Nik's Technology Blog

Travels through programming, networks, and computers

IE6 – Why Web Developers Should Support the Browser

There seems to be so much fuss surrounding support for aging Microsoft browser Internet Explorer 6 lately, both from the web developer community and big corporations such as Google and Facebook. There are many websites dedicated to eradicating the browser, a Twitter petition, a joke campaign to save IE6 and a whole lot more…

While I don’t particularly enjoy spending a considerable amount of time per project making sure websites I build are IE6 compatible, I do see the benefit of supporting the browser.

I was in Google Analytics recently and looked at my browser statistics for this site.  Visitors to my site are fairly IT literate but Internet Explorer 6 still has a larger user base than Safari, Chrome and Opera with almost 9% share. Looking on the W3C Schools browser statistics, 12.1% of their users browsed the web with IE6 in September 2009.

NikMakris.com Web browser market share Sept 2009

Web browser market share

NikMakris.com Internet Explorer browser share Sept 2009

Internet Explorer browser versions

I could make the decision not to support IE6 for my personal site and about 9% of my visitors would be affected, but if I made that decision on a commercial website, I could end up losing out on business, especially since many of the people still actively using IE6 are businesses or public sector organisations who can’t easily upgrade or install an alternative web browser.
Many organisations also have legacy applications that do not work with new versions of Internet Explorer and during a recession many organisations will avoid spending money on upgrades and new software if they can afford not to.

Whilst it might be okay for Google and Facebook to block support for the browser when you visit their own web properties, would a client of yours be happy if you did the same with a website you built, potentially losing them business?

Internet Explorer 6 may be a dog of a browser in 2009, if you’re a web developer it probably causes you hours of pain creating dedicated style sheets and conditional statements.  You may even have had to make major template changes to deal with the many quirks of the browser rendering engine, but hopefully in the not too distant future it will become such a small percentage of the web browser market that we can all forget about it and start concentrating on new technologies such as HTML 5!

IE 6 Bug with Absolute Positioned Layers

How important is it that people should be able to cut and paste from your website?

Having designed a site using nothing but DIV tags instead of using a table structure to lay out a page I find that IE 6 has a problem concerning absolute positioned layers.

The pages look fine, however if you go to select a certain piece of text you'll find that it selects the whole page instead (or at least not the part you wanted to select). Frustrating or what!

After some investigation it seems that a lot of people are discovering this problem. One solution it seems is to remove the XHTML doctype from the document, this forces IE 6 into quirks mode, which renders the page differently, the error disappears, but it stops the page from validating. Solution? I don't think so!

The other solution is to avoid using absolutely positioned elements and use relative ones instead. Surely we are trying to progress website design not hinder it.

I have yet to find a proper solution to the problem or find out if and when Microsoft will fix this bug, however I did come across some javascript that appears to correct the problem, albeit a very dodgy looking hack, seems to do the trick though. The link to the hack is below.

IE 6 Absolute Position Text-selecting hack