Ah, the much loathed IE6. Software tends to naturally rose-tint as it ages, but there’s very few—if any—fond memories that I have of IE6. When I started out coding HTML, certainly there was much glee that I suddenly had this incredible new platform that I could bend to my will, but being an IE user between 2001 and 2004 was hard; the only thing that was harder was being a user of any other browser!
Google will be phasing out support for IE6 starting 1st of March. I think the hasty funeral arrangements are because ‘if Google can do it, then it must mean everybody can’. Certainly, developers have been looking for reasons to ditch IE6 given the extra effort that is involved in supporting it. Apple notably excluded IE6 support for MobileMe and many other companies have been following the trend.
In the consumer space, I believe IE6 to be irrelevant. Firefox has opened the gates to competition and users are even having choice forced down their throat in Europe with the browser ballot. Use of IE6 in the consumer space is mostly artificial, coming from users who may simply not know that an upgrade is available, or that alternative browsers exist. The solution to IE6 in the consumer space is that of education, no more. IE6 makes up less than 1% of users on OSnews (who are obviously ahead of the curve).
Corporate use of IE6 is mired in a number of problems. Whilst IE6 continues to be patched by Microsoft it is therefore a perfectly ‘safe’ and valid thing to use, especially if it avoids the cost of upgrading. Enterprises will only be legally forced off of IE6 when Microsoft discontinue support as companies handling customer data must have their software proven to be patched and up to date under requirements of the PCI (Payment Card Industry Standards Council) as well as possible insurance requirements.
That said, what happens in private corporate Intranets shouldn’t reflect what developers do on the public web and I think the Google announcement is what will change a lot of developers’ mindset.
So, let’s raise a toast to IE6; for in its youth it did defeat the awful Netscape and it brought some semblance of W3C standards to developers. Despite IE6 having passed away here, let’s not forget that in some places beyond the horizon, IE6 is alive and well and currently preventing any kind of innovation from happening. It looks like IE6 will continue to haunt us for years to come.