Putting IE to sleep

I had a twitter discussion today with Robert Nyman regarding how we should treat old IEs (6,7 and 8) when we develop. The trigger was his tweet regarding his post from 2 years back that we should stop developing for IE6. Since twitter is fairly limited for this kind of things, here's my real, chatty opinion on this subject.

Stats below are taken from statcounter and regard EU and North America. Other markets' mileage may vary :)

So, what's the problem?

While we certainly can simply ignore IE6 in most of the world (around 2% market share), IE7 still has 7%-11% in the western world. But then again, this is where IE6 was 2 years ago when Robert wrote his post. In any case IE7 can be ignored or simply nudged to upgrade, since it is by all means an obsolete browser.

The real trouble start with IE8. While IE8 is much better then its older brothers, it is still a piece of crap in comparison to today's browsers and it does not support any of the new APIs we need to make the web awesome. It has a market share of 26-34% in the western world and since IE9 is not for XP, it is not going away anytime before the end of 2014 when XP is *finally* decommissioned. It will probably last a little while longer after that as well.

What can we do about it?

There are a few approaches that web developers can use in order to drive people away from the old IEs into the modern web:

  • Advocate - Campaigns like HTML5forXP are trying to get the users to upgrade through awareness
  • Nag - Display in-site messages that notify the user that he would be getting a better experience if he'd upgrade to a modern browser or install Chrome Frame
  • Ignore - Stop testing on old IEs and trying to create a similar experience for these users using various polyfills
  • Exclude - Block out old IE users from sites until they upgrade
  • While ignoring is tempting, you probably don't want 40% of your users to have a shitty experience on your site, so my personal favorite is "nag and ignore the none-essential parts" approach. (kinda like twitter with border radius)

    On the other hand, I can't help from reflecting on the fact that Macromedia Flash (before it was bought by Adobe) gained 98% market share through Exclusion. "If you want to see this website - you MUST install Flash" was the paradigm that got it there.

    The big question is "Who was the first to exclude users without Flash?" (If anyone knows, I'd love to hear about it). A bigger question is "Will one of the big guns on the web today (Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Bing) start excluding services from old IEs?". I know some of them don't support IE6, but who will be the first to not support IE8? I'm only guessing here, but it probably won't be Bing...

    That's it for now.


    UPDATE: I found some "Way back machine" stats that indicate that Macromedia Flash made a final market share leap from 90% to 95% in the summer of 2000. Could not find stats before that though...

Written by Yoav Weiss


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