Stop Hanging on to Obsolete Software

It is no longer OK to use IE6. If I see it on your screen, I swear that I will hold you down and forcefully install IE8 on your machine. I’m not joking here. I may not be able to convince you to use Firefox, or Opera or some other real browser. But I can and will force you to upgrade your IE to the version that is for the most part, standards compliant.

There is no excuse for using an antiquated piece of crap like IE6 anymore. None! Unless you are a web developer, and you are required to support that browser, you really have no business keeping it on your machine. Your browser is two version behind now, it is non compliant, underpowered and it is missing a lot of crucial features that are standard in most modern browsers. You don’t have tabbed browsing, you do not have a search bar, you don’t have sessions, private browsing and etc… In other words, you are missing out on a lot of awesome new features.

Not only that – since your browser is an antique at this point, you are more vulnerable to infections, drive by downloads, cross site scripting and all the other dangers. Yes, Microsoft is still sort of patching that version every once in a while, but it’s two versions behind. All the critical patches are developed for the new releases of their browser these days and then eventually ported to IE6. How long will they continue supporting it? Not much longer. Soon you will be out on your own.

And don’t tell my you can’t upgrade because you are running Windows 2000. That just means you are not only two versions behind with your browser, but also your OS. I do realize that XP sucks, and Vista is atrocious, but you probably should upgrade at some point. If you hate the new Microsoft releases so much, perhaps you should give Apple a try. Or maybe Linux? There are alternatives out there. And even if you do want to keep running Win2k, you really don’t need to use IE6. Use Firefox, Opera, Safari or Chrome – they are all vastly superior browsers that will run on your machine.

Look at this from our point of view – how much longer do we need to support your inferior, horribly broken browser? Let me show you why we care. Let’s say I design something that looks like this in every modern browser (such as IE8, Firefox, Opera, Safari, Chrome, etc..):

croppercapture123.jpg

Here is how this same design look in Internet Explorer 6.0 on your computer:

croppercapture124.jpg

Looks like crap, doesn’t it? That is how IE6 renders web pages. Now you haven’t seen this type of stuff happening because we have been spending many sleepless nights making sure our designs work in your browser. For every page we put together we have to create a separate IE6 style sheet. Barring that, we need to add bunch of custom tweaks and hacks to each style definition in order for it to work.

In the past, when IE6 was the default Windows browser and by extension the most popular browser on the internet this was just something we had to deal with. This was part of the job. But now, finally after many years of pain Microsoft has released a browser that doesn’t suck that much. We no longer have to do anything special to make sure our pages work in the latest and greatest MS browser. We no longer have to clock in extra hours making up crazy layout hacks to make things line up in every browser.

IE7 is now the default browser on all Windows Vista machines and it is a mandatory Upgrade for windows XP. IE8 is still an optional download, but pretty soon Microsoft will start pushing it to Vista and XP computers via their Automatic Upgrades program. This means, very soon most IE users on the planet will be running IE8. The only people stuck with IE6 are the people who consciously refuse to upgrade their browser, who run an outdated version of OS, and people whose IT departments blocked the upgrades.

You know what this means? This means we will eventually stop supporting your browser. We can all develop towards the same standard and have our pages render roughly the same in all the major modern rendering engines. How much longer will we support software that has been released 8 years ago and replaced by a newer version 3 years ago? Put yourself in our shoes. How long would you support such an ancient technology, if dropping the support would reduce your work load and improve your productivity by roughly 60%? Yes, we often spend more than half the development/testing time making sure our code works in the POS IE6. Do you really blame us for hating it? Do you blame us for wanting to drop support for it yesterday?

I tell you this – if you stick with IE6 for a while longer, one day you will wake up, and all your favorite pages will stop working. Facebook will be all out of alignment, and you won’t be able to update your status. Google maps wont work, and etc. That will be the day when we stop giving a flying fuck about IE6. Think about it.

Your browser is obsolete. Go upgrade it or switch to something else.

This post was a public service announcement. I know that most of my regular readers use standards compliant browsers. In fact, according to my logs, most of visitors to use browsers other than IE. I’m just putting it here, so that I can link to it later when someone is whining about upgrading to IE8.

Also, I’ve been messing around with IE8 for a little while now to see how it performs and so far it has been working flawlessly on most pages I visit. Somehow the internet did not break overnight for me like Joel Spolsky was predicting. I can really say that IE8 is a vast improvement over IE7, and I’m thrilled that I will be able to stop giving a flying fuck about IE6 noncompliance pretty soon. We were right and Spolsky was being a troll when he was rambling about “Martian Headsets”.

I really didn’t think I will live to see the day when the web development field emerges from it’s dark age of chaos. But I think we are almost there. If things continue developing the way they are, making web pages in the next few years will become mostly painless. Hell, it may even be fun for the first time in years. I guess we should thank Mozilla Foundation – without Firefox capturing hearts and minds of millions of web users, Microsoft would never actually update IE, and Google probably would never get into the browser market.

Ironically, perhaps the death of Netscape and the subsequent formation of Mozilla Foundation was the best thing that could have happened to the browser market. It took us 6 years of stagnation and general malaise to get here, but now we once again have a highly competitive market with many very attractive and exciting products.

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18 Responses to Stop Hanging on to Obsolete Software

  1. Tobias GERMANY Safari Mac OS says:

    This is so true! Great article.

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  2. Steve CANADA Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Unfortunately, if you work for the government or some very large organizations, you cannot just upgrade anything. In fact, the department that has contracted me to do some work for them is still using IE 6. Hey, they just upgraded to SP2 for XP last summer!

    So their standard workstation builds are woefully out-of-date.

    But IE8 still, as far as I can see, suffers from a terrible interface. Why is the Home button still way down, away from the Back and Forward buttons? Where is the menu bar? God, I hate MS.

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  3. Morghan UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    /me smirks

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  4. Milos UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    If it is a company owned/provided equipment IT folks should be taking care of it along the way. On the other hand, if it is a personal machine they should be pointed to this among many other posts in hopes they would realize the drawbacks of most outdated software.

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  5. I still come across IE 5.x from time to time. Now, the software I am installing requires 5.5 or better, so they have to upgrade. But there are still plenty of machines running this crap.

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  6. Does this I should stop using Mosaic? ;-)

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  7. Steve CANADA Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Problem is, some “outdated software” is required for certain applications to continue to work. In the case of IE6, they have it so locked down and secure that to “upgrade” they would have to spend months testing everything. Their thought is “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” And while IE6 is, by design, broken, it does what they need it to do.

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  8. Rob UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    In my little corner of the Internet I don’t really care about IE 6 already. If my site looks like dog shit on a stick on your antique web browser, then upgrade or choose an alternative! Then again, I didn’t put it together for a company that has to appease all it’s customers and potential customers.

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  9. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @Steve: Yeah, I know. And the refresh button is on the wrong side of the address bar. I always get confused and end up hitting F5 instead.

    @Morghan: Evil! Here is a question though – do you use IE6 for all your browsing, or did you pull it out of the corner of your system and dust it off just to post this?

    @Milos: Yep, you can’t really do much if your work laptop is locked down, and your IT is behind on updates. I mean, other than calling the IT an telling them web pages on the interwebs say you are driving an antique browser.

    @Matt Schinckel: 5.x? Wow! You know, I think that a lot of major web sites out there actually stopped supporting IE5 some time in the last 4 years. Stuff like Google Maps fore example – I would take a wild guess and say it probably won’t work flawlessly (then again Google is pretty good about that stuff, so maybe it works).

    @Craig A. Betts: Well, when you use Mosaic you sort of know that the interwebs will look mostly broken. IE6 users do not have that expectation yet.

    @Steve: True, you can’t really help it if the IT wing is adamant about keeping IE6 in place. Still, it will be end-of-lifed at some point. If these companies are still running it at that point, they must keep in mind that the rest of the world has moved on.

    They need to make decision – either bite the bullet and upgrade, or deal with the fact parts of the web will look broken for their employees.

    For example – if someone complains my website doesn’t work well in IE5 right now, I really won’t bother fixing it. Especially if the issue is not with my code but with a 3rd party library – like jQuery which does not support IE5 anymore.

    This is not an issue for IE6 yet, but it will be pretty soon.

    @Rob: Yeah, for work I’d still support IE6. But see above – I don’t care about IE5. Give it a year or two, IE9 will roll out and most major frameworks and libraries will stop dropping support for IE6. At that point, I think we will be able to forget about it for good – even for commercial sites.

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  10. Morghan UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Debian GNU/Linux says:

    Every post reply so far has been from Epiphany, Iceweasel or Firefox when I’m on the wife’s computer. IE6 took some doing, especially since I don’t even own a Windows box.

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  11. Yeah, I do not do any kind of surfing with old browsers. Sometimes I don’t want to load a newer browser just to view a web management page or to download a quick package. I have many old Sun boxes with Netscape 4.x installed by default. It works well enough to access an HP Web JetAdmin server or even download patches.

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  12. TheGeek SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Great article. I wish this is true though

    “IE7 is now the default browser on all Windows Vista machines and it is a mandatory Upgrade for windows XP.”

    So far I managed to keep IE6 (to support all those $%*#*&!@ people still using it)

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  13. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Morghan: LOL! That’s what I call dedication. Doing all the extra work, just to post a smart-ass comment. :)

    @TheGeek: Yeah, I still need to support it in some places too so I installed IE6 using the Multiple IE thing. This way I have both IE8 and IE6 running on the same machine – and IE8 is the “official” browser that the OS acknowledges.

    Firefox is my dafault browser though.

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  14. Morghan UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Debian GNU/Linux says:

    I suppose I could have gone to the local library but then it would’ve been IE5 on Win2k, didn’t think I wanted to look that outdated. I love living out here, but the only thing resembling modern technology is the wifi hotspot in the A&W over in town. Of course, it gives me a leg up in the zombie apocalypse :)

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  15. Daniel Fortune UNITED STATES Flock Mac OS says:

    That’s a beautiful rant … preach it, brother! I delivered a similar rant to our small office a few weeks ago, but advocated ditching IE completely. I’m in a Flock phase at the moment but deep down I’m an Opera guy. I still have to fire up IE at work to order music from one particular website, and, as much as that pains me, I do it for the 20% discount they offer.

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  16. JuEeHa FINLAND Netscape Navigator Mac OS says:

    I am sorry. But really I don’t have a problem when someone uses an old OS if (s|)he has a good reason for it and it still has some sort of security and understand that it is old (I run OS X 10.4 on my iBook because:
    *It is faster than leopard.
    *I use old mac software (some originaly designed for System 6) and OS X 10.5 dropped support for Classic mode.
    *I can still use up to date browser(TenFourFox).
    *I have antivirus that still works on it.
    *I understand that it is bit old and I don’t think that it should be supported.
    ), but if they fail to do any of these then I will have a problem with them.(Especially if they want me to fix their computer)
    By the way if I surf on Mac OS 9 I usually use Classilla instead of this Netscape Communicator that came with the system.

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  17. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ JuEeHa:

    Ah, this post was aimed more at people who run IE6 because they don’t know any better. I can see you are actually security conscious individual who takes steps to run up to date software alternatives on an older OS like – TenFourFox and etc. I don’t have a problem with that. :)

    In fact, some time ago someone gave me an eMac that was running 10.4 and I opted not to upgrade it, mostly because it would heavily degrade performance.

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  18. JuEeHa FINLAND Mozilla Firefox Mac OS says:

    @ Luke Maciak:
    Actually I said it jokingly because I used Netscape 4.77 on Mac OS 9. But yes it irritating when people that I know _still_ use IE 6 and won’t let me install such things as Service Pack or newer version of IE or even antivirus because it slows their 9 year old computers down. And after that they have guts to call me to fix their computer again. Ugh.

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