The Demise of IE6

On the 5th of January 2012 Microsoft celebrated the decline of its own web browser; Internet Explorer 6, by baking a cake and throwing a party. Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) has been a thorn in the side of the web development industry for many years due to it’s lack of Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) standards. The main implications are that web developers frequently have to go back over a ‘finished’ project and tweak it to work in IE6, adding additional days and costs onto the project. The Internet is awash with many ‘hacks’ that can be used to force IE6 to display elements in the same way as the other popular browsers however the end result is never quite as clean.

Microsoft’s cause for celebration was due to the market share of IE6 dipping below 1% in the US. Microsoft, who created IE6 in 2001, have been putting in a lot of effort to kill the browser once and for all; in March 2011 Microsoft created a websitedisplaying the usage statistics across the world in an attempt to educate about and dissuade users from using the browser.

The world-wide market share for IE6 has gradually been declining as users upgrade to more recent versions, or, switch to a different browser altogether. In 2011 market share for IE6 dropped by over 4.5% (11.9% in Jan 2011 down to 7.33% in Dec 2011), however, in January 2012 IE6 showed a surprise rise in market share, up to 7.93%.

In the UK IE6 currently holds a 1.4% market share due in part to large corporations who refuse to update based on cost and time implications. On a worldwide scale China holds by far the greatest market share, currently holding over 25% of users worldwide.

IE6 is only compatible with Windows XP, an operating system released by Microsoft in 2001. All modern computers come with the more recent Windows Vista or Windows 7 installed which both start with more recent versions of IE as standard (IE7 and IE8 respectively). Windows XP has seen a similar rate of decline as IE6 over the past few years, however, at the beginning of 2012 Windows XP also showed a resurgence in users, again caused in large part due to China.

On the 15th December 2011 Microsoft announced that from January 2012 IE would start to automatically update as part of the Windows Update feature built into the Windows operating system. The scheme would gradually roll out across the world in an attempt to automatically upgrade all users from IE6 to the much more recent Internet Explorer 9. Users will still have the ability to opt out of these updates by disabling automatic updates in Windows Update.

As a whole the web industry is trying to eradicate the use of IE6 due to it’s cost implications on projects. Many web developers refuse to test in IE6 in an attempt to force IE6 users to upgrade manually. When thinking about a new projects we encourage our clients to consider the cost implications of IE6 on their project - is the extra cost required to ensure the website displays correctly in IE6 worth 1.4% of potential users?