There has been much talk in the web design and development community of late regarding the demise of Internet Explorer 6. Most web developers and designers have a special place in their hearts for their hatred of IE6, but the strength of their loathing varies from the occasional moaning, to the t-shirt wearing, to those running campaigns of contempt (see IE Death March, Bring Down IE 6 or Stop Living in the Past).
Personally, I strongly disagree with those who say web folk should stop supporting IE6 now, that we should use special stylesheets to make sites look particularly ugly in IE6, or more worryingly that scripts should be used to prevent sites from working in IE6 at all. It is the job of a web developer to support all major browsers (of which IE6 is still one) and punishing unwitting users is not the solution. It is Microsoft’s job to cease support of this ancient and incapable technology not ours.
The problem lies with the large number of companies and organisations that depend upon either Windows 2000 (which only supports IE6 not 7 or 8) or IE 6 for their internal business applications to function (think public sector in particular). It is these sources of revenue which force Microsoft to continue to support old technology & which keep the IE6 usage statistics high. All of these companies are aware that these technologies will be phased out eventually and should have plans in place to upgrade their systems, but again it’s not our place to force these changes.
Microsoft are now pushing IE8 through automatic updates and will cease support for Windows 2k in July next year – with this I can see the lifespan of IE6 finally drawing to a close. With the death of the OS which supports only the abominable IE6, it will be feasible for Microsoft to finally cease supporting IE6 too. When Microsoft say IE6 is dead, and only then, will IE6 really start to die – so the web design community needs to stop wasting it’s breath on users who can’t do anything about it – and tell it to Microsoft.
For now IE6 is still here and web folk still need to do their jobs. This means continuing to develop websites which support IE6 even in a slightly downgraded fashion, but it also means pointing clients towards a future without IE6 and guiding them them through this transition by removing all reliance on it. Cheer up, just think of all the work that will come flying in when IE6 does die.