The Browser That Wouldn't Die and the Two Tier Web

— 2 minute read

Internet Explorer 6 has been a hot topic again of late. At Multipack last week we had the inevitable discussion on just when people will give up on it. We estimated six to nine months. But then we estimated that 6 to 9 months ago...

So now Digg won't support it for certain activities and Youtube are suggesting heavily you upgrade. Last time round it was 37 Signals and Mobile Me. Same arguments turn up again.

I pretty much agree with Chris Heilmann's thoughts on the subject. Companies that are still using IE 6 aren't going to care about Digg or Youtube or hip new work-on-the-web stuff blocking them. They block that stuff anyway.

That last 10% will be painful and slow to get upgraded. With MS wasting money on adverts or Nickelback based promos (warning sound that plays automatically), the elephant in the room is that the majority of that 10% still on IE 6 are there because corporations, governments and SMEs are locked into it and have little intention of upgrading. Be that by IT policy, bloody minded-ness, complex dependencies or shoddy dotcom era, activeX-riddled web software that just won't work in anything else.

Back when it came out a friend predicted IE 6 would be the Netscape Navigator of its day. Seems he was right. It just refuses to disappear.

All this creates an interesting dynamic on the web. As other browsers move faster towards new and shiny HTML 5 worlds, we've got a 2nd class internet of corporately hamstrung web citizens. They can't access the better tools, or they run slowly on archaic javascript engines, they lack efficient tabbed browsing and generally take longer to do the same tasks...

With more and more commerce web dependent in some way this'll have more of an impact as time goes by. I'd love to see somebody do a corporate whitepaper analysing relative productivity of IE 6 vs IE8/Safari 4/Firefox 3.5/Opera 10. Sure it'll only cost you .5 seconds more rendering that Javascript intensive booking system, but over 100,000 employees, 365 days a year, 10 bookings an hour?

That hints at the real danger for the IE 6 laggards. A great opportunity for younger, more agile companies to run rings around them. In the end that'll be the threat that convinces them to upgrade... Eventually.