Amen!

Kyle

March 11th, 2011

Add this one to you list. – RockMelt. It’s basically chrome but more usable, and with amazing social integrations.

Strixy

March 11th, 2011

If I was working for a business that REQUIRED IE6 for critical business applications I would start looking for a new job now. Relying on old technology might be the single biggest sign of an out dated business model. One that is endemic of larger bureaucratic failings, specifically failure on the part of any company to recognize the benefits and efficiencies of new technology. How long does it take for a competitor to capitalize on that?

Ellie

March 11th, 2011

Great article!

I used to think that businesses were just lazy or didn’t have the time/knowledge to upgrade. When I started working for a local medium-sized business in 2008, they were still using IE 6. When I asked my manager (the IT manager) why that was, he said that it was the only browser that will run their most important application. When I left 2 years later, the application creator was working on a version for Firefox, and the app was compatible with IE 7. I hope the app creator maintains it so it’s compatible with the latest IE or continues to develop the Firefox-based system. The app creator was not making software for just that company either, this was an application that they pay for monthly or yearly to use.

I agree with Sean, I think one of the best solutions is if a browser has an IE 6 mode of some sort, whether it’s a plugin or in IE’s core as a compatibility mode. That way companies won’t have to spend a ton of money to migrate their apps.

Young

March 11th, 2011

@Sean I’ve heard this many times, and it’s probably the only reason we have that 3.5% still using it. It seems to me a simple solution would be to allow employees to browse the web in some other browser while keeping IE6 for the applications they run…why is that not an option? A lot of IE6 users are stuck with it because the company computers don’t allow them to install anything, and they always seem pretty frustrated about it. The least the companies could do is at least put Chrome on for them. And is IE6 that different from IE7 in terms of functionality that you can’t easily adapt the applications? What does IE6 have that the later versions don’t have, besides terrible compatibility with everything it was primarily designed for (web browsing)? Why was a proprietary web browser integrated into “critical” business applications in the first place? Here’s America’s myopia coming back to bite us in the ass again, like your 110V power lines…

I’ve stopped tweaking for IE6 this year as well, unless clients asked for it. Good riddance, really.

Yvonne

March 11th, 2011

Yes, I remember the days when IE was the best of all browsers and I chose it over Netscape. I’m indeed a little sad that we’ve grown apart since then…

ArleyM

March 11th, 2011

Hopefully users will catch the hint and upgrade to something modern so we don’t have to have a separate IE7 Countdown as well.

For aggressive anti-IE6 WordPress fans who want to punish their IE6 users check out this lovely plugin: http://rle.me/28

@Sean – IE6 emulator plugins would be amazing. I’ve looked high and low to no avail.

TheAL

March 11th, 2011

I stopped developing for IE6 back in 2008 (offering to test in it only for higher rates as a developer). I have been a huge proponent of letting it die out by force. Initially, many developers called such people “impatient” and doing their clients a disservice. Funny, ’cause now they’re all seeing what we were crying about, and most all of them are vehemently following. Enough is enough. Not developing in IE6 isn’t a disservice to web surfers. Using it is the disservice to them. *lol*

Michael Tuck

March 11th, 2011

Good riddance. I will feel no pangs of sadness when it shuffles off this mortal coil.

Now to get rid of IE 7… :)

Maggie

March 11th, 2011

Great article, but the sad thing is that the people who use IE6 honestly don’t know any better. My web development teacher uses IE as her go-to browser (True Story: she’s actually referred to Google Chrome as a “web 2.0 app.”). The other students in that class didn’t even know what a ‘browser’ was, or that there are options besides IE. They just think of Internet Explorer as ‘the internet’. So when I explain to them that IE really isn’t the best option, and that they’d be better off with Firefox or Safari, it means nothing to them.

marianney

March 11th, 2011

@Maggie, that is horrific to know that a “web development” teacher wouldn’t know what Chrome is let alone still use iE6! That’s like those people on American Idol that can’t sing for crap but yet are voice teachers.

@Young, i think that is a great solution. Why can’t those companies that have to use IE6 install a second browser for their users? I guess they don’t want people surfing on company time maybe?

And I’d like to know too: what is so special about IE6 that these critical business apps only work on it? Does anyone understand why that is and can explain it to the rest of us?

I myself stopped supporting IE6 earlier this year when MS no longer allowed Spoon to offer it as a stand-alone browser. It was honestly no loss for me! People that still use IE6 should start getting used to the fact that all their sites will look like crap.

dixhuit

March 11th, 2011

“Moving the world off Internet Explorer 9″: http://theie9countdown.com/

HTML Codes Dude

March 12th, 2011

Great article. In it’s day, as you rightly said, IE6 was a great browser and it’s quite sad that now the mention of name sends a shiver through web designers. But there are not a lot of things that last on the web for 10 years so it’s had a good innings. Let’s move our sights to IE7 now.

fuzzimo

March 13th, 2011

Can’t wait to see ie6 completely gone…

Das

March 13th, 2011

Death of IE6 is inevitable. But, many people are there who still use IE6 on their old windows… What’s on that..

Adam

March 13th, 2011

Great post. Very happy to see that you started from the beginning when IE6 was a forward-thinking web browser, years ahead of alternatives (like Netscape). IE6 IS a terrible browser, but it’s legacy shouldn’t be remembered that way. Rather it should be remembered like Chrome or Firefox – it advanced the industry at a time when everybody else was satisfied being stagnant.

bex

March 13th, 2011

It will not die you are all geeks

bex

March 13th, 2011

sorry all

Brad Davis

March 14th, 2011

The IE6 is extinct will be a glorious day in history!

Jamie

March 14th, 2011

A lot of government information systems and legacy systems will only run in IE6 which is annoying!

Vladislavs Judins

March 14th, 2011

Bye bye IE6!
Thanks for the article! :)

Pieter

March 14th, 2011

Thanks for the post, must say it made my day. As a web developer the problems of having to make sure IE6 works with all sites developed started to become more and more difficult as new tech came out that does not work with IE6. Clients will always want their sites to work in IE6, as is their right as it is a major browser, but with the end of IE6 I feel it will also be the end of some major headaches in my life. Thanks again for the great post

Blue Fire Media

March 14th, 2011

We check all of the sites we make to make sure they are not “broken” in IE6. It’s annoying but we still do get the occasional client who uses it. We will definately be glad to see it go away.

Aravind

March 15th, 2011

Nice article…..

Rafael Minuesa

March 15th, 2011

I had my last bitter experience with ie6 about 3 months ago, when after I finished a perfectly functional WP Theme, my client pretended that it worked for ie6 also. I refused, as I only develop for major browsers (95% of them).

If you want me to do a ie6-compatible website, I will, but I charge even more than for a regular one. And that’s that.

Burn in hell, ie6.

Rick McKnight

March 15th, 2011

I don’t feel sad at all. I think it was long overdue.

In fact, it should have never happened.

Ricardo Zea

March 15th, 2011

You think the battle is over? IE7 is still out there, hello?

IE8 is alright, I don’t care that is not as good as FF, GC, OP, SF. What matters to me is that it’s WAY better than 6 and 7.

Jasmine

March 16th, 2011

Me too, I don’t feel sat at all. I have long upgraded to IE8, and now IE9. My favorite is still Firefox though.

Enrique Moragues

March 16th, 2011

Only Google with Chrome Frame have made a effective solution for a lot of companies that need IE6 for old systems.

P.D. When IE6 dissapears I will get one month plus of vacations ;)

Jason

March 16th, 2011

I appreciate the sentiment, & can relate to it. However, I long ceased to feel any empathy whatsoever for IE6. The sooner it dies – the better as far as I’m concerned. It owes me more than it can ever possibly hope to repay me for countless frustrations over the years.
Now all we need is a countdown for the end of Windows.

JeremyW

March 16th, 2011

*cough*

http://www.browsium.com/

From ex Microsofties who worked on the IE dev team…

coxrichuk

March 17th, 2011

Brilliant article. My productivity will be up 10 fold once support for IE6 has been fazed out – haven’t quite one the battle yet!

Jeprie

March 17th, 2011

This is a really sad goodbye letter to IE6. Nice work.

aza

March 17th, 2011

You said ..
I’ll admit I actually felt a small pang of sadness and nostalgia at the news. IE6 will always have a prominent place in Internet history, but the time has come to move on.

I heard same when IE 5 went to history.

ArleyM

March 17th, 2011

The battle to end IE7 won’t be as bad. Users and IT depts who were savvy enough to upgrade from IE6 to IE7 have for the most part been good enough to upgrade to IE8 – version 7 has always had the least of the traffic in the analytics I’ve seen.

The real problem is Windows Mobile – this is the only major mobile browser that isn’t Webkit (like BlackBerry, iPhone, and Android are) – it’s IE7!!!

Frank

March 18th, 2011

This was the worst nightmare. Nice article.

Janice Schwarz

March 18th, 2011

Now I feel all old and stuff….

I’m amused that when IE7 came out you were horrified that you’d have to test in both IE6 and 7. I remember having to make sure sites worked in IE3, IE4, IE5 and IE5.5. There were still people using Windows 3 and 3.5

Young whippersnappers… ;-P

Agus

April 16th, 2011

Great article! keep writing more things ;)

Jatin

April 22nd, 2011

Good Bye IE6. You served in 2001, not now.

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