As from this evening, anyone who visits this website using Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 6 or earlier will be greeted with a message advising them that their browser is outdated and suggesting options for an upgrade. I thought long and hard about this (just as I have thought about blocking anyone who uses an ad blocker) and, for a long time, I was of the view that it’s not up to me to dictate the web browsers that people use to access my site but, more recently, I’ve been convinced that legacy versions of Internet Explorer are holding back web development, or at the very least increasing the cost of developing for the web due to the need to integrate various hacks to address browser quirks. With the release of Internet Explorer 8 and many corporates starting to look at moving from Windows XP to Windows 7, I expect to see Internet Explorer 6 usage dropping off quickly in the next 12-18 months and it’s probably time to “encourage” people to update their browser even sooner.
I know that Internet Explorer 6 is still widely used in the enterprise (including at the company where I work) and many corporates have application support issues that preclude movement to a later browser but that’s why the move from XP to 7 on the desktop will be key – as organisations carry out application remediation for their desktop applications, they will also be looking at the intranet. Meanwhile, on the Internet, we’re seeing large sites such as YouTube dropping IE6 support and, whilst YouTube is owned by Google (whose motives are hardly altruistic), as more sites drop support for IE6, the movement to more modern alternatives is likely to increase. In fact, I just checked the analytics on this site and IE only accounts for 45% of my visitors (closely followed by Firefox with 39%, Safari with 8%, Google Chrome with just under 6% and Opera with less than 2%). Of the IE visitors, 46.5% run IE8, 37.5% run IE7 and just 16% run IE6. Effectively IE6 is already a minority browser on my site, although the stats for less technical websites are likely to show fewer users at the cutting edge.
I’m not saying that you can only view this site if you have a modern browser. That would be arrogant and reminiscent of the late 1990s when it was commonplace to see notices that said something like “this site is written for Netscape Navigator 4 with a screen resolution of 800×600″. It’s just that, these days, we have web standards and even Microsoft browsers support them.
My aim is to support all screen sizes from mobile devices, through netbooks (1024×576) up to multi-monitor and large displays (like my 1680×1050 and 2048×768 displays) and all modern (standards-compliant) web browsers on all operating systems. That’s a lot of testing and I’m just one guy so, if and when I get around to redeveloping this site using a recent version of WordPress, it will use semantically correct XHTML and there will be no hacks for legacy browsers.
If you’re running something recent (i.e. the currently released browser from Apple, Google, Microsoft or Mozilla) then your experience should be fine. Anything else and, as they say, your mileage may vary.