Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Death to IE6!

Why an outmoded web browser has a torch-wielding mob up in arms

According to estimates published in a CNN story 15 to 25% of web users are still on IE6. Sweet merciful crap! IE6 has a host of issues for its users, among them that it’s slow, crashes easily and it’s riddled with security holes. But for developers, it’s even worse. The people creating websites have to jump through all sorts of hoops and hacks to make their site look right on both modern browsers and the antiquated IE6.

It’s a conflict I’ve seen first-hand. At one company where I worked, they were unable to keep their ERP system and its various components current, and were relying on some modules that only officially worked in IE6. The team that supported that ERP system actually wanted IE6 to be the default browser across the company. My desktop team basically told them to get bent and went ahead with IE7. It turned out that only a very, very small number of people actually experienced conflicts using the ERP tools on newer browsers, which is grand, but somewhat irrelevant. Companies need to realize that they shoot themselves in the foot (feet?) by relying on antiquated technologies. The longer they do so, whether it’s their browser, their Operating System, their word processors, or their ERP application, the more often they’re going to run into conflicts. You want to ensure that the executive team can browse the web securely? Then get them off IE6. But then they can’t read the business reports? Tough – it’s one or the other. Time to make those business reports run on software that wasn’t developed ten years ago.

A lot of this is Microsoft’s fault, of course. They sat on IE6 for five years before finally releasing IE7 in late 2006. Plus, they didn’t write it all that well to begin with. There’s a single line of seemingly-innocuous code that will crash IE6 if used on a website. But Microsoft is on board with making the switch and wants people to adopt one of its newer browsers – IE7 or IE8 – as quickly as possible. Of course, there’s also the Firefox browser and a host of others if you’d like to try something completely different. Personally I use Firefox 3.0 primarily (soon to be switching to 3.5 most likely) and IE7. I’ve tried Google’s Chrome browser and liked how fast it loaded pictures, but it’s only in beta and Google’s terms and conditions always creep me out. Regardless, I’m sure as hell not using IE6 and if you can’t avoid it you shouldn’t be either.

To join the movement, you can check out IE6 No More or Bring Down IE6, or for a laugh you can visit the tongue-in-cheek Save

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