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Internet Explorer 6

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Published | 16.32, 11th of March 2010, by Jay Vincent | Technical

You may have seen several headlines in recent weeks about Microsoft's web browser internet explorer 6 (ie6):

"Google has begun to phase out support for Internet Explorer 6, the browser identified as the weak link in a cyber attack on the search engine."

For people who aren't web designers/developers, the outcry against ie6 might seem irrational and trivial so I wanted to try and explain why this is such a big deal, and why Artlines Media will follow suit in dis-regarding ie6 in our browser-compatibility testing.


The security (or lack thereof) of ie6 is predominantly what has prompted google to drop its browser support - essentially the straw that broke the camel's back. Vulnerabilities and flaws exist not only in the browser but also in the implementation of ActiveX controls, which allow programs to be installed through internet explorer. Malware, such as computer viruses and spyware, can be accidentally installed from malicious websites using ActiveX controls.

CSS Standards

Probably the most noticeable errors an ie6 user would experience is poor display of webpages - elements not appearing where they should, unwanted gaps, etc. This is due to ie6's terrible implementation of CSS, the styling language used to position and control presentation of a webpage. All modern web browsers now interpret CSS according to the W3C CSS 2.0 specification, with few discrepancies between browsers. And with CSS 3 just round the corner, it is holding the web back when websites must also cater for ie6 with its many CSS bugs and terrible CSS implementation. (check out to see some of these bugs)

PNG Support

PNG is an image file-type which allows for transparency and semi-transparency. Use of PNG images in modern web designs is on the up, yet ie6 does not support them. ie6 instead removes all transparency and displays the image with a solid colour background (usually grey). To get PNGs to work in ie6 requires long-winded javascript-based fixes, which are non-compliant themselves.

"Quirks Mode"

Microsofts poor attempts to follow set guidelines on CSS and javascript implementation has resulted in what they have branded "quirks mode" - a not quite there version of compliance. This has been a long-running joke in the web industry, but I feel 9 years of dealing with it has taken the joke too far.

So in conclusion...

It is so so frustrating for a web developer to create a website which follows all modern web standards and works perfectly in standards-compliant browsers such as firefox, only for the client to complain of ie6 issues. Accommodating for these issues has always been time-consuming and frustrating.

So from now on, when we design and develop websites for our clients, ie6 compatibility will be seen an extra service in our web development process.

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