IE6 No More

Tuesday, August 11, 2009 7:20 | Filed in Standards, Web

I don’t object to people using Internet Explorer. Really, I don’t. For a lot of people it is their favourite browser. That is fine. However, I do object to people using Internet Explorer 6. It is so standards non-compliant that any designer pretty much has to produce one standards compliant design, and then introduce a series of fixes through a stylesheet specifically for Internet Explorer 6 in order to make the damn thing work.

Which is why I was pleased to see a site called IE6 no more which points out that IE6 is 8 years old, and is basically crap. It also offers a way — using Internet Explorer’s conditional comments — to identify those viewing your site using a version of Internet Explorer prior to version 7 and serving up a banner to them.

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This is the banner which will be visible on my site if you are using Internet Explorer 6 or below. If you are viewing with an old version of Internet Explorer, this will therefore be the second one of these banners you can see on the page.

It’s not exactly the same as the default banner IE6 no more provide, but that’s because their banner was too wide for my liking — I wanted something which would fit neatly into the main column and not overspill into the right hand sections — and also because their banner was designed for sites which have an XHTML Transitional DOCTYPE. For example, it uses the deprecated target='_blank' attribute, which I’ve removed.

It also applies a style to remove the default border from images which are used as hyperlinks, but since I’ve already got a rule which does this, I didn’t need these rules in anyway. I’ve also had to drop one of the alternative browser options — originally it provided a link to google chrome also, but my reduced-width version simply didn’t have the space.

In fact, ideally, I would have liked to promote IE8, Firefox and Opera, but somehow they didn’t have the Opera web browser included, which seems quite a remarkable oversight as it is really pretty good. (Disclaimer: I do know some people who work for Opera, but up to now Opera haven’t offered me a job, so I’m still fairly neutral!) If any of those Opera bods can provide me with a graphic of similar size to the Safari one and a preferred link to the download location, I’ll happily swap in Opera instead of Safari, since I prefer it…

Having said that, not everyone agrees with the idea behind it:

Yet another ‘ban IE6′ site. Yawn. Do people having nothing better to do? Yes – get their sites working OK in IE6Twitter

I do understand where they are coming from. I wasn’t particularly a fan of the whole ‘Browsehappy’ scenario (basically, if you were using Internet Explorer, you kept seeing banners telling you not to), but in this case there is a different specific purpose. It’s not telling you not to use Internet Explorer. It’s telling you to use one of the most recent two releases of Internet Explorer, instead of a version produced in 2001 — in internet terms, this is ancient (IE6 predates Facebook and YouTube by at least three years).

And it is telling you not to use it because there are better browsers out there. There are browsers out there which are more secure. There are browsers out there which are better at displaying websites. IE6 is a cancer on the web: it adds to the development time of all standards compliant sites, because if you write a site to be compatible with every other browser, you then need to produce IE6 fixes, and if you develop a site to work in IE6, chances are it will be shit in every standards compliant browser.

So that’s why I’m backing IE6 no more. The sooner IE6 is no longer used, the better it is for the whole web. And if your company or corporate organisation is still using IE6 because you’ve not got around to upgrading to a later version, or you’ve been inventing problems to put off the necessary upgrade, shame on you.

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5 Comments to IE6 No More

  1. Mike says:

    August 11th, 2009 at 7:27 am

    You know, I had no idea that target=”_blank” had been deprecated. Not that I write html very much these days…
    I notice you hadn’t replaced the deprecated tag with anything, which means the links open up on the same page (not ideal I’m sure you’ll agree). Is there an alternative ?

  2. Graham Cluley, Sophos says:

    August 11th, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Great post. And like you say, this is for greater security as well as for making web designers’ jobs easier with improved compliance.

    BTW, I had no idea about “_blank” either (although one of the web wizards who works alongside me recently suggested I should stop using it on my blog – maybe I should have paid more attention). I’m going to stop using it, starting today.

  3. Andy says:

    August 11th, 2009 at 8:56 am

    As the author of the ‘yawn’ tweet I should explain myself! My issue is not with the idea of trying to eradicate IE6 – as a designer who’s spent far too many hours fixing IE6 (and IE7) specific bugs, I’m as frustrated as anyone that it’s still around. And I agree with you, it *is* a cancer on the web that is hampering progress and stopping us doing all the lovely things other browsers can do (think CSS3).

    My issue is more with the *way* you see it being done. I would imagine that the majority of IE6 users are those behind corporate firewalls where IT Teams control the technology. Having an ‘Upgrade to a better browser’ banner is of little use to them, since downloading software (even from reputable download pages) is most likely prohibited.

    And I think that the site’s page for corporate users is a bit lame. Essentially it says ‘If you’re on a corporate network then go complain to your IT Team’. I mean, have you ever complained to an IT Team and got anywhere – or, more specifically, a local government IT Team – where there will be several critical web-based systems that simply won’t work on any browser other than IE6?

    So, I totally agree with the principle, I just think there has to be a more effective way of doing it.

  4. JackP says:

    August 11th, 2009 at 10:29 am

    @Mike, basically, there’s two schools of thought. The first (the one I follow) is that I provide the link, and I’ll let people choose how to follow it. So I am perfectly happy with this – from my point of view it is ideal: it lets the users decide for themselves how they want to do it.

    Assuming you aren’t using IE6, then you can right-click to open in a new tab or window. Or you can click as normal and move off the current page. There’s still the ‘back’ button – and I have issues with the idea of trying to prevent people leaving a site – let them go off and get the info they need, even if it means leaving the site.

    You could use javascript to add the “_blank” attribute back in (some people do) but I think that’s ridiculous – the generated HTML will still be invalid, it’s just you’d hide the error from the source a little. Alternatively, just use a transitional DOCTYPE which retains the target attribute.

    @Andy, I’m sure I read somewhere that 70% of IE6 users were corporate. The majority of corporate users will be able to have little impact on this – but if key decision makers want a better browser (because the sites they use no longer support IE6) then it will help the push away from it. If I can contribute to that even in the most minor of ways, then I feel I’m doing some good. But you’re right, the page for corporate users is a bit crap at present.

  5. Seb Crump says:

    August 11th, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Disclaimer: For this comment I should make it clear that these are my personal views as they touch on matters that tangentially within my position and one borders on the political (and is meant strictly as an observation not a direct criticism) and overall may not reflect the policy of my dept or team.

    I have to disagree with you on this one Jack (and I’m going to blogjack you again, sorry :) ). Mainly because campaigns like this make it sound simple/black & white when it just ain’t so.

    Firstly, there is the wrong target aspect – this is mainly covered in Andy’s comment above. This ‘campaign’ only serves to alienate users and visitors of a site/service. It’s not necessarily the user’s choice (but even if it were where do ‘you’ get off on criticising that :) ). It tears at the very fabric of the web and its inclusivity. Yes, deliberate use of emotive language to get the point across to parry with yours.

    Secondly, it attempts to shut down the grey area of providing, perhaps even limited, support – sign up to the campaign or resist it. It also promotes the negative moaning and whinging without necessarily promoting or making any headway into the ‘how’.

    Thirdly, to tackle the ‘it takes loads of resources to support IE6′ argument (which to be fair you don’t directly cite in your post, but is often brought up in this ‘debate’) – to what extent? Are you trying to get IE6 to look and behave identically? If so, I have to question if you’re mad. Do you spend equal amounts of time supporting IE5 or Netscape 4, no of course not. Do you support text only browsers – you really should you know. For a site to ‘work’ in IE6 it doesn’t have to exactly match with all the rounded corners, etc. There is a need to be more pragmatic and realistic and there is certainly a room for educating website commissioners – after all unless they have a specific IE6 audience I expect the financial bottom line will persuade them.

    Forthly, direct action and critcism/education is probably more effective than a banner. For example Tom Watson asking the question of government departments… although I find it very interesting it wasn’t an issue he managed to address when he was a minister which arguably this matter fell into the remit of.

    Lastly, the actually realities of large corporations making the change. There are reasons why the IT teams can’t/won’t. Encouraging users to complain I don’t think is going to help – again it needs a more targeted approach. Apart from other corporate systems that will not work with other browsers (and therefore the expense of upgrading them) I think one of the main issues is that IE is so tied into Windows, it’s not as simple as a stand-alone software upgrade and having talked directly to our system guys it’s a risky one-way venture. There is no going back we subsequently find an obscure problem that doesn’t get picked up in testing and finding the resources to do comprehensive testing against every single item used by every single team within a large corp is not feasible when there are other much bigger more important upgrades demanded that will benefit the end users far more.

    Having said all that I must confess that all this attention has prompted me to ask questions internally and lo and behold some of the assumed reasons why it couldn’t be done are no longer valid. But I value my life too much to start holding my breath.

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