The death of IE6 and the future of the web browser

February 8th, 2010

I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear that Google will stop supporting IE6 on March 1. This might just be the thing that, with companies actually wanting to upgrade to Windows 7, will end IE6’s reign of terror. When I first started at the company I work for, Bounce Design, just under 2 years ago, they built everything in tables and used JavaScript for rollovers. I came in with the attitude of always being on the cutting edge and over that time we’ve gone from spending hours and hours getting sites to work in IE6, including hacks to get transparent .pngs to display to telling clients to upgrade their browser when they tell us it doesn’t look right in IE6.

Considering the hours lost to making things work, I don’t think anyone will mourn IE6. But, as usual with Microsoft and the web, I find I still have to spend extra time getting things to look the same in IE7 and IE8. I’m actually pretty surprised at how different the two versions of IE can render CSS positioning, sometimes by as much as 400 to 500 pixels! So, while IE6 and it’s issues might be on the way out, we’re still going to have to deal with the two versions of IE that don’t come close to supporting Web Standards. I don’t mind making minor changes to sites I build but I do long for the day when I don’t need separate style sheets for different browsers.

But without IE6, I don’t know if we would have the rise of Firefox, Chrome or even Safari. As a web developer, I force everyone I know to use anything other than IE and they usually give in because I can be very annoying. Even my wife, who still uses IE8, at least has the Google Chrome Frame. At first I was going to write about how all these browsers are different and display everything differently and we won’t really be able to take some like HTML5 to the max until this changes. But then I thought, the web isn’t like the radio or TV, everyone does different things on the it. We all surf the web our own way, some people are Facebook the entire time they are on line, others are using JavaScript heavy sites, like Google Docs. I think that browsers will evolve even more to suit individual users. I use Firefox when I’m working on projects and for the most part it’s my main browser, but I find that I will switch to Chrome when I just want to surf and I want sites to load fast.

With mobile browsers on the rise and HTML5 and CSS3 on the way, the web is going to get more and more dynamic and I think, more personalized. But really, it’s not going to change that much anytime soon considering the overreactions to Facebook making changes to their homepage every 6 months.

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