August 2009

Monthly Archive

IE6 anti-whinge

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 14 Aug 2009 | Tagged as: Internet, Software

Microsoft have announced that they will be supporting IE6 until 2014 as opposed to 2010 which was the original plan. This has caused a bit of a stir, especially amongst web developers who are sick and tired of spending a disproportional amount of their time debugging and making customisations for IE6. An example of these opinions, is the folks over at http://www.ie6nomore.com/.

So why is it still around? Phil Hawksworth makes a good point that it’s all about the enterprise. Large enterprises need to have their users locked in one browser, and they have a whole suite of applications that are developed, tested and supported for that browser only. I work in one: on-line training, performance management, supplies ordering, travel bookings, expenses system, time sheets, promotions, the list goes on and on: they’re all browser based, they’re all mandatory and they’re all supported for IE6 only. And guess what: a lot of them do actually break on other browsers (although IE7 is close enough, and Firefox isn’t far behind). Throw in dodgy ways of getting old and new systems to talk to each other and dodgy software built by vendors interested in delivering in the least amount of time possible, and you get a hell of a software soup. Moving to a different supported browser would have a massive cost, not including the cost of any of these not working well for any amount of time.

So am I surprised that companies in that situation aren’t supporting other browsers? No, even though that means they can’t upgrade up from Windows XP either (and for a while, the only thing to upgrade to was Vista anyway). I think they should be planning for it of course - there are systems slowly being upgraded and changed all the time, and if in this day and age the person responsible is not making damn sure that their product works in the latest versions of all popular browsers (as well as the still necessary IE6), then they’re doing a crap job and their company a disservice.

But I have to admit that people whinging at Microsoft for extending their support seems unnecessary and childish. Changes like this can only come from the people. And by that, I don’t only mean the users changing browsers, but also websites and online tools ceasing their support of IE6.

So, are you building a website or online tool and you’re sick of spending so much time customising for IE? Don’t. Put a note saying “we support IE7, IE8, FF 3.x, Safari, Opera, … We DON’T support IE6″. Or detect the browser being IE6 and give them a more basic version of the website, or even an HTTP 400 code and a message “Here’s what your missing - get a decent browser”. Do something. Make a stand. Microsoft are not producing dangerous drugs or guns, they’re not accountable in that way for IE6 still being around. It’s just a browser and as long as it’s being used and it makes sense for them to support it they will; and they should. If you want a change, make it happen.