Why IE6 will probably out live IE7

Originally posted on 28th September 2009 by Ian Harris

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Microsoft’s outdated and non-standard web browser, Internet Explorer 6, has no doubt had you ripping out large clumps of hair in frustration. I know it has brought me to the point of despair on several occasions. Whether you are a web developer or not, I’m pretty sure you are aware of the array of quirks that IE6 brings to the table when trying to render the most basic of CSS rules correctly.

There are several well supported campaigns running in the web design community (and beyond) to bring the end to this life sapping browser. The most notable are the Death to IE6 and the Bring Down IE6 campaigns, both of which receive my full support for trying to change the web for the better. Most of the big names on the Internet are getting in on the action as well with Facebook and YouTube (amongst others) displaying messages to users who visit their sites using IE6.

The big reality check

However, a conversation with a old friend of mine brought me crashing back down to Earth and to remind me of the true reality of the situation. There are an extraordinary amount of web users out there who still have to rely on (through no choice of their own) the services of IE6 to provide them access to the Internet.

Why? Because the corporate networks on which the users browse through to 8 hours a day are still running IE6. For example – my friend works in the IT department of a fairly large law firm in London. They have spent the last 2 and a half years deploying Internet Explorer 7 to their users. The main reason for this massive project is the amount of bespoke web based applications that their business relies on to function. The money men of world don’t care if a users browsing experience is ruined by an out of date browser, especially when the bill to replace the old systems could run into the tens of thousands of pounds.

There is even more reason for large companies to stick with the old browser, Microsoft will still support Windows XP SP3 (of which IE6 is a supportable feature) via their Extended Support program until April 2014 – See Microsoft’s Windows XP: The facts about the future article and the Microsoft backs long life for IE6 BBC News report.

Use your website statistics wisely

This notion of large companies sticking with IE6 is supported when we looked at some global usage stats for the different browsers. The W3Counter Global Stats site claims that in August of 2009, IE6 still held a 14.04% share of the global Internet browser market, while Hitlist market share stats show the August figure to be 25.25%.

Hitlist IE6 global browser usage statistics

Of course, every website is different. You (or your web developer) must all check your own site statistics to see what your percentage of your visitors are using IE6. If the numbers seem too big for you to ignore, then don’t ignore them! Using my friends company as an example again, their website statistics show that over 40% of their visitors are using IE6, and that doesn’t include their own staff! I can only imagine how many companies out there are in the same situation.


The moral of the story is this – for the majority of websites, IE6 is here to stay. If yours or your clients site stats suggest that your visitors are still using IE6, then you should support it. Simple as that. It’s your responsibility to provide as many of your visitors with the best possible experience when they visit your site. If that means spending those extra hours fixing the problems created by IE6, then so be it. The web, after all, is for everybody to enjoy.

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