In developing a web based app like MIDAS, we had to make some decisions as to which web browsers we were going to support. When we first started work on MIDAS back in 2005, there were at the time only really two main players in the browser market – Internet Explorer and Mozilla FireFox, and we supported them both. Today, there are now 5 key players in that same market; Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, and Apple Safari… all of which compete for a market share. There was a time when Internet Explorer dominated the market, with nearly a 90% share at its peak, but its dominance has been steadily decreasing in recent years, as evidenced from our own website visitors so far in 2011:

Current Browser Share Current IE Usage
Current Browser Share Current IE Usage

From our own stats, we can see that 6.96% of Internet Explorer users are still using IE6, (surprising slightly more than are using the latest version, IE9 (only 6.92%)). Most Internet Explorer users currently use IE8 (67%) or IE7 (19%)

Current versions of our web app, MIDAS, will run in recent versions of all 5 main browsers, but we finally dropped support for Internet Explorer 6 last year.

Yet we know that many organizations around the world are still forcing employees to use Internet Explorer 6 on their corporate networks.. but why is this? Why do companies insist on sticking with a web browser that’s now a decade old, given how fast the Internet has changed and evolved during that time!? We set out to try and find out why…

From IE6 to the present day..

Internet Explorer 6 logo Internet Explorer 6 was first released back in August 2001 just a year after the release of IE5.5. Since IE6′s release, Microsoft have subsequently released 3 major versions of their Internet Explorer software. IE7 was released in October 2006, IE8 in June 2009, and this year saw the release of Internet Explorer 9, with IE10 already well in development. But there was a very long gap between the release of IE6 and IE7 (5 years in fact!) this allowed for widespread adoption of IE6 by IT departments the world over during this period.

The importance of keeping up to date

Now, any home user knows it’s important to keep their web browser up-to-date, not only to ensure the best possible viewing experience with the latest web technologies (which are moving at a very fast pace these days!), but also, and more importantly to keep their browser and computer secure and protected from security vulnerabilities and new exploits. Browser updates are always provided free of charge and are readily available – some even automatically update themselves!… so why do corporate IT departments stick with IE6 and not keep their software infrastructure up to date?

Should Corporations & IT departments be doing more?

We’d always put the main reason why organizations haven’t updated from IE6 down to laziness, but speaking to one IT professional about her own experiences of a recent corporate roll-out of IE8, sheds a different light on the issue:
“We went from (Internet Explorer) 6 to 8 and it’s a nightmare, it’s random things like some of our web based apps which use Windows authentication no longer work, others that use the “remember me” option now don’t log you out properly, we have issues retaining our proxy settings and to top it off it’s so slow! … (IE6) works better!”

So are corporations simply not upgrading due to usability and compatibility issues with their existing software infrastructure? At MIDAS, we always ensure that our web based room scheduling app is fully compatible with the very latest versions (and development builds) of the 5 major browsers. Should other developers of web apps be doing the same? We believe so!! …but could Microsoft themselves be doing more too?

Should Microsoft be doing more?

Ditch Internet Explorer 6 Whilst Microsoft do provide some helpful resources via their www.ie6countdown.com site for corporate IT departments looking to migrate from IE6, Microsoft have committed to continue support for IE6 until 2014 (coinciding with the “End of Life” of Windows XP), primarily because of this corporate sector! In our opinion, Microsoft should have ended support for IE6 a long time ago. If they had, it would force corporations and developers alike to get their act together and upgrade and modernize their software. Ultimately, this benefits the wider Internet community as developers can then concentrate on utilizing new and emerging web technologies, such as HTML5, CSS3, and so forth, providing a better, more stable and secure user experience, rather than developers having to spend time trying to make their modern software backwards compatible with a decade old obsolete browser!

The future for IE6

Google, YouTube, Hotmail, WordPress, and many other well known sites have already dropped support for IE6 in recent times, and we ourselves took the decision last year to no longer focus on ensuring IE6 compatibility for our web based app, MIDAS, as it was holding back development and preventing us from implementing new features, taking advantage of new and emerging web technologies.

Conclusions

Whilst we’re encouraged by Microsoft’s recent reinvigorated approach and commitment to further development of Internet Explorer, they should never have left IE6 to stagnate for as long as it did between releases of IE6 and IE7. This has led to many corporations becoming too dependent on an outdated and vulnerable browser. Microsoft’s pledge in continuing to support IE6 until 2014 is, and will continue to hold back development of the web.

We would urge any organization or IT department still using IE6, not to wait until its “End of Life” but to upgrade as soon as you feasibly can! If there’s compatibility issues with your 3rd party apps or software, contact the publishers/developers of that software… if they are as committed to their software as we are to MIDAS, they’ll want to ensure full compatibility of their product with the latest web browsers. If they can’t do this, perhaps it’s time to start looking for alternatives now before it becomes too late!

We’re really excited about the future direction that the web is taking, with the new standards and technologies that are emerging, but we need corporations to help drive the web forward! This is hindered by the continued use of IE6!

« »