additions… #49

…web design…

what do we do about old IE6…

You may have noticed that we Norwegians have started a campaign aimed at making users of old IE6 upgrade to a newer version of Internet Explorer, or switch to another browser altogether. This campaign is carried mainly by larger Norwegian sites, like most on-line newspapers and quite a few other Norwegian sites and blogs.

The campaign is kind of low key in that sites display a message to users of IE6 only, informing them that they're using an older version of Internet Explorer and that they'll get more out of browsing by upgrading or switching. Support for IE6 isn't dropped – yet, so apart from being presented with the message IE6 users can carry on as usual.

Microsoft Norway is expressing support for the campaign, as they certainly wouldn't mind if users upgraded from the aging IE6 to something better. They are, for obvious reasons, recommending upgrading to IE7 or the latest test version of IE8.

Most Norwegian web developers would prefer that users switch to a better – non-IE – browser. However, since this is a campaign aimed at making users switch from old IE6 to something better, anything will do.

IE6 can't deliver, no matter what…

It is costly and time-consuming to provide full support for IE6 today, and no matter how much money and resources one pours into supporting it one still can't bring its overall performance up at the level other browsers are at for modern sites – IE6 is simply too old and buggy.

End-users may not have noticed IE6's weaknesses, since web developers have been working hard on covering up for them for years. However, now web developers have to make a choice whether to take advantage of what newer browsers can offer and letting support for IE6 slip behind, or become stuck at web development anno 2001. The choice is simple: IE6 has to go.

So, time has run out for IE6, and this campaign is about telling that to those who still use it. Support will dwindle, and IE6 will be allowed to show its weaknesses. Yes, sites will still work in IE6, but they won't work and look the same as in newer browsers.

My friend Ingo Chao has written an article called Degradation Without Grace, where he describes the dilemmas we web developers are confronted with, and explains how and why we now have to let go of some of the presentational hacking earlier found necessary to make IE6 appear to do a good job.
It's just a pixel less here and there, not a revolution.
Not much by any stretch, but certainly better than status quo.

on this site…

I am not taking part in the ongoing campaign as such, but I have included a short message to IE6 users on most pages on this site. I will probably keep it there for a little while, although I don't expect too many real IE6 users around.

It doesn't bother me if someone uses an obsolete browser – it'll get as much as it can handle anyway. This is a private site with basic support for a wide range of browsers, but if an old browser chokes on something, so be it.

I have approached IE6 with what I call “disgraceful degradation” for years, and even IE7 is allowed to slip a bit on code it can't handle properly. Few visitors have ever noticed, simply because most visitors don't compare a site in several browsers, and those who do compare rarely ever use IE6 or IE7 as main browser.

I have felt the heat from fellow web developers for deliberately keeping IE6 in quirks mode, and have argued against counting pixels and designing for IE6 for years. My opponents have run out of arguments a long time ago, and I haven't really started on mine yet.

I know more about how to hack IE6 and IE7 into submission than most web developers, but that doesn't mean I have to do so for every detail every time. Similar appearance, yes, but “identical”, no.

Professionally I have taken the same position, and it hasn't caused any real problems. Being pragmatic; it has never bothered me if a client wanted slightly more pixel-perfection in IE6 either, as long as I got paid for the extra work. Luckily no client has asked for the impossible, as that would have taken a bit longer and cost more.

counting down…

I'm sure IE6 will disappear one day, but of course: the quicker the better. The ongoing campaign will help, so of course it has my unrestricted support.

I'm more worried about the life-span of IE7, as that bugger is only a tad better than its predecessor, and still 5 to 6 years behind the good browsers.

If IE6 users really want to upgrade, then IE8 should be first choice – only 3 years behind. If users want to switch, then Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari are ready to take them further than any IE version is able to at the moment.

It is good to have choices, but I don't think all that many end-users are able to distinguish the good from the bad and the right out ugly, and I don't think many of them care. Thus, campaign or not, I'm afraid we will only see slight changes and not necessarily for the better.

No, I'm not pessimistic. You see: the wheels of evolution are turning, albeit slowly. Evolution is unstoppable, and web users, web developers and others involved at any level in the digital world, got no choice but to follow.
Staying behind for too long just means it'll be harder to catch up, but they either do so or accept being left behind. It is up to each individual or group to decide when and what to do, and how to do it.

deliberate choices…

I made choices related to the digital world years ago – including what to use for web surfing and web design. I simply decided to stay in front where I could watch evolution as it rolled forward, and take advantage of the best parts available at any given time in areas of interest.

Apart from presenting a few selected pieces of software and hardware when I get a chance, I see no point in bothering others with my choices and preferences. I don't allow others to bother me with their choices and preferences either, I only check the available information on whatever they tell me, to see if I have missed something.

So far I haven't missed much in areas of interest, and not so much that it hurts in other areas either. I like going back and forth between the bleeding edge and some stable, old, software and hardware. Not all new contains improvements and not all old is obsolete.

IE6 definitely is obsolete by now though, and I wouldn't use that old bugger for anything but testing, not even if my livelihood depended on it. What others do is entirely up to them.

sincerely  georg; sign

Hageland 22.feb.2009
last rev: 23.feb.2009



It doesn't bother me if someone uses an obsolete browser – it'll get as much as it can handle anyway.
— Georg

addition to:
external info:

I'm sure IE6 will disappear one day, but of course: the quicker the better.
The ongoing campaign will help, so of course it has my unrestricted support.
— Georg