In this age of ever accelerating technological advances and software updates, why is it that Internet Explorer 6 which will be 10 years old this August is still being used by about 4.5% of web users?
There are a couple of reasons that this much detested browser is still being used by a significant minority of those on the web (December 2010 Safari was used by 3.6% and Opera by only 2.2%). There are large companies and public sector bodies whose IT departments will only allow them to use IE6. Why do they insist they use IE6? Well generally because it was the browser installed on the machines originally and they simply block them downloading and installing software full stop, and haven’t updated across the board yet. The other reason can be that there are internal/intranet systems that will only work on IE6 and they aren’t prepared to spend the money to make these systems compatible with the up to date browsers.
With this share of users still surfing the internet on a well out-dated browser, developers have to take it into consideration especially when building sites where the target audience or client is one of the above groups. Well not if you’re Google, they announced last year that first their own site would no longer support IE6 and then later the Google owned YouTube also announced its own withdrawal.
What’s the problem with IE6?
There have always been small differences in the way the different browsers handled the rendering of web pages, although with most of the up to date ones these are now pretty small and it isn’t often that any kind of display issues arise between them. Unfortunately IE6 marches to its own beat and can cause real headaches when making sites display the same way they do in the other browsers. This can cause projects to take longer and be more costly when a site needs a lot of work done to make it compatible with IE6.
The other issue is that there is now HTML5 and CSS3 which as of Internet Explorer 9 will have much of their new methods and elements implemented in all of the latest versions of the major browsers. This causes the problem of do you just ignore browsers that don’t support the new stuff or do we ignore the new stuff, the alternative is to have to create different code to deal with each of the support levels.
The worst news for the anti IE6 club is that Microsoft will continue to support it along with Windows XP until April 2014.