March 29, 2010

Goodbye IE6


Hostway Team

By Monique Martin

Building Web sites that are cross-browser compatible is a lot like throwing a large dinner party. If you offer enough choices, everyone is happy, except IE6. IE6 was the finicky guest that meant you had to cook another meal just for him. It was time consuming and, in a world where time is money, IE6 had become more trouble than it was worth.

About IE6

In 2001, when Microsoft released IE6, it took the Web by storm. Netscape, the erstwhile king of the browsers, couldn’t compete with Microsoft’s ability to integrate IE6 into their operating systems. IE6 was the browser with a reported 95 percent market share. It had a great run, but its time has passed.

IE6 was slow to be updated. It had several major security flaws and didn’t support CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), the backbone of most Web design, well. It was a dinosaur in a futuristic world. In Internet years (a lot like dog years) IE6 was ancient. When Web giant Google announced it would stop supporting it, it was officially time to let it go. There was much rejoicing at the thought of its demise, and when Aten Design held a funeral for it, even Microsoft sent flowers.

Beyond IE6

Kicking IE6 to the curb means that Web designers are unshackled from the cumbersome, time-consuming labor it took to make Web sites IE6 compatible. Now, they’re free to embrace the future and that means HTML5, the next generation of hypertext markup language.

While IE6 might be dead, it’s not gone. According to Stat Counter nearly 14 percent of Web users worldwide still use IE6. That number drops to just under 7 percent for North America, but that’s still more than Chrome and Opera combined. For the average user, the version of the browser they’re using isn’t important. They click on the little blue “e” and go. But, for Web designers, it’s everything.

Other Browsers

If you use Google Analytics, you can use their browser reports to get an idea of how many of your site’s visitors are using each browser. Sign in to your Analytics account, view reports and click on Visitors. From there, click on Browser Compatibilities > Browsers. You can drill down to see what percentage of your users are using IE6 and every other browser too.

If you’re wondering what your site looks like on different browsers, you don’t have to install a dozen pieces of software to do it. There’s a handy little site called BrowserShots that can help. And, remember, as you upgrade your site, encourage your users to do the same.

The death of IE6 heralds a change in the way we see and build the Web. But it won’t happen overnight, and it won’t be the last. As Benjamin Disraeli said, “Change is inevitable. Change is constant.” On the Internet, it’s a way of life.

About the Author

Monique Martin served as Chief Operating Officer for a successful online insurance marketing firm for five years.

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