The Case for Moving On from Internet Explorer 6
For years, one of our biggest selling points has been that our sites “work” well across all browsers. We test our sites and applications in multiple versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome on both Mac and PC platforms. We developed a set of best practices and coding conventions designed to “degrade gracefully” in older browsers and avoided techniques only supported by the latest and greatest versions.
Today, the browser environment is more diverse than ever. Internet Explorer 7 and 8 are quite common and 9 is now in Beta. Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome are popular, especially with the younger crowd. Apple’s Safari is common too, especially considering the popularity of the iPhone.
But even as these new browsers are released and catch on, some old browsers die hard. Corporate IT departments and even some users are still using Internet Explorer 6, refusing to upgrade to newer versions of the free browser. Making sites “work” well and even degrade gracefully in Internet Explorer 6 is getting tougher by the day. The list of innovative tools not supported by IE 6 (but supported in other modern browsers) is getting longer. And the number of hacks required to make sites presentable in IE 6 is getting longer.
In January, after a high-profile Chinese hacking incident, Google announced that it was curtailing support for IE 6 in its docs and sites applications, with more applications to follow. Another 70 web 2.0 companies followed suit. There’s been a Twitter revolt. There was even a mock funeral for the browser in Denver.
After internal discussion and a review of analytics, Kinetic is moving Internet Explorer 6 to its list of “legacy” browsers. By default, we’ll still check new sites in Internet Explorer 6, but the bar will be lower. We won’t rule out using new techniques for lack of IE6 support alone.
For new and prospective projects, we encourage our clients to think critically about your target audience and browser compatibility as the decision is ultimately up to you. If your audience is young and technically savvy, there probably isn’t a meaningful number of them on IE6 of consequence. If your audience is less savvy, or if a core constituency (like your internal office) is still browsing on Internet Explorer 6, support may be a must. Analytics reports are a great, objective way to measure browser usage by your audience and inform your decision. We’re available to assess browser usage of your existing site including overall browser share and recent trends.
If support for Internet Explorer 6 is a requirement for your project, we’re happy to build it into your project proposal. If not, we look forward to sharing with you some very exciting technologies supported by modern browsers.
Internet Explorer 6 currently accounts for less than eight percent of Kinetic.com’s traffic.
Overall IE 6 visits are down 70% since January 2009.