If anyone knows about the pitfalls and headaches of managing evolving platforms for downward compatibility, it’s Microsoft. But the Web is a platform that is maintained, effectively, by the publishers that produce content for it; and in recent years, it is they who have been plagued with the task of propping up their HTML code to remain compliant not with what developers consider the “standard,” but instead with what analytics firm NetApplications reports, even to the very minute of this writing, is the single most used Microsoft Web browser: Internet Explorer 6.0.
Some 27.21% of global Internet users, based on July data, run IE6, compared to 23.09% using IE7 and 16.21% using Firefox 3.0. That’s an astonishing statistic when you take into account how many Windows Vista-based systems are geared, by default, to alert users and administrators of the availability of IE8. Microsoft’s U-turn toward very gradually embracing some accepted W3C standards began with the advent of IE7, which itself is leagues behind modern Web browsers including IE8.
The move has prompted the proprietor of the blog hosting service Weebly to host a Web site dedicated to the eradication of IE6. The strategy of IE6NoMore.com is to sign on support by other prominent Web sites for the inclusion of a snippet of code that alerts IE6 users specifically to the fact that they’re using an outmoded Web browser.
This in the face of a Digg.com users’ survey that Weebly itself cites, saying as many as 70% of IE6 users are forced into doing so due to such factors as lack of interest on the part of their business’ admins in upgrading…which may be related to many of those businesses continuing to use older versions of Windows XP and Windows 2000.
“We’ve heard from several sources that many corporate IT departments don’t feel any need or urgency to upgrade, and receive very few complaints,” the Weebly site reads. “We see this as a start — the more complaints the IT department gets (especially from the top), the more pressure they’ll feel to upgrade. Even if they can’t upgrade IE6 due to legacy applications, they could always install a version of Firefox side-by-side and only use IE6 for the legacy apps.”
But even that would be a problem, for it’s the continued use of IE6 by institutions even for outmoded Web apps that contributes to the 27% figures cited by NetApplications and others, that in turn leads Web developers to conclude they must continue to support IE6. YouTube is among the major Web services that are no longer developed with IE6 support in mind, although businesses have even used that fact in defense of procrastination, saying that it’s not their policy to support YouTube anyway.
IE6NoMore.com has already signed up a veritable garden of Web developers, including the popular Justin.tv. There are even some developers at Microsoft today who would appreciate Weebly’s efforts.