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Often, folks ask us why we continue to support IE6. The short answer is that because we've committed to doing so. But more importantly, even if we dropped support, most people who want to use IE6 would still use it anyway, just without the benefit of security and reliability patches. Putting customers at risk isn't an option.
Having said that, we work hard at evangelizing new browser releases and getting folks to upgrade. While we still support IE6, there's no question that users on IE8 will have a more secure, reliable, and performant experience, and we want everyone to benefit from our hard work over the last few years.
The folks over at Digg recently did an interesting survey of their IE6 users, asking, in essence, "why haven't you upgraded?" The dominant answer (32%+37%=69%) was that "I'm not allowed by my IT department, and I don't have permissions to ignore them."
Hopefully, these numbers will shift in the near future when Windows 7 is released. Windows 7 will generally have IE8 installed by default, and IT staff worried about one or two legacy webapps that require IE6 can rely on "VirtualXP Mode" to run those incompatible webapps until they are retired.
"… and IT staff … can rely on … until they are retired"
What's the average retirement age for an IT staff member?
Hehe. "They" refers, of course, to the "incompatible webapps."
Coming to the discussion late...
Sometimes, it's not the apps themselves, it's the vendor. I support web apps for one of the ten biggest US cities. For two years, we wanted to upgrade to IE7, but could not because one vendor of a mission-critical financial program refused to certify that the program would work under IE7. All of our internal tests indicated it worked fine, but without the certification, we couldn't risk the upgrade. 20K+ desktops held hostage to a lack of vendor testing.
Finally, the IT group declared that there would be some dedicated machines with IE6 where the program could be used if there was a failure, and upgraded all desktops to IE7. Result? The program runs fine under IE7 as far as we can tell.
Also, I've found that the failure of home grown web apps to work right under anything except IE6 can usually be traced back to bad code - HTML that could not validate if your mother's life depended on it. IE6 (the little rendering engine that could, as I call it) does its darndest to make the stuff work, enabling programmers to churn out tripe year after year. I actually had a programmer look me in the eye and say he never botherd to validate because "it looks OK in the browser."
There are definitely programs that use controls and code that will only work correctly under IE6. At some point, organizations will isolate and retire these programs. Until then, I'm really amused at the hyperventilation of a certain segment of the web dev community over the idea (quelle horreur!) that someone, somewhere, might actually fire up IE6 - and be perfectly content with the results.
@waf: Indeed, that's not uncommon.
One nice thing about Windows 7 is the "XP Virtual Mode" download, which allows users to keep a copy of IE6 around for any incompatible older apps.
XP Virtual Mode? Oh, that sounds useful. Haven't been able to update my own workstation to Win7 yet. Until then, Virtual PC lets me run IE6/8 for backwards and forwards testing.
Thanks for writing the blog. I learn a lot here.
All Windows users that want/need IE6 to remain on their PCs should install a second "modern" browser (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, etc.).
The "modern" browser can be used for the majority of web browsing, with IE6 being used ONLY for isolated sites/web apps that require it.
The increase in usage of "modern" browsers and the decrease in usage of IE6 would help to prod vendors to update their IE6 web sites/apps.