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Internet Explorer 6

Microsoft doesn’t want Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) to die and, indeed, they’ve announced that they will continue to support it until 2014.

IE6 was launched in 2001 yet remains popular. Most of these users, I suspect, are businesses – we use it at my place of work. Except, there’s a growing back lash against the use of this version of the browser.

So, what’s wrong with it?

Well, security for a start, which has moved on a lot since 2001. For me, however, it’s the problem with web development. It isn’t compliant with the appropriate standards and developers often have to introduce “tweaks” to sites to get them to specifically work with IE6. Microsoft had been pretty lax with these standards 1 and only really started making a nod to improvements with this release. It wasn’t until IE7 that serious consideration was made.

Then there are other issues – it doesn’t support transparency with PNG images, for instance. All of this means that whilst most modern browsers will just work if your site code is written properly, swathes of effort often then have to be put in to get it to work with IE6. Here’s a useful, but jokey, comparison.

But, hell no, Microsoft is going to keep supporting it, rather than withdrawing support and pushing IE8 out in preference. Odd, as they were keen to try and get rid of XP after Vista came out. That was until it became really popular again, thanks to Netbooks. Surely this isn’t a commercial issue is it? Microsoft appear happy to force users to upgrade if there’s money in it, but with free software such as IE, they’d much rather be seen doing “the right thing” for business.

However, playing devil’s advocate, I should point out that IE6 was the last version of Internet Explorer that was compatible with any Windows OS before XP. Therefore, if you’re hanging onto Windows 98 with your finger nails, you’re stuck with 6 as your IE choice. Having said, that, as I think that most of this is due to business, I suspect this isn’t their reason. I know at my place of work that certain essential online applications won’t run on newer browsers – and god help them think about buying anything newer 😉

There’s a growing band of developers who are adding code of their site to detect and reject those using IE6. This is one way to go if you don’t want to develop a site specifically for this browser. The other is to swallow your pride and change it.  Personally, I’ve not got around to checking this site with IE6 – there is a vast list of browsers I need to give priority to first. In time, though, I will and I’m sure, like a fool, I’ll fix any problems.

  1. probably because they could be – what was the alternative at this point?[]