Any web designer/developer will know that we have to make our code backwards-compatible with a number of (much) older browsers, just to cater for those that haven't updated. My question is.. why don't people update? Most new browsers will run on a wide variety of systems and it's not like they aren't advertised - I've seen numerous prompts on my travels around the web to install chrome or the latest Firefox and what not.

So what excuses do people have for sticking with IE6 or older equivilents?

Personally, I'm phasing out support for older browsers on a number of my sites - 'old-browser' visitors are sparse and I see it as a 'nudge' to join 2011...


11 Answers 11


Common reasons people avoid browser upgrades:

  1. They can't, either because doing so requires admin access (e.g. university networks), or because their hardware and operating system prevents it (or both).

  2. They don't know how. Firefox is famous for prompting people to upgrade. Chrome does it in the background. Safari does it through system updates. But earlier versions of IE don't educate users how to upgrade like modern browsers do.

  3. They've no reason to. I know a head of marketing who uses IE6 because he feels no compulsion to upgrade to a modern browser.

  4. They don't know what a browser is. As Google has shown [YouTube], a great deal of people don't know what a browser is.

As web developers, the best thing we can do is to accept that people have a wide range of reasons for avoiding browser upgrades, and that these reasons are often perfectly valid ones, even when it's frustrating to us as Web professionals.

It's our job to make content accessible to all by building sites that use concepts such as progressive enhancement. It's worth supporting older browsers for as long as it makes financial sense to, even if it makes our jobs a little harder.

  • 2
    I agree with this and upvoted it, but I work at a university, and I find the admin-access lock is either not as existent or it locks to a floating and fast-upgrading standard. In my professional experience, the lock to older and IE-specific browsers occurred more in business than academia. Aug 24, 2011 at 15:45
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    An additional reason: it isn't supported by their linux distribution or upgrading would require a distribution upgrade. Users shouldn't have to go outside the package management system for browsers, or even to other repositories or PPAs.
    – TREE
    Aug 24, 2011 at 16:04
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    @trinithis: it's an understandable reason, but I suspect that you're in quite a minority. The "average user" doesn't know what extensions are. Aug 25, 2011 at 7:05
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    A frustrating reason I often come across is that they (or their company) uses other web applications that are built around older browsers and don't work with more modern ones.
    – Waggers
    Aug 25, 2011 at 7:34
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    => It makes our jobs a little harder.<= Did I read "a little"? "a little"? Is it a typo or what? I've lost hours and hours of totally useless development to make my websites cross-browsers compatible. And yes, it is useless. Dec 27, 2011 at 19:15

There are actually a number of reasons. Most of them are related to corporations and I think looking at the difference in visitor browsers for corp websites vs personal sites (e.g. amazon.com, zappos.com, etc)

  1. Large and Medium size Corporations use software that requires a specific browser, usually IE6. Because of this, they create a software constraint on all of their systems and do not allow others to upgrade.
  2. Large and Medium size Corps refuse to upgrade a browser until they have fully tested the browser with all software that is required in their company. For huge companies it can takes years to get approval for a new browser. This also has a side effect in that browsers than constantly update, like Chrome will never be chosen as the defacto browser for these companies. Firefox is also now choosing to go down this path which means they will most likely be shunned by many large companies
  3. Some people and corps use horribly old computers. For instance, what is the newest browser that runs on Windows NT and Windows 2000? Not many people continue to use those OS's but they are still out there in the wild. For instance, the company I work for has over 25 PCs still running Windows 2000.
  4. Some poorer regions and countries are behind the technology curve and their citizens still get online. For instance, according to http://gs.statcounter.com Asia has an IE6 usage rate of almost 8% which is double the global average. Africa's is around 6%.
  5. Another piece that ties into #4 is what Nikko suggested as another culprit, Piracy. I have heard that China's high IE6 usage numbers comes from many people in the country purchasing cracked versions of Windows. Microsoft has done a good job making it tougher to do this with their new OS versions but older versions are obviously still out there for sale. The large drop in usage may just be a sign that all of the new useful features are finally catching on and nudging people to spend the money.

With all of this in mind I think it is changing. IE6 is almost dead at under 4% usage globally (gs.statcounter) and a much lower usage rate in English speaking countries (I bring that up only because many of us build websites only in English). Of note is that with the introduction of HTML5, all browser developers are pushing out a number of new versions to push people into using HTML5 capable browser or not be supported.

Also, one interesting side note is that with the focus of Google and Mozilla on quickly and continuously upgrading browser versions, Microsoft has been given a marketing segment they are already taking advantage of, selling to people and corps who don't want to or can't change quickly. The GE's of the world don't want to test a new browser every 3 months so they will most likely drop Firefox support and move back to IE where they know a new version will only come out every 2-3 years and they will only be forced to upgrade every 2-3 versions.

  • +1 though note you have to be a bit careful with #4, depending upon the particulars of your market audience. "Asia" has an 8% IE6 usage rage as Ben says, but this is the result of a significant averaging effect. China is still up around 38%(down from almost 60% only ~6mo ago), and nobody seems sure how to make them quit it. A basic search for "ie6 china" can be entertaining.
    – Su'
    Aug 24, 2011 at 15:42
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    On "Asia": I had reason to debug an issue with one of my web applications a while ago, I forget the details, but it seems that there's a browser built on the modularity of IE6 and internationalized for Chinese readers. I forget the details, but that sort of thing that pads IE6 numbers in Asia. Aug 24, 2011 at 17:34
  • +1 As for #1, my company uses some older hardware that allows for web access to manage them... however only older versions of IE will work. As for #2, that is very true, we test any upgrades for any software packages, thoroughly, prior to deployment. Last thing we need is a company-wide slowdown because a patch screwed with an application. Aug 24, 2011 at 18:12
  • On "Asia" I also have to add that most of Asian countries wouldn't have say TV commercials for Chrome like they do in the US. Thus no one knows about Chrome.
    – lulalala
    Feb 18, 2012 at 2:20

I've not seen this answer, so what about piracy?

I'd guess that a lot of people use IE6 or older versions of IE because they have pirated systems and they can't do software updates on them.

  • Very valid reason, almost forgot about this. But should we really be catering to those people?
    – TheLQ
    Aug 24, 2011 at 17:22
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    Yeah, but that doesn't mean they can't install other browsers Aug 24, 2011 at 17:35
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    @TheLQ You also have to remember that even though their version may be pirated, they may not have been the ones to pirate that software. It may have been sold to them in that manner. Aug 24, 2011 at 18:14
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    This is a valid reason. Also it answers the question, which was really just asking WHY people don't upgrade, not taking it any further e.g. whether or not to cater to them. @Mechaflash has a good point too, as such are the hazards of buying used computers from questionable sources for less. Usually everything is okay, until you want to do a software update, and only then discover that they were sold a system with pirated software. Aug 25, 2011 at 0:43
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    @TheLQ: Why shouldn't we? Or don't you want to sell your products to people with speeding tickets either?
    – kba
    Aug 25, 2011 at 11:11

I think the main reason is that most computer users don't have a clue how to fix their system if it breaks. They've had that experience where installing a new application or performing an update has caused their system to become unusable. Thus, they would prefer not to change anything, as long as it is currently working. Personally, I can't blame them. I've spent countless hours helping friends and family get their systems running again after something caused it to break that shouldn't have. You have to remember that the overwhelming majority of computer users only use it for email, facebook and web browsing. If what they have works, then they have no desire to change anything.


As mentioned in Nick's answer, the average internet user doesn't even know what a browser is.

Let's focus on users who actually have the ability to update their browser. Corporate ie6 users simply can't. And we already know that Windows XP users will be stuck on IE8 until they decide to buy a new computer or go through the painstaking process of upgraded their OS.

  • Google Chrome users don't even have to think about it. It happens in the background without them even knowing.

  • Firefox users are usually a little bit more savy but many probably installed Firefox on the advice of a friend who is "in the know". These users might notice an update message but most likely dismiss it because they are not sure about it.

  • Microsoft should take some of the blame for IE users not updating. When IE 8 was released it was not part of the regular "important update" packages users are accustomed to. When it was added it was not marked as "an important update" until much later.

    IE 9 is just now starting to be marked as a "recommended update" and users are not notified or educated that they should update.

Bottom Line:

The average user is just not aware and if they are they don't really care.

  • +1. I'm convinced this is the single most important reason as to why people don't upgrade.
    – dooburt
    Aug 25, 2011 at 23:39

My favorite is that [any site] only works in IE6 ... that might have been the case when IE6 was new but most of the time I assume these people are afraid of change so they hold tight to what they are used to regardless of how much rich cont


Having worked for a company that served government and public sectors, there is a huge number of folks who have computers locked down to the point that they can't even get out of kiosk mode.

You'd be surprised how long it takes for a software upgrade to get through all the layers of governmental red-tape to get approval for use. (Or maybe you wouldn't be surprised.)

Either way, I'd suggest that your target audience aren't likely the ones using a locked down IE6-based browsers on XP. They probably are the ones with the cutting-edge versions of standards-compliant browsers, so just keep designing for the best browsers.

Unfortunately, there is usually a single reason (money) why some people have to design for those outdated browsers.


FEAR. That just repeats what others have said, but I think we need that specific word.

I rarely have an upgrade (of anything: browsers, programs, operating systems) go completely smoothly. It breaks things that used to work, and does things you don't want it to do. And, of course, it takes time to upgrade.

I recently upgraded to Firefox 5 (after delaying it as long as possible). Just as I got it figured out and working the way I wanted, they came out with Firefox 6. So, I'm now trying to make Firefox 6 do what I want.

Ultimately, I hate being on the "constant upgrade" cycle. With the exception of the "Host:" directive (allowing multiples sites on one IP), I think pretty much every upgrade has been pointless: writing interactive computer programs in browsers is just wrong.


Well, I don't know if I count as a "people", but I've upgraded my IE6 to IE8 multiple times, and

  • a) the Help/About says it's IE8, and

  • b) whenever I go to a site that needs IE8 it says it can't display because I need to upgrade my browser to IE8.

So needless to say, it reinforces my jaundiced view of upgrades in general.

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    It's not possible to say without examples, but this is most likely not the browser's fault(it's probably fine), but the result of bad version checking on the site builder's part. It's worth nothing that recent best practices specifically advise against version checking in part because of problems like this, in preference for feature testing where possible.
    – Su'
    Aug 24, 2011 at 19:37

I have one older computer (a P4) on which I cannot upgrade anymore, but at least I have a newer version of FireFox (never use IE6 for browsing more than getting FF!)

One other phenomenon not mentioned: hackers use older hacking software that tell you they use Win98 with IE6 (for example.) Although you can ignore those hits, it's not always easy to know whether that's a hacker's bot or a real person...


A majority of computer savvy people still don't have any idea about upgrading the browser. They are afraid of the installation screens and a terrified they might crash the system.

Others stick to the old saying 'OLD IS GOLD'.

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