I’m on the brink of starting another coding project – a blogging initiative on behalf of another central government department, which I won’t name just yet. And I know how it’s going to turn out, because it always turns out the same.
Many a true word, as they say, spoken in jest. But the reality is, most coding jobs would take a fraction of the time if we didn’t feel obliged to support IE6.
I mention this because today, 27 August 2008, is the 7th birthday of Internet Explorer v6. Seven years, people. Yet the latest data from Hitslink shows IE6 still has a market share in excess of 25% – despite the upgrade to v7 being free, despite the availability of better competitors, despite the lack of ongoing support from Microsoft itself.
But there are rumblings in the industry. Apple’s MobileMe service announced back in June that users would need to be using Internet Explorer v7 (the first major service to do so, according to 37signals). Then, 37signals themselves announced that their entire product line – including the well-known project management tool, Basecamp – would stop supporting IE6 as from this month. They wrote:
Continued support of IE 6 means that we can’t optimize our interfaces or provide an enhanced customer experience in our apps. Supporting IE 6 means slower progress, less progress, and, in some places, no progress. We want to make sure the experience is the best it can be for the vast majority of our customers, and continuing to support IE 6 holds us back.
It’s an even more compelling case when we’re talking about taxpayers’ money. Is it right for a government web project to cost (wild guess) 20% more than necessary, just because some of its potential users can’t be bothered doing a free upgrade – which, since 93.2% of UK internet connections are now broadband, most of them at speeds of 2Mbps or higher (according to the latest ONS data), should take a couple of minutes, at most?
It wouldn’t be difficult for sites to do a quick browser detection, then offer links to download pages for IE7 and some other alternatives you might want to consider (Firefox, Safari, Opera, etc). It’s in everyone’s interests, not least Microsoft’s, to make more people upgrade. We’d be open to allegations of ‘nanny state’… but I wonder if the ‘public finances’ argument would win out?