Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) is an old browser. It was released by Microsoft in August of 2001 and people are still using it today. The current version of IE is 8, with IE9 in beta which means it’s coming “soon.” Granted, not MANY people are still using IE6 and just about every web development group, including ours, despises its very existence. But the simple fact is that there is still a small percentage of people who browse the web from IE6.
A lot of companies no longer support IE6 when they’re developing web sites. Depending on what is meant by “support” it’s an understandable fact. But if “support” means not testing for it and completely ignoring it, we do NOT agree with this approach to, and support for, IE6. Your site doesn’t have to look as good, but it should at least work in IE6.
We took a sampling of web traffic data from 4 sites during 2010 and have tried to make some sense of it. We chose very different web sites with very different audiences and traffic volumes to create a reasonable sampling. These sites range in number of visitors from 1532 to 585,734 in 2010 (through 12/29/10). IE6 visitors comprised between 3.88% (our site) and 6.76% (the site w/585k visitors) of traffic to each of these 4 web sites. To clarify, 6.76% of 585,734 is 39,621 visits. No matter how you interpret it, that’s a lot of visitors.
If you have Google Analytics setup on your site you can check specific browser usage by going to Visitors > Browser Compatibilities > Browsers. You can then click on Internet Explorer to see which versions people are using to visit your site.
Industry data/reports show that in November of 2010 (the most recent stats available) 4.93% of web traffic is still being browsed via IE6.
A popular response to “why don’t you support IE6?” is that people can download newer browser versions for free. This fact, by itself, is true. However, one thing to keep in mind is there are many corporations that won’t allow employees to update browser versions. So, if that corp. is running IE6, employees won’t be able to sufficiently utilize a new site that does not work in IE6. Another thing to keep in mind is that there are some older users out there who are slow to download newer things because they are just used to the thing they’ve been using.
The Wikipedia article on IE6 states, “Microsoft now considers IE6 to be an obsolete product and recommends that users upgrade to Internet Explorer 8. Many corporate IT users have not upgraded despite this, in part because some still use Windows 2000, which will not run Internet Explorer 7 or above.”
We’re not suggesting that every site needs to work as well in IE6 as it might in newer / supported browsers and we’re not suggesting that everyone should develop specifically for IE6, but we do feel there are still a significant number of people out there using IE6 to consider here. Perhaps it doesn’t matter for your business, but we strongly urge you to do a little bit of research before making that call.
If you’re still using IE6 and would like to make the world a better place, please take a few minutes and download IE8 or the IE9 Beta now. There are also other, non-IE, browsers available for free and they’re Windows and Mac compatible. Two such browsers are Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome – we’re BIG fans of these two.