'In China,' says MS, 'it's still a great browser'
"My proposal for solving the IE6 problem? It has to be solved by the major website developers. One day, all of us [should] redirect to a page that says 'please load one of these five or six free browsers, and then come back,'" Crockford said during a panel discussion of the web browser future at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, California.
"We all have to do it on the same day. Otherwise, we'll be afraid we'll be sending IE6 users to a competitor, and we'll never get them back."
This is true. And even if it weren't, Opera standards man Charles McCathieNevile questions whether Crockford's idea would work with consumers. So many people are still using IE6, he told The Reg, because they're not the sort of people who can wrap their heads around the installation of a new browser.
Naturally, Microsoft's response to Crockford's grand plan was to downplay the IE6 problem. Net Applications shows that IE6 still controls 17.58 per cent of the market, which is more than Apple Safari, Google Chrome, and Opera combined. And in China, it still accounts for half of all browsers. But Redmond IE evangelist Giorgio Sardo wants you to know that in some countries, IE6 isn't all that prevalent, and he argues that in countries where it is prevalent, this may be because it's "still a great browser".
"IE6 was a great browser," he said. "And for many users in China, for example, it's still a great browser. It can still achieve what users need it to do."
Crockford made the point that China is still married to IE6 in large part because so many people are running unlicensed versions of Windows, and he called on Redmond to allow the upcoming HTML5-friendly Internet Explorer 9 on any version of the OS - unlicensed or not. Sardo said that Microsoft is already allowing IE8 on unlicensed copies of Windows XP. But then Google man Alex Russell asked - in pointed fashion - why IE9 won't run on Windows XP.
Sardo said that Microsoft prefers to develop its new browser solely on Windows Vista and Windows 7 for reasons of performance. "IE9 is a modern browser. We are doing all HTML5 on hardware [acceleration]," he said.
"In order to achieve this, we need a modern operating system. With Windows Vista and Windows 7, we can use APIs that aren't available with XP."
Russell pointed out that Google, Mozilla, and Opera are all providing hardware acceleration on Windows XP, and he tried to explain that Microsoft's HTML5 strategy is leaving countless users behind.
"The question becomes: 'Do we have a plan?'" Russell said. "Do we have a way out of this, a way to give developers the choice to use HTML5 features across the board?"
Sardo's answer was that, um, users can always adopt IE9.
That brings us back to the fact that IE9 won't run on anything other than Windows Vista and Windows 7. But Sardo had an answer for this as well. "The other solution is to upgrade your operating system," he said.
We're still not quite sure if this was a joke. But just in case it wasn't, Opera's McCathieNevile pointed out that the world is loaded with PCs that can't run Windows 7.
Whatever Douglas Crockford is planning, IE6 is a long way from death. ®
Easy Interim Answer for Corporations?
1. Block all internet use of IE6 and limit only for internal networks and local application use.
2. Install Firefox for internet use only.
Most users will understand the use of one tool for internal use and another for external sites.
Suits me, suit you sir?
10% market share, various hacks required to get standards compliant code to render correctly.
It's about time all developers forgot it ever existed.
I'd guess Netscape Navigator 4 would fit the bill
Yes, Netscape Navigator 4 - that web browser that Firefox was, ultimately, based upon. Many now forget how pigging awful that browser was, to build for.
In comparison to that, IE 6 was, actually, a step forwards. Sometimes even a drunken step forwards is a step forwards. However, I once recall jokingly commenting to my ex-colleagues at glasshaus press, that - because of the way it was foisted upon its users - Internet Explorer 6 would eventually become the Netscape 4 of it's day.
That day has not only dawned (it dawned several years ago) but it now seems to have fallen itself into a perpetual loop: each morning, we seem to be waking up to that same bloody day...
The problem in China is not improved by the fact that the Chinese version of Internet Explorer for mobile is based on IE 6:
That is why calls, like this one - for some sort of worldwide coordinated attempt to 'break the Internets' for all IE 6 users, at once - are, to quote Bruce Lawson, "An activity that is as cathartic as it is fruitless".
(Of course, these mobile users should all be using opera Mobile, instead... But I would say that, wouldn't I? And so would Bruce.)
The best option, is to do what we did with Netscape 4, and build-in graceful degradation, and ensure that the site is still usable in the crappy old browser, even if the layout is a bit borked. most users tend to assume its something wrong with their own computer, whenever something goes wrong - and in this case, they'd actually be right. Eventually, if it annoys them enough, they might ask someone clever, whether there was anything they could do about it - and in this case, there would be!
The important thing to recognise, is that the user came to your website for the content, and not the presentation. If you're all-presentation, and no content, of course, then you have a problem, but it's not a problem that forcing a new browser on your users will fix.