Why Won’t IE6 Die?
A few weeks ago, WordPress announced that it was dropping support for Internet Explorer 6. For now, this will only affect blog writers and publishers, but this could soon affect viewers and readers of these blogs as well.
WordPress is definitely not the first to make this kind of announcement. Google announced that it will not support IE6 when it makes new improvements to its YouTube, Gmail Notifier and Google Docs services. Facebook, White Pages, Digg and many more sites are also on-board.
Microsoft, the maker of IE6, has been actively promoting its website http://www.ie6countdown.com to encourage and explain why people should move away from the browser. IE6 is two-months short of its tenth birthday, making it a real relic in a technology landscape where new browser versions are announced every 3-4 months. In fact, trying to load most websites on IE6 will bring up a very intrusive graphic encouraging the user to upgrade.
Since many of our clients are concerned with how their site performs and how it looks across different browsers, I’ve kept up-to-date with this ever-growing list of companies that are no longer willing to support older browsers. Most modern websites and online applications take advantage of newer technologies and formatting capabilities that were not around 10 years ago, making it nearly impossible for older technology like IE6 to provide full functionality or even render the pages properly.
Unfortunately, 10% of the connected world still uses IE6. This means that a good portion of internet users do not even realize that their web user experience is being compromised. They don’t know that the website they’re viewing isn't supposed to look strange with overlapping graphics and missing components. They also don’t know about features like tabbed browsing, the omnibar (a unique bar for entering the URL or the desired search terms) or even about the world of plug-ins and extensions available to maximize productivity and enhance their user experience.
The truth is, however, that it is rarely the individual’s home or small business computer that is stuck on such an old browser. For consumers, Microsoft has a good way of pushing updates. It is typically large organizations like pharmaceutical companies, banks, and governments that choose to impose a closed technology environment, where the general culture is not to adopt new solutions. Company-wide upgrades are deemed too costly, and very often, other inter-connected applications come into play where those other applications do not support newer browser versions.
Even though we are discussing a 10-year old piece of software, it is definitely a very hot topic in the industry. With broader support for HTML5, we could finally see the realdeath of IE6. With HTML5, standard browsers are now able to embed and recognize tags such as “video” and “audio” without complicated coding or third-party player integration. When applications and sites start taking advantage of these functions, suddenly it won’t just be the design of the pages that displays incorrectly. Vital information will be missing and the user experience will be compromised on some of the most popular websites.