If you work with the web, by now you’ve probably heard that on Thursday afternoon Google announced they will be phasing out support for IE6 on some of their key web properties, namely Google Docs and Google Sites.
Tech writers are all abuzz over this development, and many of them are suggesting that this marks the final nail in the coffin for the much derided legacy web browser, but as a front-end engineer with 10 years of experience building web sites I really don’t see what all the fuss is about.
I often hear developers complaining about IE6 and I’ve certainly done my share of venting at the quirks of it’s rendering engine but supporting it is really not that hard anymore.
No, IE6 doesn’t do a great job of implementing web standards, but by now those deviations are well lamented and, thankfully, well documented.
Besides, IE6 is still a common visitor to many sites. In fact, according to Net Applications IE6 still makes up nearly 25% of browser traffic during the week.
1 in 4 weekday visitors to your site may be using IE6.
If that number seems high, go take a look at Much Ado About IE6, a post by Mark Trammell outlining the results of some research with people who visited Digg using IE6. It turns out that most of the people they interviewed are using IE6 on the computer at their office because they have no choice; either they don’t have administrator access on their computer or they have been told by someone (corporate IT, I’m looking at you) that they are not allowed to upgrade. As Mark rightfully points out, telling these people that their browser is not supported is “not only pointless; it’s sadistic.”
Now, if you’re Google, perhaps you can afford to ignore those users; the rest of us need to ask ourselves some hard questions.
- How important to your business model are visitors from a corporate office?
Picture one of those customers using IE6 because they have no alternative.
- What kind of experience is that person going to have when they dial up your website?
- How will that customer’s experience impact their perception of your brand?
- How is that going to impact your bottom line?
Those are the questions that actually determine whether or not you need to support IE6, and you can see that they have nothing to do with Google.