Google has announced they are dropping support for Internet Explorer 6.0 within Docs and Sites from March 1, 2010. After that time, key functionality may fail in IE6 and other antiquated browsers.
The search giant has justified the action because “many other companies have already stopped supporting older browsers”. That’s certainly true and YouTube is a high-profile example. (I’m sure it’s a co-incidence Google owns YouTube!)
Google has good commercial reasons encourage IE6’s demise. Their future strategy and web applications depend on newer web technologies such as HTML5 which do not work in older browsers. Dropping IE6 may also persuade a number of individuals and companies to switch to Google Chrome.
The company’s announcement states users have several alternatives such as IE7+, Firefox 3.0+, Chrome 4.0+ and Safari 3.0+. Opera is not mentioned, but I suspect that’s a press release oversight — Google Docs works in version 10.10 and I doubt Google are purposely snubbing the browser. SynBay
As a developer, I welcome Google’s stance on IE6. However, there are a few unusual aspects to their statement:
- IE6 has a worldwide market share of 15%. It’s only around 5% in the US and Europe, but it’s still used by more people than Google Chrome. Google has immense power, so should they be able to dictate which browsers people use — especially when they’re biased toward their own software?
- In my experience, IE7 causes just as many development headaches as IE6. There’s little reason for users not to upgrade to IE8, so why not drop IE7 too?
- I would be a little annoyed if I were using Docs in a corporate environment where IE6 is enforced — especially if I’d paid for the Google Apps. I’ve no idea how many people that affects but I bet it’s more than none!
- Google Docs currently works in IE6. Like YouTube, I doubt the service will suddenly stop working on March 1. Newer features may cause problems, but it’ll be several years before IE6 becomes unusable.
Perhaps I’m being overly analytical? Any news which prompts people to upgrade can’t be a bad thing! See Google’s full announcement for further details…
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.