Here at Mogul, we’re really sick of IE6 and we’re phasing out support for it.

By this, we don’t mean that the sites we create won’t work in IE6, or will appear broken, or that we won’t test them in IE6. This would be irresponsible. Websites should be accessible and useful for everyone, regardless of the platform they’re using. But, with our clients’ permission, we are going to start warning visitors that our sites might not work to their full potential for IE6 users, and suggest that they upgrade to a new browser.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read on…

Microsoft released the Internet Explorer 6 web browser in August 2001 (to put this into perspective, 2001 was George W. Bush’s first year in office, September 11 hadn’t happened yet, and Enron was a successful company employing 22,000 people).

Since its release, IE6 has received constant criticism from the web community. The most serious problems in IE6 have been its security vulnerabilities. To illustrate the severity of the risks, the German government recently issued a warning to all its citizens to switch from Internet Explorer to a more modern, secure browser.

Apart from its security issues, IE6 is simply a bad browser for viewing websites and navigating the web. It has accessibility problems for the disabled, rendering issues so page layouts can appear distorted, no anti-aliasing (so text looks pixellated and ugly), speed issues, and no native support for transparent PNG images.

Due to these limitations of IE6 and its security issues, Google has announced it is no longer supporting IE6 in Google Docs and Google Sites and it has been phasing out IE6 support for YouTube since last year.

Microsoft will officially support IE6 for years to come, but it has been urging IE6 users to upgrade to newer versions for more than 2 years now.

So using IE6 is not a good idea for you. It’s also a real pain for us, the web developers. It does not adhere to modern web standards, which are an agreed-upon set of rules that govern how Web pages should be rendered by browsers. It has strange, idiosyncratic bugs that can make it difficult, time-consuming to make websites that look good in IE6. This makes the process more expensive than it needs to be!

How many people use IE6?

IE6’s market share has been falling steadily in the last 2 years. According to NetMarketShare, IE6 use has dropped from 46% in February 2008 to just 20% in January 2010.

Browser VersionTotal Market Share
Microsoft Internet Explorer 8.022.37%
Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.020.00%
Firefox 3.517.08%
Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.014.53%
Firefox 3.05.24%
Chrome 3.03.85%
Safari 4.03.57%
Microsoft Internet Explorer 8.0 – Compatibility Mode2.80%
Opera 10.x1.65%
Chrome 4.01.24%
Firefox 3.61.15%

Source: http://marketshare.hitslink.com/browser-market-share.aspx?qprid=2

So why do so many people still use a browser that’s so old?

Many people don’t replace their computers until they stop working, and many companies force their employees to use IE6 because they run antiquated intranets or web applications that only work on IE6.

If I want to get a website built, what will it look like in IE6?

It will probably look OK, if the web developer knows what they’re doing. Expert web developers know how to create sites that take advantage of new techniques to produce special whizbang effects in modern browsers, but degrade gracefully so users with IE6 and older browsers still see an acceptable, albeit limited, alternative. For example, transparent backgrounds might be replaced by solid blocks of colour.

What alternatives are there to IE6?

The obvious answer is to upgrade to the latest version, Internet Explorer 8. There are also Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, and many others. These are all free and provide a far more secure and enjoyable web browsing experience.

How do I change to a newer browser?

Simply visit the websites of the newer browsers and download the latest versions.

Will it cost me anything to change to a newer browser?

Nothing. Web browsers are completely free.

I work for a company that won’t let me upgrade my browser. What should I do?

Tell your boss that you’re deeply unhappy with this state of affairs. If s/he takes no notice, talk to your company’s IT guys – they are probably desperately embarrassed to be doing IT for a company that uses such antiquated software, and will probably help you to start a petition in your workplace to upgrade to a more modern browser.