Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Speed up the death of Internet Explorer 6 (IE6)

10 years ago, in a galaxy not so far away...a browser was born.

Alright, as dramatic as that wasn't, ten years ago Internet Explorer 6 came along and sat on pretty much every PC out there.  The reason for this wasn't that hard to understand really because there was little in the way of competition, and when Windows XP was launched this was the standard browser that came pre-installed.  The adoption of XP was massive and still is today, with many organisations out there still running the ageing system.  It had a massive market share of well over 95% and so other companies found it incredibly difficult to come close.  This Wikipedia entry for Internet Explorer 6 tells it all, and is actually great reading.

History lesson over then, or not.  IE6 had and still has massive flaws.  It's not secure.  It doesn't render pages well.  It doesn't do a proper box model.  It has very little in the way of standards support.  It's slow.  I will stop there because the list gets boring.  And yet, with all of the flaws, it still has about 10% of the browser share at the time of writing.  It's actually so bad, that even Microsoft wants to kill it.  Even though that site isn't fresh news, I still check back from time to time to celebrate the pending death of IE6.

At the time though as I mentioned before, IE6 had a goliath amount of market share.  The flaws weren't apparent then because there was nothing better to compare it to.  Microsoft obviously were so confident and thought that it was so good, that they actually gave up the development of the product entirely and killed their IE development team (not literally I hope).  In their eyes, it would have been the last ever iteration of the browser.  And yet, that didn't happen.

The rise of other browsers such as Firefox and Opera at this time caused Microsoft to have a bit of a rethink.  These were both better in every way, and had certain benefits such as tabbed browsing and better security.  Although other browsers such as Google Chrome and Safari (on Windows) came later on, these both did little to help the demise of the Internet Explorer brand.  Microsoft began work on IE7 and released several closed betas which were actually pretty good (I was part of these).  Suddenly, there was a massive movement by all of the browser boys to upgrade your web experience.

So anyway, back to my original point.  At this moment in time, IE6 has no future and is actually hindering my development more and more.  I think more and more that web developers should be encouraging the cull by just dropping support altogether.  I must admit, I hang on myself so that I wouldn't infuriate users, but now they are the minority.  IE7 will be the next to go in the not too distant future, but I believe that IE8 will be around for much longer due to Microsoft not willing to move IE9 to Windows XP (silly decision in my opinion!).  And that's it really.  It was more of an announcement on my part that IE6 is dead to me and I won't be spending any more time with it.

The next big range of problems exists with the new generation of browsers with what I previously have discussed - the various adoptions of CSS3 standards.  Also, browser optimisation for mobile platforms will be a massive area that everybody is at right now (including myself).  We'll see what the future holds very soon.

Oh, and on a final note, an early version of my new personal site will be launching soon called Soulfire Design that will be giving tutorials and best practice tips for anybody looking to start their own website, or make any improvements.  Please check out that link and if you are feeling generous please click on some of my ads!