Forget what I said before: IE6 is a goner

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IE Six Feet Under (Nyuk, nyuk!)Boy, is my face red.

Back in March I wrote a post about developing for IE6 without much compromise, citing its 20% market share as reason enough to maintain support.

I’m happy to report that, as of today, that article’s importance has plummeted dramatically.

Last week, the folks behind news aggregation site Digg revealed that nearly 70% of IE6 visitors had no choice as to what browser they were using, and that IE6 usage was most prevalent from work rather than home. Although Digg’s audience is admittedly more tech-savvy than that of the entire web, it validates a broader report by CNET stating that 60% of the enterprise market still maintains support for this out-of-date (and insecure) browser. The article further states that, according to Forrester analyst Sheri McLeish, “IT control trumps technology populism.”

The struggle has remained the same since the 2006 release of Internet Explorer 7, with developers and companies eager to escape the IE6 productivity vacuum but stuck doing so for a sizable market segment frozen in time by corporate-mandated bureaucracy. Where reason and persistent whining have failed, only two solutions seem possible:

  1. Microsoft must introduce a new version of Windows with features essential to the enterprise (trojan horsing the latest Internet Explorer in the process)
  2. Large and influential web presences must phase out support, forcing IT managers to upgrade or risk an influx of costly support requests

With poor performance (and a healthy dollop of FUD) plaguing Vista from the outset, my hopes for Windows 7 making the first scenario a reality are understandably modest. Lucky for us, the second option yields far less pessimism.

You see, YouTube is phasing out support for the eight-year-old browser. Let me repeat that: YouTube. You may have heard of it. Alexa says it’s the third most popular site on the entire freaking Internet. It’s owned by the most popular site on the Internet. You can’t get much larger (and more influential) than that; few online properties have more visitors to lose from such a decision.

We knew the demise of IE6 was only a matter of time, but when a content behemoth like YouTube announces they’re going to run (slow motion) into the wide open arms of today’s web, it’s an understatement to say the pace has picked up significantly.

It’s about damn time.