Internet Explorer 6. You are dead to me.

Hundreds if not tens of hundreds of my fellow web developers the world over have been wanting to burn Microsoft’s Internet Explorer version 6 off the face of the earth for nearly a decade now. And honestly, I’ve been there along the way as well, pitchfork in hand, setting up a site with a widget called, End6! (multilingual of course) to vent my frustrations. Suffice to say, all of us developers hate it because it’s broken and it won’t go away. For all of you who aren’t developers, it works decently well overall, although is showing its age these days and naturally leaves your system open to any number of nasty viruses; upgrade whenever possible. Please. I beg of you.
It wasn’t the fact that it doesn’t display Bambara or Fula characters properly that put me over the top. It wasn’t this article that talks about the fact that even Microsoft who deployed this hellish concoction of code upon the world are now saying, “Uh yeah, that thing is no good. Upgrade to the latest and greatest.” It was deploying the new features last week that did me in. All of that looks smashingly great in every single browser in current use except IE6. So, for about 90% of the internet, it’s perfect. After wrestling with it for about a half hour I finally said, “You know what, screw it.” It’s a dying browser and we need to look towards the future. I’m not going to compromise my code for a system that just doesn’t work. Yeah, I’ll monkey around to get it functional, but I’m done with trying to get to look exactly like the other browsers out there.
This comes at a time where we have indeed seen IE6 usage drop by 50% over the last year. I’m assuming that by the end of January, we’ll see even more of it drop off as a lot of people will actually decide to upgrade from Windows XP and will get a bright, shiny copy of Explorer 8 with Windows 7. Or maybe they’ll go Mac, in which they’ll be using Safari, Firefox, or Chrome. Whatever the case, despite the fact that there was a slight uptick, or that IE6 usage stayed nearly the same from last month, it is definitely going away and now all those web developers who were begging people to upgrade need to take the next big step and just stop supporting it altogether. Yeah, I know, possibly losing 10% of your traffic could be detrimental, but as the article on points out above, it’s not home users who are the problem.

The Truth Comes Out

All this time people pointed some incredibly ignorant fingers at other parts of the world in regards to IE6 usage; specifically Africa. The assumption was that people there weren’t upgrading because their computers were too old, or because they didn’t have the technical capacity, or any other number of ill-reasoned ideas.
Now, it is true that you’ll still run in to IE6 in internet cafes here and there. Those cafe owners rarely seem to want to bother to upgrade. But for anyone who has their own computer, I’ve always found them to be using whatever the newest browser is that they can get. Often, they’re even on some beta version. In other words, the problem is not Africa. I mean, think about it. Africa currently makes up less than 3% of all the internet traffic in the world. How could they account for the 10-12% of users on IE6 still? These numbers don’t and have never added up.
It’s only now that people see where the real culprit is, which are corporations who, for some reason, bet the house on building applications to run on a single web browser–forever. One big offender is the insurance company, AllState who are indeed using IE6 in all their offices. Yet another tremendous offender is the UN. Yes, that international body deploys systems in the field with IE6, still. I’ve seen it firsthand and heard from friends working in various capacities that they are cursed with this thing.
This gets back to a previous article which was about what screen size one should design a website for if deploying it in Africa. That same logic in the past would say that yes, you absolutely must support IE6 if targeting a site towards Africa. I say that while you can’t ignore it altogether like you can IE5.5 or Netscape 4, at the same time, you need to just make sure it will function okay in IE6 without crashing the computer. But, if making sure that your website works perfectly because some IT guy at a US insurance company won’t upgrade the system, then in brutal honestly, screw them.
As a side note to all of this, if you want to just block IE6 users on your site altogether, don’t rely on JavaScript. Use browscap.ini to sniff out and block accordingly. Fire up IE6 or download IETester and take a look at my personal site, to see how I’m dealing with it there.