Dropping support for IE6 makes total sense and more websites are doing it all over the web.
Wow, so the reaction to the launch of our new site has been amazing with lots of positive feedback from design websites and from people who have visited the site and generally love it. Perhaps, what has been more amazing to our team has been the reaction to our IE6 Not Supported implementation — spurned from articles at Mashable and numerous other sites which have commented on IE6 and it’s viability as a browser. You only have to look at the numerous sites which have popped up asking users or corporates to ditch IE6 — Bring Down IE6, IE6 No More, Stop IE6 — the list goes on and on.
So what are the main issues?
The main problems with IE6 stem from the sheer age and out-dated technology associated with the browser. The primary problems with the browser are three-hold:
- PNG Transparency — *.PNG image are not officially supported by the IE6 browser which significantly stops many websites across the Internet from being correctly displayed. *.PNG images can be compressed immensely (*.PNG8 images) in comparison to other images which significantly increases webpage load time. Accordingly, browser support of these images vastly increases the speed of the web and reduces bandwidth and so forth.
- CSS v2 — The IE6 browser does not correctly support v2 Cascading Style Sheets and this infers that what works in IE6 won’t work to the same degree in other browsers. Most of the time, this substantially increases the size of CSS sheets as additional classes have to be added specifically for IE6 or a web team has to have an entirely separate IE6 style sheet just for IE6 — increasing development time and most importantly — cost. An option not always available to all companies (aka us).
What is Microsoft response?
The increasing resistance from the web community has lead Dean Hachamovitch — the Head of IE team at Microsoft — to respond. In his blog post — he rationally justifies the existence of the IE6 web browser as one that is inherently left up to the individual entity — whether person or corporate. To quote him,
The choice to upgrade software on a PC belongs to the person responsible for the PC.
I tend to agree with this logic … up to a point. Increasingly it seems that many people are criticising the exclusion of IE6 on the basis of “users have no choice and are left at the whim of their corporate environment”. Even we have been criticized — you only have to look at the comments in this post to see that not everyone is happy about our exclusion of the IE6 Browser and I absolutely respect that opinion. However, as I commented in return — corporate entities take the view that they don’t have the time or the resources to update their software to support modern browsers — we’ll we certainly don’t have the time to code and spend resources on supporting their refusal.
Change always comes about slowly when dealing with new technology in large corporate entities. Most of the time, it only ends up changing in these environments when enough people advocate for change and become generally disgruntled at their working environment. The entire premise — as even Dean Hachamovitch from Microsoft stated — is to upgrade all PC’s to modern browsers for safety, security and speed reasons — Microsoft want this just as much as anyone else. And while I accept the notion of choice for corporate entities — I also believe that corporates much accept the notion of choice from technology companies in refusing to code just for IE6.
How have we handled it?
For us, it really has nothing to do with “doing anyone any favors” or “saving the Internet” by blocking IE6 users. The simple fact of the matter is that we are a small company and just don’t have the resources to devote an additional XXX hours to solve IE6 related issues primarily when support for the browser is undoubtedly waining. We would rather devote this time to focusing on, and building out, our product as opposed to sitting and attempting to figure out IE6 legacy browser issues. It seems that many corporate companies are taking that exact reverse approach — “we don’t have the time or resources to upgrade to IE7 — so everyone has to cope with it”. A view (as conveyed above) not supported by us.
Indeed, it may be antithetical to the logic that “most IE6 users don’t have a choice” — for us, the choice is really spending time on IE6 or spending time developing our product -we made the decision that the later is far more important. Our product supports IE6 — have no doubt — but when we calculated out the cost of solving IE6 issues for the website and more importantly the time required — the cost-equation just didn’t make sense in terms of IE6 users vs. new features we can develop. Additionally, it seems pretty clear that many of the big corporates are also pushing users away from IE6 — you only have to visit Youtube or Facebook or Basecamp or a plethora of other sites to see that IE6 is either no longer supported (Basecamp for example) or won’t be in 2010 (Youtube).
Microsoft are also pushing IE8 through their distribution channels — even offering incentives to upgrade from IE6 — in addition to Chrome, Firefox and Safari — so it doesn’t really make sense to spend hundreds of hours ensuring that every works in IE6 when the browser will start to hit a brick wall from next year — 2010 — on a lot of websites. I would also argue that it’s very website dependent — if you are a site that is going to primarily targeted by other website publishers — then it’s fair to assume that they are not going to be using IE6 — on the flip site, news sites are targeted by the masses so you undoubtedly have no choice but to support IE6. In this regard, the nature of the website is also fairly important in the decision making process as to exclude IE6 entirely and the users attached to this browser.
How can you exclude IE6 if you want to?
So in order to exclude IE6 we have used some really easy code commenting.
Through the insertion of comment which redirects the IE6 browser to the IE6NotSupported.html page. While many of you may not accept the logic of excluding users to our website — our rationalization is that as a small company we are more product focused in rolling our new features than supporting almost 9 year old legacy browsers. Feel free to copy & use our implementation if you want too — a linkback might be nice too :)
As Microsoft stated — it’s all about choice. Our choice is not to support IE6 and we believe it to be a justified one :)