At last, at long, long last, there appears to be a groundswell of opposition to supporting IE6. The revolution has begun! First Twitter began hinting to its users to upgrade to Firefox 3.5 (oddly, even if you were using Firefox 3.5 apparently). Next Digg announced that they might be “cutting back on development time” for IE6. And now it appears that YouTube will be phasing out support for IE6.
IE6 is the bane of most developers’ lives (including yours truly). A lot of people are getting very excited about the prospect of no more IE6. I would be one of the first to crack open a bottle of bubbly when the final installation if IE6 was wiped from this world. But is this tactic of “phasing out” going to work?
Granted, Twitter, Digg and YouTube are not insignificant sites, but are their “gentle persuasions” going to be effective? According to a recent article on Mashable Internet Explorer is losing ground to Firefox, Chrome, Safari etc in a surprisingly linear fashion. However, this is taking into account IE as a whole. If you look at the graph (originally posted on Mozillazine.org) more carefully, you’ll see that IE6 has lost a significant share. Yet this loss, after the initial drop post IE7, has shallowed out. In other words, the market share IE6 is losing is now only in a slow decline Indeed, IE6 and Firefox have roughly the same amount of market share.
The simple reason for this slow decline is, in my opinion, the failure of Microsoft to encourage users to upgrade. If you look at Digg’s original blog post, you will see that most people who are using IE6 don’t have any other choice. This is either because the cost of upgrading to IE7 or IE8 is too expensive for companies to do, in time, compatibility etc. Vista’s failure also exacerbated the problem. Replacing Windows XP with Vista was supposed to replace IE6, but it didn’t happen.
So what is the outcome? Whilst it is good news that there now seems to be a consensus to rid the internet of IE6, I simply cannot believe that we will see the last of the hellish browser any time soon. People can’t or won’t replace their browser. A load of people don’t even know what a browser is, let alone what version they are running. As developers we have to build sites for our users. If only 1% of Digg users are using IE6 then it makes economical sense for they to phase it out. However, internet wide, IE6 still has roughly 20% of the market. Would you like to alienate 20% of your market, just because you don’t like what browser they are using? It would be like a restaurant refusing entry to every 5th person, and in these credit crunched times, it simply doesn’t make economic sense.
Too bad, I hate IE!