Many developers are familiar with problems of making a perfectly standard website display properly in Internet Explorer 6 browser. Usually a development process would consist of testing the site in Firefox or another standard compliant browser. Then, after opening it up in IE6, one would need to figure out why in the world it’s not displaying properly; trying to adjust the HTML/CSS code or applying some IE6-specific hacks to the code that have been known to work.
In years past, the most difficult part was to try to explain to a client why one should not use IE6. You would be lucky to find a client who is somewhat technically sound and would listen to you. But most of the time, they don’t really know or care what “W3C standard compliance” means for them, or what a browser is, in the first place. Microsoft made a genius marketing decision by putting the word “Internet” in their browser name, and to most non-technical people “Internet Explorer” is Internet.
Most importantly, the clients cared that IE has been the most popular web browser, and thus could not be ignored. At the end of the day this just meant extra time and headache for web developers (some horror stories have people spending up to 30% of their development time on IE6 fixes and adjustments).
Google has recently announced that it is dropping support for the Internet Explorer 6 browser on March 13. If you visit youtube.com in the IE6 browser you will now see a big exclamation message in red: “Your browser will be unsupported soon. Please upgrade to a modern browser.”, along with links to a few browsers to upgrade to. This is following a previous announcement of Google Docs and other Apps dropping support for IE6 on March 1st.
In the recent years, since the release of IE7 and IE8 there has been a push from the internet community to at least make the public upgrade their Internet Explorer browsers (if not switch from IE altogether), which included even tricking the visitors to upgrade their browsers.
Over the last two years the usage of IE6 has been dwindling down. But it still consists of 10-20% of the web usage depending on which resource you trust. So recently the problem has been getting better, but once in a while you still run into a client who is using IE6 and it is usually not a pleasant discussion.
Since now the developers have upgraded, and test the site in IE8, most don’t even care about IE6 anymore, until they run into a client who is using one; at which point the discussion begins of why the client is seeing weird things, and then eventually leads to developers trying to convince the client to drop the IE6 requirement. Some, after having learned their lesson, are even putting ‘No IE6 support’ in the initial proposal, to insure that no extra time will be spent on it after the development is over.
One of the biggest users of IE6 (besides old people) are many company employees who do not have permissions to upgrade their browsers at their work. This is a job for their IT department, and often times an IT upgrade of any kind for a company means spending money. In this case one really needs to push the ‘non-security’ aspect of IE6 to an employee hoping that it will get to the top. After all, no company wants to deal with viruses or potential data leaks. There is a speculation that the most recent hacking of Google by Chinese Government came from the security vulnerability of IE6. Thus Google’s recent announcements to drop support for IE6, does not seem like a mere coincidence.
So how does YouTube’s dropping support for IE6 help you and your developers? Well for one, it should be easier for you to convince the clients (or your bosses) to forget about IE6 and upgrade, if they still use it. Google and many other huge websites dropping IE6 really makes it legitimate. Before, it was just your word against theirs. Now you can cite examples of other companies dropping IE6 with Google being the biggest of them all. Another good stat to share is to show them how the usage of IE6 has been decreasing over the recent years.
During these discussions it is also a good idea to mention that they should always try to upgrade their browsers (especially Internet Explorer) to newest versions to avoid being outdated. People usually upgrade the things in their daily lives often, such as cell phones, gadgets, and even cars. Why should a browser be any different. Educating them to stay away from Internet Explorer in general may also be a good idea. IE7 has some problems with CSS rendering, especially with CSS dropdown menus (although not as many problems as IE6). Also, the fact that none of the IE browsers support HTML5 or CSS3 functionalities, really makes out IE to be the big anchor holding back the innovation on the web. After all, developers cannot fully build websites with new HTML5 or CSS3, if IE doesn’t support them and people are still using IE.