Anyone involved in a web project in the last few years can tell you the frustration that erupts as soon as Internet Explorer 6 is mentioned. Released in August of 2001, IE6 has plagued developers and users alike with a plethora of bugs and security issues. It is now nearly nine years later, so why are people still running this outdated browser? For many it is corporate policy, for others an outdated computer, and some just don't know better. Fortunately, these numbers are finally dwindling, and some of the big players are stepping up to shut down IE6 once and for all.
While IE6's flaws are frustrating, with patience they can be worked around. However, the web is evolving; new features in modern browsers such as CSS3 and HTML5 can help build a rich and modern experience for your users. These new technologies have been showcased by developers in places such as Google's Chrome Experiments, but they are rarely seen in production. As long as the demand for IE6 compatibility is sustained developers have no choice but to avoid these enhancements.
Over the last year, multiple campaigns have been launched to end support for IE6 were launched. Hundreds of firms rallied to pledge to end support for IE6 as soon as possible. Most notably in January Google announced they would begin to drop support for IE6 beginning with Google Apps on March 1st, and soon followed by YouTube on March 13th. IE6 users are prompted with a message informing them that they must upgrade their browser or new features may not work properly.
Depending on the size and complexity of your site, dropping support for IE6 could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in development costs, not to mention allowing you to embrace exciting new web technologies. On the other hand, the value of a single lost lead has the potential to exceed that. In making the decision, you should carefully consider both your metrics and your target demographic. A tech savvy user who runs into a broken site while forced to use IE6 in the workplace may be understanding and come back later at home. Examining the numbers for your current site is the best indicator of who you will be affecting.
Global browser market share is difficult to measure, but most estimate IE6 to currently hold around 9%. This is down from over 20% a year ago. Depending on your audience this can be much lower. Only 3% of Marker Seven's traffic comes from IE6 users.
In early March we launched a new website for a leading real estate agency. The site required an advanced set of features and after considering metrics and finding IE6 now accounted for less than 5% of traffic, it was decided to drop support for legacy browsers in order to focus resources on building a robust modern interactive user experience. Users of IE6 can still access the site, but are prompted with a message warning them that things may not operate properly and offering upgrade options. So far there have been zero complaints We expect that over the course of the year many of our clients will take the same route.
Will we miss IE6? On some level I think we have to, despite our differences, there is something about all of its quirks...sorry, I can't do this. IE6, I hope we never hear from you again.