Happy 10th Birthday IE6!

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I realize few of you will want to celebrate, but IE6 is ten years old today. I’m sure the original developers never thought it would reach double figures when the final version was released on August 27, 2001. Ten years is an astonishing achievement for any piece of software — especially when you consider the web itself is just 20 years old. Even today, more than 1 in 30 people still use the aging browser. Despite numerous awards for “worst tech product of all time” and “least secure software on the planet”, IE6 was an excellent browser in 2001. It gave us:

  • improved CSS (and fixed IE5’s incorrect box model)
  • DOM level 1
  • a good XML API
  • a sleek, fast interface
  • a useful IE Administration Kit for fast deployment within organizations.
It killed Netscape 4.0 and the Mozilla Suite. There were a number of court cases but, quite frankly, those browsers deserved a quick and painful death. Be thankful you don’t have to support them today.

Where did it all go wrong?

Microsoft won the browser war and, by 2001, IE was used by more than 95% of web users. Few people considered web applications to be a viable alternative to the desktop and Microsoft backed “Smart Clients”; Windows-based programs with good interfaces and the benefits of internet communication. It was a logical decision which could only strengthen Windows’ domination of the OS market. Microsoft announced IE6 would be their last standalone browser and the development team was disbanded. Then Web2.0 appeared. Ajax was the primary “technology” underpinning Web2.0 and, ironically, it was only possible thanks to a little-known XMLHttpRequest object Microsoft introduced in IE5.0. At the same time, Mozilla finally delivered a capable browser which was free from legacy Netscape code and a serious threat to IE. Firefox adhered to web standards and offered tools which allowed developers to create complex web applications. It quickly became apparent that IE was lagging behind and holding back web development. Microsoft took a couple of years to realize their mistake and release IE7. It had better standards support but broke many of the web applications written during IE6’s 5 year-long reign. Many companies found they couldn’t upgrade.

Is IE6 really so bad?

IE6-bashing is easy — Microsoft do it themselves. That said, some web developers protest a little too much: berating IE6 is far easier than “fixing” code. The majority of IE6 issues are well understood and have documented workarounds. Assuming you test early and test often, it’s still possible to support IE6 ten years after its birth (as long as you forget futile attempts at pixel perfection)
. The question is: should you support IE6? For most sites, there are few commercial reasons to justify spending a disproportionate amount of development time on a minority group of users using antiquated software and questionable IT skills. The situation may be different if you’re working for a large corporation or government department but, if you don’t like it, there’s an easy solution to that problem… Personally, IE6 has brought me pain but I’m ancient enough to have used it from the start and understand its quirky behavior. The development hurdles have also been partially offset by the profits — I still make money fixing IE6 issues! It was my default browser for several years and I still prefer it to the abomination that was IE7. So, happy tenth birthday IE6. It’s time to retire forever. Will you be celebrating?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Internet Explorer 6

Why is Internet Explorer 6 considered outdated?

Internet Explorer 6, released in 2001, is considered outdated due to its lack of support for modern web standards and security vulnerabilities. It does not support HTML5, CSS3, and other modern web technologies, which are essential for creating interactive and dynamic websites. Moreover, it has numerous security issues that make it susceptible to malware and other online threats. Therefore, it’s recommended to use more recent versions of Internet Explorer or other modern browsers like Chrome, Firefox, or Safari.

What are the main issues with Internet Explorer 6?

The main issues with Internet Explorer 6 are its lack of support for modern web standards, poor performance, and security vulnerabilities. It does not support HTML5, CSS3, and other modern web technologies, which limits its ability to display modern websites correctly. Its performance is also significantly slower compared to modern browsers. Moreover, it has numerous security vulnerabilities that make it susceptible to malware and other online threats.

Why was Internet Explorer 6 popular despite its issues?

Internet Explorer 6 was popular because it was bundled with Windows XP, one of the most popular operating systems at the time. Many users were not aware of its issues or did not have alternatives. Moreover, many websites were designed specifically for Internet Explorer 6, which made it difficult for users to switch to other browsers.

How did Internet Explorer 6 impact web development?

Internet Explorer 6 had a significant impact on web development. Due to its lack of support for modern web standards, web developers had to create separate versions of their websites or use hacks to make their websites work in Internet Explorer 6. This increased the complexity and cost of web development.

What are the alternatives to Internet Explorer 6?

There are many alternatives to Internet Explorer 6, including more recent versions of Internet Explorer and other modern browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. These browsers support modern web standards, offer better performance, and have fewer security vulnerabilities.

How can I upgrade from Internet Explorer 6?

You can upgrade from Internet Explorer 6 by downloading and installing a more recent version of Internet Explorer or another modern browser. Before upgrading, make sure to backup your bookmarks and other browser data.

Why is it important to upgrade from Internet Explorer 6?

It’s important to upgrade from Internet Explorer 6 to protect your computer from malware and other online threats, and to be able to view and interact with modern websites correctly. More recent browsers also offer better performance and additional features.

Can I still use Internet Explorer 6?

While you can still use Internet Explorer 6, it’s not recommended due to its lack of support for modern web standards and security vulnerabilities. Many modern websites will not display correctly or may not work at all in Internet Explorer 6.

What is the history of Internet Explorer 6?

Internet Explorer 6 was released in 2001 as part of Windows XP. Despite its issues, it became one of the most widely used browsers due to its bundling with Windows XP. However, its market share has declined significantly with the release of more modern browsers.

What is the future of Internet Explorer 6?

The future of Internet Explorer 6 is uncertain. Microsoft has ended support for Internet Explorer 6 and is encouraging users to upgrade to more recent versions of Internet Explorer or to use other modern browsers. However, some users continue to use Internet Explorer 6, particularly in corporate environments where upgrading can be complex and costly.

Craig BucklerCraig Buckler
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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.

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