Two weeks ago Google announced that they will limit support for Internet Explorer 6 starting March 1st.
"Many other companies have already stopped supporting older browsers like Internet Explorer 6.0 as well as browsers that are not supported by their own manufacturers. We’re also going to begin phasing out our support, starting with Google Docs and Google Sites. As a result you may find that from March 1 key functionality within these products — as well as new Docs and Sites features — won’t work properly in older browsers."
Rajen Sheth, Google Apps Senior Product Manager
If the G-giant is throwing in the towel, shouldn't we?
While Google's motion to drop support may provide developers the needed backing to say "Google's doing it, you should too," convincing an organization that has spent millions on a custom app to upgrade to a new browser may be difficult to say the least. It may also be challenging to convince your client that their IE6 users are holding them back. Unfortunately, the enterprise is still in love with IE6 and there are a number of reasons why. Feast your eyes on these articles for more info.
Remember this gem? It's 9 years old…just like IE6
They say that 80% of your cool is determined by your shoes. If that's true, then how much of your cool is determined by your supported browsers? Everyone loves a pair of vintage kicks, but who loves a vintage browser? Using IE6 means that your shoes, and your client's, are bo bo.
Police your products, your sites, your systems and your environment. Upgrade already. What's the problem? You lose functionality in your custom app? You need to upgrade it anyway. You upset your IT people? Oh well, it's their job. Get over it. IE6 won't go away unless you, yes you, do something about it. Tell your clients and their friends to file for a divorce from IE6 and make sure they take everything. Show them the features they're missing out on, and help them to understand that supporting dated software that even Microsoft doesn't care about can only hurt their business. You can't run IE6 forever.
Take responsibility for the products, machines, and services that you provide. You give IE6 extra mana every time you develop a site that's IE6 friendly. Don't gloss over your tech requirements and blanket IE6 into your supported browsers—you're losing money. What are you waiting for, the interweb gods to do it for you?
Thanks to the shortcomings of IE6 and the browser wars there are a number of tools we can use.
Internet Explorer 8 – Microsoft's latest release of the almighty browser. IE8 supports tabbed browsing, 'secure surfing', accelerated searches, increased performance, and a smart address bar. IE8 also loves code a bit more than its predecessors and offers better support for images with transparent areas. Check the feature list.
Firefox – Quite possibly the leader of the pack with 43.6% of the market share according to the W3C and just over 20% according to Statowl. Firefox is a user's best friend as it supports tabbed browsing, is secure, loves code, is hella' fast, and loaded with useful features. Just peep the feature list.
Google Chrome – The newest guy on the street and definitely one of the most promising. Google Chrome is the browser's browser and is quickly gaining popularity amongst users. Chrome is fast, stable, secure, offers support for extensions, themes, and incognito mode (for those of us who need to keep our history safe from wifey's eyes.)
Safari – A 'newcomer' to the browser market (sorta). Safari has been Apple's browser for some time now and was released as Safari 3 for Windows in 2007. Unfortunately, Safari for Windows hasn't gained much of the market share although it's still more powerful than IE6. Personally, I'd stick with Firefox, Chrome, or even IE8.
Simply put, if you want to stay current then you need to know what people are using and how. I can't think of a single person my age, under 30, who uses a browser that doesn't supports tabs, extensions or plug-ins, and some sort of incognito mode.
Tabbed browsing – Who likes having a million windows open at once? Not this guy. IE7 & 8, Firefox, and every other browser supports tabbed browsing. Don't get left in the cold.
Plug-ins / Extensions – As a web developer, I rely heavily on plug-ins, add-ons, and extensions. They make my life a lot easier. I use Firebug for front-end development, Colorzilla for color matching, and Delicious for my bookmarks. The list goes on and on. It's not only limited to Firefox. Google Chrome has some amazing extensions as well.
IE6 gotz no love for tabz, browza' extensionz, incognito modez, or securitiez.
I was lucky enough to attend the TED Mid-Atlantic conference last November and heard Marcus Ranum share his thoughts on software and a developer's responsibility to police it. Ranum expressed frustrations over FTP, HTTP, TCP/IP and other dated protocols. He showed that these technologies have cost the enterprise trillions of dollars over the past few decades due to security patches, fixes, hardware development, etc.
Why? Because they weren't properly managed or QA'd from the beginning and small bugs in the code led to the need for security solutions, like the firewalls he developed. His point was simple – if those who had developed the technologies took responsibility for the errors in their code then new products and tools could have been developed and implemented. He also pointed his finger at the consumers for accepting said technologies. It's not only the responsibility of the admin but of the user as well. We're all responsible for allowing IE6 to continue as it has.
Ranum beckoned us, the developers in the crowd, to step up to the plate and be honest with our users about the software they use. Technology is organic and it changes rapidly. Nothing is set in stone especially when it comes to software – hence the name.
Drop IE6 and get with the new.