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Phasing Out Development Support for Internet Explorer 6

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Julian Moffatt
Julian Moffatt CEO / Partner
Visual Lizard
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Julian Moffatt Purveyor of Good Times

Over the past 9 years (yes, it has been 9! years since IE 6 was released) we here at Visual Lizard have battled on a near daily basis with all the quirks, the botched rendering, the double margin bugs, and other little things that make IE 6 one of the most horrible web browsers we have ever had the displeasure of working in. It is with great pleasure that we are announcing that we plan to phase out support for IE6 in our normal development flow.

Why?

Several reasons actually:

  • IE6 is a security threat on many systems
  • IE6 has a terrible rendering engine for CSS2
  • IE6 fails badly when trying to render anything from CSS3
  • IE6 handles most modern JavaScript just badly enough to cause us dozens of hours of extra work
  • when IE6 handles JavaScript really poorly it crashes
  • IE6 does not see HTML5 elements (largely because the HTML5 spec wasn’t even a draft when IE6 was released in 2001) which means we cannot style them or rely on them for your website
  • IE6 is 9 years old. That is a lifetime and then some in terms of the internet.

However, the real reason for dropping support for IE6 is so that we can continue to advance the practice of web development and apply it to our craft on a daily basis. We want to build nice things for you. It pains us to have to smash those nice things into pieces in order to allow Inernet Explorer 6 to play with them as well.

What Makes You Guys So Special?

Good question. We are special for a number of reasons, like our attention to detail in the work we produce, the joy we take home with us after a hard day’s work programming and the fact we know more about the internet than most humans but that is not what you meant. We have been following this issue for awhile now and we are not the only ones. Google Enterprise has announced that IE6 support will be retired in March. Microsoft has had Internet Explorer 8 out for public consumption since early 2009 and they even redirect people to download Internet Explorer 8 when you visit their site looking for IE6. Facebook.com, Youtube.com, Digg.com, Gmail.com, and many other big sites are starting to exclude IE6 from their list of supported browsers.

There are also dozens of web developer driven sites that are pushing for the demise of Internet Explorer 6, of which you can add visuallizard.com to the list.

Wait! You Can’t Do That! People Still Use IE6

Cross section of 20 of our projects over the last 30 days and the percentage of IE6 visits.

Correct. There are people that still use IE6. We know this. In looking at a random sampling of statistics from 20 of our projects in the last 30 days, we can see that only 7 of 20 sites get 10% or more of their visits from Internet Explorer 6. The one project on the list above with a 48.3% IE6 usage number is a local government organization that cannot update their web browsers in office until they update some software they use on a daily basis.

However, the primary reason for this shift in our development practice is so that we can reduce our initial estimates for client work. Lately we have been inundated with requests for cheaper costs on our development time, due to the recession. While we cannot reduce our hourly rate on projects if we hope to stay in business and provide the level of service our clients expect from us, we can remove one major element of our time consumption. In looking over our process, we cannot drop support for web standards. Morally we cannot allow ourselves to cut corners on programming a project. We certainly cannot stop returning your phone calls and emails. Therefore Internet Explorer 6 hacking can leave quietly and show up in the if needed line items.

Additionally, most of our clients want interactive elements such as sliding images, appearing text, form labels that provide more descriptive text on mouse touch, photo galleries with some animation(s), and occasionally AJAX data calls. Phasing out support for IE6 allows us to reduce our estimates by anywhere from 15-30%. Possibly even more in some cases.

But Our Organization Still Has To Use IE6

Yeah. We feel your pain. If this is the case, we can still help you. The options at that point are serving up less complicated style sheets for IE6 or spend some time hacking away until IE6 can handle the site. Either way, it will still work in IE6 if it has to work in IE6. There will just be an itemized line for Internet Explorer 6 Hacks on the invoice.

What Happens to My Current Site?

Nothing. It will still work in IE6. We are not flipping some switch to turn off IE6 support in all our past projects. We actually don’t even have that switch to flip! Current projects in development are not affected by this process change. We are strictly speaking about work that we develop in the future.

Even after 10 years of pain with IE6, we still feel a little odd writing up this post. IE6 has been part of our work process for so long. However it does feel very liberating to finally be able to firmly state that IE6 support is now an option and not a requirement. The sooner we all move to put IE6 into it’s grave, the better the web will be for everyone.