IE6 Death Rattle

July 14th, 2009 12 Comments

DiggLast week, Digg became the first major web site to end support for IE6, or at least, support for certain functions in IE6.

Today, it looks like YouTube may be the next.

This should come as no surprise, since the anti-IE6 movement has been in full voice for quite some time.

What’s interesting is the data behind Digg’s decision and their approach. Check out the post by Mark Trammell, Digg’s User Experience Architect. They’re only removing features under-utilized by IE6 users, mainly those that require a login, e.g. diggs, buries, comments.

IE6 accounts for a mere 1% of the browsers used for each of those activities.

IE6 users will still be able to view Digg and browse it. This approach makes more sense to them than the standard method (like we’ve taken with Connect) which shows a message to all IE6 users, pleading with them to upgrade and join the now.

Or at least the World of 2006, when IE7 was released.

What I found interesting were the usage patterns of IE6 users, which Digg collected via survey. Granted, the sample size was tiny, only 1,571 respondents. Mark’s post says 10% of Digg’s visitors (39 million in June according to Compete) use IE6. So, this is a fraction of the possible sample.

Still, the responses were telling. The vast majority of people have to use IE6 at work and most cannot upgrade or switch due to policies at their work.Here’s the breakdown of where people use which browsers:

Breakdown of Digg usage by browser in home and work locations.

Here’s the breakdown of why people use IE6:

Breakdown of reasons why Digg users use IE6.

Mark concludes dryly:

Giving them a message saying, “Hey! Upgrade!” in this case is not only pointless; it’s sadistic.

My guess is this coincides nicely with a lot of IE6 usage for consumer sites like Digg. Maybe not at the same percentage levels, e.g. a site like Facebook or Twitter would probably show a higher percentage of home IE6 users, but the trend probably holds.

For a long time, our Connect users have been in a similar boat. While they are free to install whichever browser they like and upgrade to newer versions of IE, only certain browsers are officially supported by IT, meaning if it breaks, don’t call us.

Frequently, corporate IT often dictates IE6 because internal web apps used for day-to-day operations were built for it years ago, and no one has invested in modernizing these apps, making them inoperable on modern browsers. Sure, installing another browser allows the user to enjoy the modern web, but upgrading IE6 has no easy downgrade, leaving corporate IT with a headache.

So, it’s easier to mandate single browser, rather than supporting additional ones.

Even though it’s a bummer for teams like ours that have built web apps that use modern web standards and capabilities, the cost to IT of upgrading internal web apps that work just fine in IE6 outweighs the benefit of modern browsers.

And let’s be honest. Being unable to complete your job functions in an app built for IE6 is a much bigger problem than having a crappy experience using the corporate social network on IE6.

All this contributes to the fact that being in corporate IT is tougher than ever.

On the one hand, you want to realize the investment made in older web apps, avoid disturbing daily operations to upgrade them for modern browsers, and minimize the possible O/S+browser configurations you must support

On the other hand, your users are increasingly empowered by New Web adoption, which is already happening edge-in, and you probably want to move to standards-based web apps.

Plus, consumer web moves really, really fast, making your infrastructure feel increasingly out-dated.

Oh, and don’t forget the inertia of your users and their resistance to change.

I’m so glad I got out of IT so many years ago.

Your thoughts -> comments.

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12 Responses to “IE6 Death Rattle”

  1. John E. Bredehoft (Empoprises) Says:

    I know of a company which, as of April 2009, still mandated that IE6 was the only officially approved browser on the company's computers. (I have no knowledge of any changes to this policy that may have occurred after April 2009.)

    From what I know of this company, the new Digg policy won't have a big impact. However, the company does have its own YouTube channel, so any policy changes at YouTube regarding IE6 could be very interesting indeed.

  2. Jake Says:

    Wish I were surprised. It's a shame really, and I think there's a general view that MSFT is to blame. Aside from the fact that they built IE6 and were slow to update it (3+ years between IE6 and IE7), I'll bet internally they wish it could be decommissioned once and for all. I'm sure there are great stories waiting to be told about the internal struggles.

  3. John E. Bredehoft (Empoprises) Says:

    I just ran across an interesting exchange in a Department of State town hall meeting on July 10, in which Secretary Clinton was asked about…Firefox. No one states which version of IE is mandated, but it's an interesting exchange nonetheless.

    MS. GREENBERG: Okay. Our next question comes from Jim Finkle:

    Can you please let the staff use an alternative web browser called Firefox? I just – (applause) – I just moved to the State Department from the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and was surprised that State doesn’t use this browser. It was approved for the entire intelligence community, so I don’t understand why State can’t use it. It’s a much safer program. Thank you. (Applause.)

    SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, apparently, there’s a lot of support for this suggestion. (Laughter.) I don’t know the answer. Pat, do you know the answer? (Laughter.)

    UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: The answer is at the moment, it’s an expense question. We can –

    QUESTION: It’s free. (Laughter.)

    UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: Nothing is free. (Laughter.) It’s a question of the resources to manage multiple systems. It is something we’re looking at. And thanks to the Secretary, there is a significant increase in the 2010 budget request that’s pending for what is called the Capital Investment Fund, by which we fund our information technology operations. With the Secretary’s continuing pushing, we’re hoping to get that increase in the Capital Investment Fund. And with those additional resources, we will be able to add multiple programs to it.

    Yes, you’re correct; it’s free, but it has to be administered, the patches have to be loaded. It may seem small, but when you’re running a worldwide operation and trying to push, as the Secretary rightly said, out FOBs and other devices, you’re caught in the terrible bind of triage of trying to get the most out that you can, but knowing you can’t do everything at once.

    If you think about it, government agencies are possibly more hidebound than Fortune 500 companies. While government agencies don't have to necessarily submit to profit and loss analysis, they have to guard against charges of frivolous spending, and they also have to be sensitive to a protest from the esteemed Representative from the State of Washington, should the Department of State choose a browser that is not provided by one of his/her constituents.

  4. Jake Says:

    I read a summary of this last week. I think we can agree the costs of rolling out s/w are high, but in this particular case, you're talking about a browser. It functions very similarly, using the same paradigms as the known entity, IE.

    Investigation seems pretty futile in this case. I'll bet most of the support issues would overlap browsers.

    Re. your constituent point, IE comes bundled with Win and usage doesn't monetarily benefit anyone. And what about the CA constituents who run Mozilla :)

  5. joel garry Says:

    I know of a company who is forcing usage of flash for their support site, starting in less than 2 weeks. Then they recommend some camstudio thing that conflicts with X-Windows. I guess. Since no one seems to be able to support it, I don't really know. All I know is it lost my work. I'd like to tell them what to do with their product and the source it rode in on.

    At least I'm off IE6.

  6. Jake Says:

    Are you talking about MetaLink? I think they plan to keep the old school HTML version for non-Flash types.

    Flash is another post. Running the Chromium/Chrome Dev builds makes it more obvious how many places it is now. Bit of a bummer.

  7. joel garry Says:

    Yeah, I don't know where that end-of-July rumor came from. From the faq “The upgrade to My Oracle Support and retirement of Classic MetaLink and the On Demand Customer Portal are targeted to occur in the second half of calendar year 2009. The exact timeline will be provided to Classic MetaLink / My Oracle Support / Oracle On Demand users approximately three weeks prior to the go live date. ” dated 22-July.

    Some small number of people are complaining on OTN and oracle-l and asking to keep the old metalink, that would be interesting if that actually happened. Grand total of 4 comments on the oracle support blog.

  8. Jake Says:

    Hmm, no insight into why it's retiring permanently. I guess you'll have to find a way to run Flash :) I would have expected a larger group rising up against a site that requires Flash.

  9. Joonas Linkola Says:

    Don't know if this is yesterday's news, but:

  10. Jake Says:

    Yeah, I saw that on TC. Doubt IT departments will listen though. IE6 will slowly bleed out of organizations; check back in 2011 when it turns 10 to see :)

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