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Goodbye, Internet Explorer 6

From the title of this page, you can probably guess what’s coming. After a long time of thinking, I have decided that it is no longer effective or helpful to test my Actions against Internet Explorer 6.

While I continue to ensure that my Actions work on most browsers, it’s IE6 which is a problem. It breaks things all too often, and in many cases reaching a compromise means that functionality is sacrificed. Time spent making an IE6 fix is time that could be spent on more fruitful endeavours.

Internet Explorer 6 was released in August 2001. The last release was in August 2004. That is the best part of five years ago, and in that time browsers have moved on to support the DOM, HTML standards and give a better, more unified experience. Internet Explorer 6 plays fast and loose with these standards, and in a lot of cases breaks them forcing hacks, non-standard HTML and other compromises. It is a hangover from the Browser Wars of the last century; the last gasp of a failed conquest. Those using IE6 can not, in all good faith, expect the web to be held back for them forever.

Also, web developers really can not waste precious time hobbling their designs to work on this dinosaur any longer. Internet Explorer 7 is a better browser, and I will continue to test against this one. With IE8 now available, I, and many other web developers, ask if it’s sensible to support a browser that it two versions and the best part of a decade behind. YouTube is dropping IE6 support, as are other big names. ExpressionEngine, a major CMS (used, incidentally by Softpress for their site) has dropped IE6 support in version 2.

It is also interesting to note that in February 2009, IE6 usage dropped to around 19% of web users - equal to Firefox, which is on the ascendant. IE7 was used by 47%, and Safari 3 was used by around 7%. In the past, Internet Explorer had the best part of 95% of web users. It seems that other browsers, Firefox in particular, are making a huge dent in the IE dominance. Add to this mix the European Union insisting that Microsoft unhooks the browser from the operating system - which will encourage more consumer choice.

Update, April 2010: IE8 has 23.7% of the market, IE 7 has 13.16% and IE6 has 18.41%

So, as of 16th March 2009, all future Actions developments will not be tested against Internet Explorer 6. A lot should still work in that browser as many were started when it was the browser to use. However, future updates may break this compatibility. This will not be a deliberate endeavour, but be warned that I will not fix such breakages.

I also will not be undertaking fixes for current Actions which break in IE6. I think that there has been enough time to detect any problems and deal with them.

Some of you may be disappointed that I have taken this stance. I am not - I believe that it frees me to make Actions which work using current methods. For example, I have, on ice, an Action which I really want to release. But it breaks in IE6, and I have been asking myself if it is really worth putting in the effort to make the fixes. I effectively stopped work on it because of this. Supporting IE6 is stifling my Actions development. Making this decision means that I can now pick up where I left off with it, which is encouraging.

I think that now is the right time to draw a line in the sand and say “no” to any future IE6 entanglements.

Original text - March 2009
Page revised - April 2010