Well, that’s it as far as I’m concerned. I have a laptop that runs Windows XP and, until today, Internet Explorer version 6. However, Windows Update is now automatically updating XP systems to Internet Explorer version 7, which I’ve just installed.
I can only assume Windows Update is doing this now due to recent security holes found in IE6. After being infected with a major virus recently, upgrading to IE7 seemed like a good idea. But as an ASP.NET developer, there are far larger considerations involved.
Internet Explorer 6 is notorious for not following the established Web standards that pretty much every other browser is following. In my view, this has made Website development, particularly layout and CSS, an absolutely nightmare! There have been many times I’ve spent hours getting layout exactly as I want it only to find it does not appear as expected in IE6. In fact, many books I have on CSS design have entire chapters devoted to IE6 and its unique set of layout quirks.
As with most of their products, Microsoft wanted to make their browser exceptional by doing their own thing. But this just doesn’t work in the browser world. There have to be standards in order for the largest number of browsers to work with the largest number of Websites. That’s not to say all other browsers are identical in their rendering of Web content—they’re not. But IE6 was the odd one out with a large majority of issues.
So, until now, I’ve continued to maintain a computer running IE6 in order to be able to test my sites with this browser. But now that Windows Update is urging users to upgrade, I’m going to give up on this browser. Of course, not everyone will upgrade. There are always users who will resist changes like this for as long as possible. But I expect this development to mean that the number of IE6 users will drop significantly. And I’m willing to take advantage of this and no longer work to ensure my sites appear correctly for the diminishing number of users who use this browser.
With IE6 out of the picture, the biggest offender of not following Web standards is now IE7. But IE7 is quite a bit better than IE6. And, perhaps more significant, IE8 is about to be released. IE8 presented Microsoft with some difficult decisions. On the one hand, Microsoft realized that the latest Web standards could no longer be ignored. But on the other hand, if they came out with a fully compliant browser, they would break compatibility with previous versions, causing some pages that looked fine with IE6 to no longer appear correctly.
There was considerable discussions about whether IE8 should require a flag in the HTML code to tell it to use the new compliant mode, otherwise, it would default to being compatible with prior versions. This would allow both new and old sites to appear correctly.
I fought strongly against this approach. This opens up a whole can of worms. And, from a Web developer’s viewpoint, it’s critical to get everyone in line using the current standards and end the chaos we have now, which was caused in large part by the noncompliance of IE6. Although I have not played with IE8 or heard the latest on this issue, I did hear at one point that the decision was to make IE8 standards-compliant by default.
If this becomes the final decision, I applaud Microsoft for making this hard choice. They will take a hit if they come out with a browser that, by default, produces different rendering of some Web pages than previous versions of IE. But I think this is in the best interest the industry. And, in my book, not having to worry about IE6 anymore is a good thing.