Internet Explorer 6 was born several internet generations ago, and has slowly become the bane of web developers and designers the world over, but why?
It's a browser Jim, but not as we know it
Introduced in August 27 2001, 10 years ago, Internet Explorer has become hated by website designers and developers everywhere with its charming lack of support for web standards and positively cruel ability to mess up modern websites. It also became increasingly dangerous, some have called it the "least secure software on the planet" and security patches have been coming out fast and furiously almost since release. However, no-one could say it was unpopular, in 2002 and 2003 IE6's share of traffic was a staggering 90%.
Until recently it was begrudgingly supported by all but the most arty and cutting edge websites because the usage of IE6 has resolutely stuck at high levels. Mainly I suspect this is caused by the fact that it was probably most people's first browser on their Windows XP machine, and there are still millions of these machines in daily use. It was also made available for Windows 98 machines and is the latest browser available for Widnows 98. Link this to a general unwillingness or lack of knowledge about updating the software (an upgrade has been freely available through the web or Windows Update since IE7 came out in 2006, 5 years ago!) and this has left IE much hated but just short of being able to be ignored.
It's time to draw the line
Microsoft is pushing for the software to be dropped and has said it will only continue to provide patches for it until 2014, or until global usage drops to below 1%. They have started a marketing campaign to try and make this happen sooner rather than later and many big sites such as Google and Yahoo have also announced that many of their services will no longer be supported on IE6. Many of these services might work, but the developers will not be testing against it and won't really care whether it works or not.
So most new and existing sites are quietly dropping support and almost all new sites will tend to ignore the browser, especially if supporting it means compromises to newer features available to most users.
China and Asia may need a little longer...
Usage of IE6 in China is still, according to Microsoft, 30.5% which is a substantial proportion. Many of these PC's are believed to be running pirate copies of Windows XP which is why, it is suggested, they have not been upgraded. Therefore sites that target consumers in China may need to consider continuing IE6 support a little longer. Those targeting businesses can afford to be more bullish as the percentage of IE6 in business use will be much less. There are ways to add a IE6 spotter to the website code and divert the user to a page explaining lack of support and encouraging the user to upgrade - this approach is supported by Microsoft and will be the approach we will take on new sites where we can see any significant IE6 usage.
Help! I think I'm still using it!
Be ashamed, be very ashamed! Don't tell anyone and go to download your upgrade as soon as you can: