Microsoft pleads: don't block IE6

Microsoft's top IE dude argues against Microsoft's own interests.

Microsoft's Dean Hachamovitch made an impassioned plea yesterday on the IEBlog asking large-scale web sites to continue to support Internet Explorer 6 until, well, forever. Hachamovitch's post came in response to a post from the Digg Blog in July in which the folks at Digg publicly pondered the idea of blocking IE6.

The Digg post noted that IE6 usage accounts for a mere 10% of users and 5% of Digg page views. This is lower than the average, according to W3schools.com (see chart, below.) But, Digg says, IE6 accounts for a disproportionately large number of hours of work on Digg's part. The blog says, "... like most sites, the designers, developers, and QA engineers spend a lot of time making sure the site works in IE6, an eight-year-old browser superseded by two full releases." Digg pondered taking the route of other sites and telling users who try to access their pages with IE6 to get a clue and upgrade already.

Hachamovitch yesterday tried to convince sites like Digg why they shouldn't. What's so amazing about this plea is that Hachamovitch is actually arguing against Microsoft's typical interests. Microsoft typically wants people to ditch their old technology and upgrade to new, more plentiful and more expensive licenses. Instead, he weighed in on the opposite side, writing:

"Many PCs don’t belong to individual enthusiasts, but to organizations. The people in these organizations responsible for these machines decide what to do with them. These people are professionally responsible for keeping tens or hundreds or thousands of PCs working on budget. The backdrop might be a factory floor or hospital ward or school lab or government organization, each with its own business applications. For these folks, the cost of the software isn’t just the purchase price, but the cost of deploying, maintaining, and making sure it works with their IT infrastructure."

Now it is true that some people have such a difficult time with technology that changing the user interface will greatly disrupt them. It is also true that people have the ability to adapt and be trained ... otherwise they couldn't have learned how to use IE at all. (And furthermore, if the user interface were really of that much concern, then we would never have been forced to endure the Ribbon menus on the latest versions of Office. Live, learn, adapt or get the heck out of the PC-using workforce.)

People who are hanging on to IE6 are still forced to invest resources to keep the buggy thing patched. In 2009 alone, Microsoft issued four patches for IE6, each of which fixed multiple vulnerabilities, according to Securnia. To be fair, most of these patches fixed vulnerabilities that were also found in IE8. So upgrading won't get a company out of the need for patching. And other browsers have bugs/patches, too.

The point is, if Web sites no longer want to invest resources to make their sites work with a really old browser that did a poor job of supporting standards, that is a reasonable position.

Browser Statistics Month by Month

2009

IE7

IE6

IE8

Firefox

Chrome

Safari

Opera

July

15.9%

14.4%

9.1%

47.9%

6.5%

3.3%

2.1%

June

18.7%

14.9%

7.1%

47.3%

6.0%

3.1%

2.1%

May

21.3%

14.5%

5.2%

47.7%

5.5%

3.0%

2.2%

April

23.2%

15.4%

3.5%

47.1%

4.9%

3.0%

2.2%

March

24.9%

17.0%

1.4%

46.5%

4.2%

3.1%

2.3%

February

25.4%

17.4%

0.8%

46.4%

4.0%

3.0%

2.2%

January

25.7%

18.5%

0.6%

45.5%

3.9%

3.0%

2.3%

Source: W3schools.com

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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