The Browser Wars


It is no secret that MintTwist doesn’t actively support Internet Explorer 6 in our productions. All you need to do is take a look at our website using this dinosaur of a browser…

The simple fact is, when we build a website using modern design standards, even the most benign and simple standards, it cannot be reproduced in Internet Explorer 6 (IE6).

There are some who argue that if we need to build a website for IE6, we should design it for IE6 from the outset. And therein lies the problem. IE6 is holding back design and, consequently, standards of design.

IE6 was released in 2001 – that’s frankly ancient in technology years.

There are many features and techniques of modern web design that have been around for a few years now, but IE6 has been unable to display them, causing the layout of web pages to either break, or look a bit pants. In some rare cases, the browser itself would completely fall over.

This is frustrating not only for those building the website, but also for users who just want to buy a product or a service, read an article or get directions. If their experience isn’t top-notch, they will blame the website, not their outmoded browser.

Within the last year or two, support for IE6 has been steadily declining. I suspect one of the reasons for that was a natural evolution to newer machines that don’t support the browser, and indeed have a more modern version if IE installed by default.

More often than not, after listening to our arguments against it, a client would agree that supporting such an old browser, often at the expense of experiences on decent browsers, is not a good idea. Our case is especially well backed up when the clients’ analytics showed such a small percentage of website visitors on IE6.

Clients are likely to agree with us, mainly because we’ve become more adept at arguing for modern standards, but also because support for IE6 means the project will take longer to complete, for various reasons. This inevitably extends the project timeline, which the client doesn’t want because it not only means the website will be launched later, but it also means it will cost the client more.

There are, of course, some cases where support of IE6 is necessary. There are still one or two corporates who use IE6, even some schools. The argument to these is usually a simple one: just because your organisation is using IE6, doesn’t mean your audience is. Don’t make your potential customers pay for your lack of insight into the benefits of upgrading.

That aside, however, I have come to understand that the worst culprit is the Government. Ever-aware that they have to watch their costs, Government departments are reluctant to upgrade their browsers to anything past IE6 (and even IE5, in some cases) because the bespoke applications they use all require such an out-dated browser.

Indeed, the Government recently dismissed calls by the industry the upgrade, citing a lack of evidence to suggest upgrading is in the best interest of the Government and those it serves.

This sends out the wrong message to the population about security on the web.

It has been suggested that most of those using IE6 are either forced to at their place of work, or they simply don’t know that there’s a whole magical world outside of the four sides of their rickety old browser.

So, let’s venture back to the original point. MintTwist doesn’t actively support IE6 because it is far too time-consuming, costs clients more money and, probably most importantly to us, such submission to a culture that lacks modern standards is holding back the advancement of the web.

Standards aren’t there for nothing. Conventions and standards exist because internet users need to be secure, happy and satisfied. Internet Explorer 6 hinders that, because in creating a website using modern standards, we are breaking the standards that IE6 tried to set. This in itself is another problem, and not only with IE.

We have Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera and Apple Safari as the most-used browsers. Most of them are built by companies who are, historically, convinced that they do things better. They were intent on instilling their own, often ill-thought-out standards on the rest of the web.

In the end, it isn’t necessarily we web designers and developers who suffer from this, because we get paid at the end of the ordeal.

It is the web user who suffers. We are there to serve them, when it comes to the internet. Much like a government serves its taxpayers. The sooner the browser vendors remember that, the better.

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