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If you want rid of IE6 then start doing something practical about it

This post should be subtitled "or stop moaning".

As a pre-cursor to the main content of my post a note to CSS developers. Be careful what you set your heart upon. If IE6 was banished/killed/gone what would differentiate you from any other web developer? If anyone could pick up a manual and learn CSS, and all browsers rendered your markup exactly as intended would that not render your x years of experience redundant? Wouldn't the market become saturated with talentless newbies who could do your job just as well as you could? Wouldn't rates of remuneration inevitably plummet? Is that what you really want?

Do you not think in some way that you enjoy the challenge of those quirks and frustrations that IE6 cause you? Isn't that what sets you apart from the crowd and makes you are craftsman? Sure, everybody loves to moan from time to time it's a human condition - but do you really mean it?

Having gotten that out of the way, let me state clearly that I would like to see the end of IE6 too. Although I rarely get hands on with browsers from day to day I have done in the past. I'm aware of the frustrations and I think it is a completely legitimate movement to get people to install modern standards compliant browsers.

I take issue with the way people go about it.

  1. Complain about it on Twitter/blog or some other rant outlet.
  2. Drop support.
  3. Sign up to some silly petition site.

I'm not too bothered about #1. Everyone needs to let off steam, but if you find yourself repeatedly ranting about IE6 on twitter it is probably a sign that it is consuming too much of your time and you should stand up and do something about it.

I find #2 concerning. I have quite recently been party to discussions where developers have seriously contemplated just dropping support between versions of their product. This simply isn't on. If you have previously supported IE6, have not informed your user base that you are dropping IE6 support then you should be committed to support until such time that you've communicated to your customer your EOL plan. If you've never supported IE6 or are some gimmicky web 2.0 site then I guess it is your call.

Now for #3. We've seen a series of sites recently such as I dropped IE6, IE6 Update, IE6 No more and IE6 offenders. Each of these - in their own way - is trying to get people to upgrade their browser (though the cynic in me says that they are actually just trying to ride a trending publicity wave).

I'm not going to theorise over how to get home end users to upgrade their browsers but I will say that all of these sites are practically pointless when it comes to breaking through a corporate IT policy. Here is why:

Even if your stop IE6 campaign works around all of the points above, what is out there right now is still painfully thin on real information on *why* people should upgrade their browser. This information needs to be clear, concise and readable by someone at executivelevel. Here is a hint: the CTO isn't going to approve browser upgrades on the basis that it makes your job easier. The information out there right now is scant, and presenting a protest web site URL to your CTO would make you look a bit silly to say the very least - if you were running for office in your local elections, would you campaign with a one page manifesto?

Finally, some of these sites are targeting the wrong people. Getting a million developers to sign a petition against IE6 is like trying to convince a million conservatives that Thatcher was a great woman.

So what do I suggest? If you are definitely not prepared to wait for the eventual demise of IE6 and work within a large organisation that still uses it:

  1. Prepare some good documentation on why IE6 is bad in executive friendly language - you could possibly even start an open source collaboration on such a document.
  2. Include real information on how IE6 costs your organisation money on a day to day basis. Wasted dev/testing hours, time spent patching, blocking sites on the firewall etc.
  3. Create an internal audience. Circulate your document within your organisation targeting the most senior people that you have access to.

Sure, you'll likely get nowhere but 'Tis better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all.

Unfortunately in many many cases software projects are initiated due to palms being greased and the right people being wined and dined rather than any practical considerations. This is something outside of the sway of the lowly developer and unfortunately sometimes we have to accept that we just aren't that important.


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