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Google recently announced that they will no longer support older browsers on Aug 1st:

For this reason, soon Google Apps will only support modern browsers. Beginning August 1st, we’ll support the current and prior major release of Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari on a rolling basis. Each time a new version is released, we’ll begin supporting the update and stop supporting the third-oldest version.

There is nothing worse than looking at the patching of code that takes place to support older browsers. If we could all move towards a standards only web (I'm looking at you IE9) then surely we could spend more time programming good web apps and less trying to make them run equally on terrible non standards compliant older browsers.

So when can the rest of us expect to be able to tell our clients that we no longer support older browsers? Because it seems that large corporates will continue to run older browsers and even if google chrome frame can be installed without admin privileges (it's coming soon, currently in beta) we can't expect all users to be motivated to do this.

I appreciate any thoughts.

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Jun 11 '11 at 16:30

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

1  
It's not abnormal, unfortunately, for enterprises to stil be running IE7 as corporate standard. –  Ryan Miller Jun 12 '11 at 1:22
8  
IE7 as a corporate standard would be a blessing, compared with IE6 that some of us still have to deal with. –  skolima Jun 12 '11 at 9:06
1  
The important message is that Google will drop support of the dreaded IE6 and thus it will become far-less important to support come August 1st. (unless you have a huge set of IE6 users (ouch)). IE6 sux because it doesn't support many of the more useful modern browser standards, like :hover and easy PNG support. –  Mark Rogers Jun 13 '11 at 5:46
1  
@Richard - you mean IE is a browser ??? :) –  Alireza Fallah Jun 1 at 9:29

9 Answers 9

up vote 118 down vote accepted
If ( your site does not make money ){
   do what makes you happy
}
else if ( the cost of supporting IE6 > the money you make from IE6 users ) {
   stop supporting IE6
}
else {
   keep making money from IE6 users
}
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3  
absolutely! And make the IE6 a variable so that you can change with the wind. –  Dave Jun 11 '11 at 20:14
2  
Great idea in theory, but the same logic could have been used to require IE6 only a few years ago. –  octo Jun 12 '11 at 2:11
16  
It doesn't compile, you capitalized the first If –  Petruza Jun 12 '11 at 4:16
3  
Should have used the ternary operator –  James P. Wright Jun 12 '11 at 4:46
10  
This is the logical answer. But the 'else if' can be very hard to calculate. 15% of your users use IE6; does that equate to 15% of revenue? What is the cost of an influential IE6 user telling 10 of his friends your company sucks because the website didn't work? –  Phil Mander Jun 12 '11 at 9:04

I think this has to be dictated by metrics. If a significant number / percentage of visitors is using older browsers, you should support your visitors. What is "significant" depends on the client. ;-)

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Depends entirely on your site and what it does.

A site where you play games or have fun can demand a lot more from its users, just like a game on a computer can demand cutting edge hardware.

A bank can't be as scrutinizing, as it's vital their customers can access the service.

A site made for people with disabilities can't be as scrutinizing either, because people with disabilities may require specialized software which may not be compatible with newer browsers for a long time.

Etc.

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2  
"A bank can't be as scrutinizing, as it's vital their customers can access the service." Which is hilarious, given how frequently banks' sites are the ones that require IE6 or similar. –  Jeremy Banks Jun 11 '11 at 23:58
    
@Jeremy Banks: Yeah, I agree it is hilarious. In a sad way. And the same goes for banks in Sweden. I guess I'm speaking from a "ideally" perspective. –  Kalle Jun 12 '11 at 1:07
1  
This may be because banks' upgrade policies are ridiculously expensive, which essentially means that their workstations are still using The Browser Version That Shall Not Be Named. That, in turn, leads to 'of course we need to support it, lest we screw our internal users!' (anecdotal evidence) –  Piskvor Jun 12 '11 at 11:52

I am a product manager about to spend 40 MD supporting IE6 for a single customer. We sell software into call centers, an unfortunately IE6 is the default platform for many big organizations.

My point is it depends, if I was building consumer web software I would have been off IE6 a long time ago, but as long as we have clients using IE6 we have to support it. Same argument would apply for any browser or environment.

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MD? (12 more to go) –  user6311 Jun 12 '11 at 8:37
    
@Tim: I'd guess that's man-days (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man-day). –  joschi Jun 12 '11 at 9:22
7  
That's a staff of 40 doctors of medicine, on standby in case the developers should get any sudden medical problems. IDK what the size of @Jon's team is, but after all, this is IE6 we're talking about ;) –  Piskvor Jun 12 '11 at 11:46

I agree that your decision obviously should reflect the business realities and audience of your particular website.

That said, large companies officially dropping support for IE6 is still significant. It raises the general perception that it is finally OK to leave a 10 year old browser behind. It also adds ammunition to any case you wish to make to the powers that be that it no longer makes sense to support ancient, creaky old browsers on your websites:

On Stack Exchange we've had a remarkably similar policy to what Google just announced in place for a while: we support the currently released browser version, the version before that, and usually the previous-previous version. (So for IE, this means we support IE9, IE8, and IE7). Beyond that you are on your own.

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40  
"We support the currently released browser version, the version before that, and usually the previous-previous version" - So for Chrome you support today's, yesterday's and the day before that's version. –  Brian R. Bondy Jun 12 '11 at 12:01
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Theres no point supporting yesterdays version of Chrome. No one will be running it! –  Mongus Pong Jun 13 '11 at 12:27
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Technically, Google's most recent announcement said they were NOT supporting the previous-previous version (e.g. they're dropping support for IE7. I think they dropped support for IE6 around the same time last year as facebook did). –  luckyllama Jun 13 '11 at 18:54
    
@lucky ah you're right -- so it's even more strict. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 13 '11 at 21:41
    
dont forget jquery, soon to drop support for anything below IE 10. –  user1721135 Feb 26 '13 at 14:08

If your site/webapp considers the Asian market as one of it's primary targets, then you definitely must consider continuing IE 6 support for the forseeable future.

According to http://www.theie6countdown.com/default.aspx, China is still sitting at ~33% IE6 usage, South Korea at ~22%, etc.

http://asia.cnet.com/blogs/microsoft-implores-china-please-stop-using-internet-explorer-6-62207426.htm

The decade-old Web browser Internet Explorer 6 (not very affectionately known as IE6) is still used by a staggering 34.5% of Chinese PC users

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My perspective as a user who up until recently was forced to use ie6 at work (firefox has since been installed as an "optional" extra - ie6 is still the default)

"even if google chrome frame can be installed without admin privileges"

I wouldn't rely on this. When this is released I'd expect most large corporations using ie6 will somehow find a way to block this from happening, either by blocking the website or locking down the browser even further.

We are stuck with ie6 for the forseeable future, the cost of upgrading involves upgrading a number of business critical apps, with budgets being slashed there is little appetite to fix something which isn't perceived to be broken.

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The decision largely depends on your client base. My company makes websites, and our framework which has been in development for nearly 5 years has very good support for IE6. However, approximately 1 year ago we stopped supporting IE6 for new projects. That's not to say we broke IE6 support, but rather we no longer specially test that browser. Only 1 client ever complained, and the complaint was "our IT department will not let us upgrade, so therefore our website cannot be used properly in-house." We fixed the issues for that client and they were very happy having a website they could actually use.

We now only support IE6 (read: "old browsers") if the client really needs it, but we first explain why upgrading is better (many people still don't know!) and look for reasons they should upgrade (your website cannot have feature X if you require us to support browser Y). Our official policy is to support major browsers at current versions, previous versions, previous previous versions upon request, and deny everything else that makes the job unreasonable.

Now that Google is joining in, the argument just got a lot easier. It is still your choice about when to drop support for older browsers, but I would suggest you use Google's position to your advantage.

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In an ideal world, I would drop the support of Internet Explorer altogether. Clearly Microsoft is trying to leverage their user base to force developers to aim at Windows/IE compatibility at the expense of other, multi-platform, browsers/OSes.

If all the users would start to drop IE for other, more modern and secure browsers, then surely Microsoft would start to change their attitude. Simply put a static splash page where you invite your user to download a more modern/secure browser.

Otherwise if you are within an enterprise environment where you can't easily install new software and budget is abundant, think about implementing a rendering server which would translate world standard web to the IE dialect (it's easier than what you would think).

The bad news is that we're not in an idealistic world, so you need to support IE. But the good news is that IE (no matter what version) is INDEED bleeding users.

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I don't know if this is really an answer to the question, or just a rant ;) But just to point out - Microsoft already changed their attitude years ago and they have moved much closer to today's browsers. –  DisgruntledGoat Nov 12 '11 at 22:44
    
You can very well consider this a rant :P –  Muad'Dib Nov 12 '11 at 23:56

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