What is the Big Deal?


imageI recently had a conversation with the fellows I work with that went something like the one on the left. Perhaps, it looked almost, exactly, precisely like that. Winking smile

The simple fact is that I really do pray that I not have to support IE6. I woke up this morning, and as is typical, I had a number of questions posed to me by a number of different individuals, many of whom do not even know each other. Here’s a a quick sample of the questions asked this morning:

– What is the difference between dirt and cement raised pigs, why do I care, and where do I buy them?
– Since I’m not a MS guy, can u explain the big deal about shutting down IE6?
– How do you handle self esteem issues w/your daughters?
– How does the reformed man deal with 1 John 2:2?
– What can you tell me about Islamic eschatology?
– How do you propose to evangelize over social networks?

As you might have already guessed, this post is going to be a quick answer to the IE6 question. The answer is very simple, none of us should be using a ten year old browser, particularly when three later versions of the same browser are available. I’ll refrain from a rant on why none of us should be using Internet Explorer at all. If you find yerself here, and wondering what browser you should be using, here’s Bubba’s Opinion:

  1. Google Chrome Browser
  2. Mozilla Firefox

If neither of those is available for your operating system, you either already know enough about the technology to choose a suitable alternate yourself, or someone has done you wrong and you need to throw away the machine you currently use and go buy a new one. So, back to the question at hand. What is the Big Deal? It begins the issue of scale. Most people simply don’t grasp scale very well, and graphs give a visual of the data we are peaking at, so to that end, lets look at the breakdown of Operating Systems from which Browsers were used on the internet in February 2011.

As you can see, Windows Variants continue to dominate the field in 2011, and of those, Windows XP stands head and shoulders above them all. Windows XP has a unique relationship with IE6, in that it was (is) the default browser installed when the operating system was installed. It is a sad fact that while everyone in America knows about cars, and most have likely driven one, very few know anything about servicing their vehicle, much less how to change the brakes themselves. This means that until said brakes either stop working, or begin to make unpalatable sounds, the breaks aren’t likely to get serviced.

In the same way, the vast majority of Internet Users are not Technologically Savvy. I know this because I have family and friends who own pieces of technology. This means that they will never go upgrade their own browser, and even if they are told “Hey, you need to go upgrade your browser.” they haven’t a clue what that means. If I don’t happen to be at their house (probably removing spyware, a virus, or installing some other piece of software for them) and notice that they have an old version, then subsequently go update it for them, they will simply never get the update.

Given how much I enjoy working on other peoples computers for free, even if they are family and friends, I can easily extrapolate that only a minimum of systems are getting updated in this way. That leaves us with an unfortunately large number of Windows XP with IE6 installs continuing in existence today.

Then we have the corporate conundrum. There are many pieces of corporate software that IE6 has been certified to work with, but that later versions have yet to be certified for. Scott Merrill sums it up:

E8 is a case in point: it works with Peoplesoft, but since Oracle (owners of Peoplesoft) haven’t certified IE8 on various Peoplesoft products and versions, it remains “use at your own risk”. If an organization wants to continue to enjoy receiving technical support, they need to use the application vendor’s supported browser versions, and the application vendor may be in no particular rush to certify a new browser version.

The end result is that an absurd number of private and corporate entities continue to use IE6. WordPress continues to feel pressure to support IE6, while other (37Signals) have dropped it; and we continue to speculate on Why People Still Use IE6. But what ultimately makes this a Big Deal is the combustion that occurs when 1) We desperately pray we can cease supporting it from the Technology side. 2) There continue to be far too many End Users actively using it to ignore them. So then, do we simply drop support, and effectively break the internet for such a large population in an effort to force them to move? Can we afford to do that? Everyone has an opinion, what’s yours?


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  1. That depends. Whats the cost of supporting (testing, support familiarity, etc) vs not supporting it (revenue lost, corporate users unable to use tools and no access rights to upgrade, etc). It seems to me to be a fairly easy scale to balance.

    http://chrome.google.com/ Click install.

    I ceased (familial) support for FireFox long before I ceased support for IE6 due to bloating. I hate it.

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