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I was looking at our access statistics today and I noticed that over a third of the visits to this site in the past month have been with Internet Explorer version 6. While that number has been decreasing over the months, it's amazing that so many people are still on IE 6 a full 14 months after the release of version 7.
We have a standing policy here of making sure that this site is compatible with as many browsers as possible. While we do not employ browser-specific hacks, tricks, and other non-standard implementations of web design, every browser has its idiosyncrasies (that's a nice way of putting it) that we have to consider when making changes to the layout of the site. While something may be properly done from a standards perspective, that doesn't matter much if one of the major browsers being used makes a mess of it. IE 6 has idiosyncrasies oozing from every corner.
In my experience, version 7 of Internet Explorer is a better browser in every respect than version 6. It's more secure, it has tabbed browsing (a way-cool feature that, once you have it, you never want to do without), and it is the most standards-compliant version of the browser Microsoft has ever created. The biggest issue that I've seen with it is that the many programs that use IE integration to display web pages or some other use in their application needed to be updated to support the new version of the browser. In some cases, the very security upgrades that were made that makes IE 7 better caused problems with some software programs that were using functionality that has changed or been removed in the version 7. After 14 months, some of these programs still haven't been fixed.
Having to support IE 6 means that there are features that are possible on this site that we cannot implement, simply because we do not want to create features that operate poorly or not at all for a large percentage of our readers. However, considering that IE 7 has been the current version of Internet Explorer for over a year now, and that it is a mature browser in its own right, we are going to begin considering previous versions of IE to be legacy browsers. That means that new features may not work properly in IE 6, some pages may not display properly (see idiosyncrasies above), and some graphics may not look as nice.
So, what are you supposed to do if you are still running Internet Explorer 6?
If you can, upgrade to Internet Explorer version 7.
Microsoft has been pushing it as a Critical Update for several months, so if you visit Microsoft's Update site, that's the easiest way to upgrade. You can also visit Microsoft's Internet Explorer Home Page, where you can learn more about the features of the new browser and download the latest version.
Before you upgrade, please make sure that the web sites and software you consider important to your daily life isn't incompatible with version 7. Don't blame me if suddenly you can't submit that report or visit your company's Intranet any longer! If you are in this situation, it's time to apply pressure to the people responsible for those services. They've had almost two years now to become compatible with IE 7; it's about time they provide you with the support you deserve.
Or, you could do what I did many years ago. Upgrade to Firefox.
Firefox is a free browser that is open-source, which means that it has the entire Internet community working on it to make it a better and more secure browser. I've been using it for more years than I can count, and I've never been unhappy with the choice.
Firefox has tabbed browsing, it's very standards-compliant, and while there used to be a problem with bad/lazy web site designers creating IE-specific web sites, those situations are very few and far between. You can download graphical themes (skins) to make the browser look the way you want it, and there are thousands of extensions which add functionality. (One of my favorites is ForecastFox, which puts the current weather conditions and 2-day forecast in the status bar of the browser!)
You can download Firefox using the button below:
A disclaimer: Using that link to download Firefox does result in us getting small commission from Google, as it includes the Google Toolbar (which is something that many people already use and are familiar with in Internet Explorer). If that offends you for whatever reason, you can go directly to the Firefox download page instead.
We still support Internet Explorer 6, but...
This is a friendly message to let you know that, in the future, we will not be handicapping the site by continuing to support legacy browsers. When it comes to a decision between standards-compliance and IE 6 friendliness, IE 6 will lose. We aren't going to go looking for ways to break the site when viewed with IE 6, but we aren't going to go out of our way to accomodate idiosyncrasies of outdated browsers badly in need of an update to the current and established generation of product.
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