On Browsers

Good *old* Internet Explorer 6IE6 is like that cold that just won’t go away; you feel well enough to go to work, but it keeps sapping your energy.

To many users, IE6 is the Internet. It came with your computer, and it’s the way you get online. Resisting the urge to put online in quotes. Like many web apps, we’ve been fighting against IE6 since Connect was born, but it’s finally time to take a stand.

Connect looks terrible in IE6. I’m sure everyone here knows why, i.e. no support for standards, out-dated rendering, the fact that if it were a kid it would be in second grade, etc. It’s a mess. But from an investment perspective, we can’t spend Rich and Anthony’s time on making Connect look good in IE6 at the expense of fixing bugs and building new features.

As Rich put it nicely over OraTweet, “IE hurts everyone . . . even those who use it.”

Thought that was pretty diplomatic for Rich, considering.

I haven’t conducted a scientific study, but I think IE6 usage has been declining since Connect launched, just as it has been sharply declining on the ‘tubes overall. Today, we toyed with the idea of showing a message to IE6 users to ask them to install and use a modern browser for the best Connect experience.

This will happen for sure; I don’t want people thinking Connect is a turd because IE6 can’t render it correctly. I’d rather let them know that we embrace the modern web and think they should too. Put nicely.

As a giggle, I checked the web analytics to see what percentage of users are still coming to Connect with IE6.


That’s all-time. So, about 14,000 visits from users with IE6 since June 2007. Seems low, considering: a) how bad Connect looks in IE6, which would drive me off, b) that IE6 is still officially supported by IT as part of their base image for employees, which also includes Firefox for the record, and c) that we need to use IE to run the web conferencing tool we use.

User agent stats from Connect

I expected at least 25%.

One thing that floored me was the <1% for IE5. I’d like to know who’s running IE5 out there, seriously.

Another interesting note, Netscape accounts for 1% of the all-time traffic to Connect. The visits were from 7.1 and 7.2, which made me feel better. I was cringing at the thought of how Connect looked in Communicator 4. Don’t laugh, I actually tested that combination last Summer for a user. Ugly mess.

I also noticed that Chrome wasn’t showing up as a browser, which is odd since a couple people have pointed out bugs in Chrome this week. Apparently, Chrome is seen as Safari by Mint; I assume due to their shared WebKit engines.

Friend of the Lab Jim Marion kindly pointed me to a way to see your user agent, which is how I cracked this case.

So, Safari and Chrome account for 6% of our traffic, which is pretty good.

We had a flurry of OraTweets flying around over this IE6 message thing. The best comment was:

i would just like to not have to run 4 browsers on my machine to check how everything “looks”. if we could eliminate IE and Netscape, that would be excellent.

Too true. I have two XP VMs to run IE6 and IE7. Since I have them, I can also run Firefox 2 and Firefox 3 in separate VMs. I guess soon, I’ll need another VM for IE8.

All the different flavors of browsers make web development such a pain, but then again, remember when all we had was IE and Netscape?

I guess it’s not so bad.




  1. I'd support a message on Connect about upgrading to a newer browser.

    I'm also surprised at the figure of 14%, however I would have guessed that there must be some correlation between people who have modern browsers and are using Connect.

  2. We deployed a message last night, and surprise, it looks like booty. There's definitely a correlation between users of Connect and the browser version. Over time, the IE6 and IE7 percentages will slide toward zero as people become more comfortable with installing other browsers.

    I just wish it would come sooner.

  3. have you considered posting a big link on the top when someone is on IE 6 saying “hey does this look like crap, upgrade your browser here (with link of course) and it will be lots better”. Most of us don't upgrade b/c a) we don't realize we need to and b) if we figure out we need to we are not sure what/where to go and c) we are lazy

    Seems to me you could solve a and b and even some of c with this approach.

  4. That's what we're doing right now 🙂 Win. Too bad the message looks like booty due to IE6's lack of support for standards.

    The irony. Style the message and throw even more effort down the IE6 sinkhole, or suck up the annoyance of an ugly message. Tougher than it sounds.

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