Why We Aren't Supporting IE6



February 16, 2011

We've made a team decision to proactively advocate for people to upgrade from IE6 to a more modern web browser.  We're doing this primarily because it has given designers & developers such grief, but also because we want our users to have the best, most secure browsing experience they can.  Given the huge problems in IE6 we wanted to give our visitors as many tools as we can provide to help you upgrade to a better browser.  

Now we know that most of the remaining IE6 users are within large bureaucracies that have IT staff who believe that the cost of upgrading now is greater than the cost leaving it as it is until April of 2014 when official support for XP expires.  There are still thousands of people who are stuck using old, insecure technology because of this mindset, and we want to help give you the tools you need to fight back against IT.

Security Issues Must Be Addressed!

Although IE6 isn't the cause of the the most recent security breach in the Government of Canada, it's security flaws are very well understood. Like the GhostNet issue of 2009, our strong recommendation for a need to change the culture around understanding IT security. Phishing attacks aren't particularly sophisticated, Microsoft Word Macro Virus' are well documented, but the culture of IT in many bureaucracies focus on simply buying brand name products rather than educating users.  

We've blogged a bit about security, because it has often been raised as a flag for why a department can't use open source software.  The paradigm of security has shifted faster than most bureacracies have been able to keep pace with.

IE6 Support Is Stopping Innovation

Google, Youtube, Facebook, Digg, Basecamp & many others have started to officially drop support for IE6.  Like these organizations, we both care about our users' experience as well as worry about the costs for maintaining a good IE6 experience.  We will be moving our site to use HTML5 & WAI-ARIA in the future.  IE6 has stifled innovation for long enough, it's time to move on. 

We don't want to be stuck having to add bad hacks to stylesheets to allow us to use CSS2 or CSS3 in our work.  We want to be able to know that PNG's and other formats are fully supported, as they are in modern browsers.  We want to make it clear that we can still get your website to behave alright for this outdated browser, but it will make any web project much more expensive to setup & maintain.  

What We're Doing

We haven't put up overly judgmental error pages, we haven't set up a blog dedicated to documenting the problems with IE. We have looked at tools like IE6Fixer & Chrome Frame. We've considered adding little javascript tools that will cause IE6 to crash (with a clear link that indicates what will happen to IE6 users), but ultimately we think that the best solution is to do what we can to encourage users to do what they can to update their software.  

Responses to Efforts to Kill IE6

I have really enjoyed Christopher Hyne's posts on IE6 where he does go into many of the reasons why IT departments have historically settled on IT,  There were good reasons to settle on IE6 at one point in time, but the time is long over due to actively seek out and remove IE6 from our lives. Chris' posts aren't claiming that we need to keep IE6, but to provide some very useful context which those of us who don't work in big IT do have trouble wrapping our heads around.

It's so much more useful than the following which was sent to us anonymously:

"Please stop using IE6".  Nonsense.  IE6 is still being used at work.  For
better or for worse, if you believe in inclusiveness, you must support IE6.
The Drupal.org site renders reasonably well in IE6, so why can the
Openconcept's [SNIP] theme work in IE6 as well ??!!

This is not an effot to piss of IE6 users and hopefully this post clarifies that.


About The Author

Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.