Death to Internet Explorer
Posted by: Jesse Mauro
If you have done any front-end development, even if you know someone that does, you've probably heard this before: Internet Explorer sucks. Once the most used browser after conquering the mighty Netscape in the mid 90's, IE has gradually fallen behind its competitors the past 15 years and has managed to piss off every web designer with continued support for its prehistoric browsers.
When I was 10 years old in the 90's, computers had started to become common household items. Dial-up, AOL, Netscape, peer-to-peer file sharing applications like: Napster, BearShare, KaZaA, and Limewire. Like many during that time I experienced the growth. I got my first laptop when I went to college. It was a Dell running Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6 - what has become know to developers as generally the worst browser ever created. This was the browser that I started to develop websites on.
Internet Explorer 6 was released in August of 2001 to coincide with the release of Windows XP making it the default browser. At the time there wasn't much competition. Netscape (who had already lost the battle to IE) and Opera were the primary choices. Firefox was released in September of 2002 but didn't gain popularity for a year or two after its initial release. IE6 had been widely criticized due to its security issues and lack of support for (then) modern web standards. Meaning code that worked fine in other browsers, did not in IE. There were constant work-arounds and hacks needed for developing in IE.
Internet Explorer 7 - which was released in October of 2006 - made slight improvements but was still a major headache for front-end development. By the time it had been released, Firefox and Apple's Safari had developed significant market shares and the concept of cross-browser compliance was more relevant than ever. Developing websites to work across these browsers was an unbelievable hassle. Mostly due to IE6 & IE7. So much so that conditional comments (which were introduced in IE5) were being used to aid with the development of IE. Web browsers accepted code that read "if this is IE...do this". There were no conditional comments that targeted other browsers, for example: "if this is Firefox..." or "if this is Safari...". Simply "is this IE or not?". Quite often these conditional comments were being used to load an entirely different (CSS) style sheet to handle IE's behavioral issues.
*Note: conditional comments have been deprecated with the release of HTML5. With compliance to the release, IE9 was the last version to accept conditional comments. 10 and 11 will not recognize them.
I know what you're thinking: "Ok, we get it, it was a pain to develop back then. But 2001? 2006? That was so long ago". Correct, so why is IE still so hated? Even with versions 9-11 being essentially on par with modern web standards? It's IE's continued support for versions 6-8 and not forcing users to upgrade. There are websites counting down to the usage death of IE6 and IE7. Meaning today...2014...people are still using versions 6, 7 and 8.
As far as web development goes, I have found it best not to worry about IE8-and-lower users. Cross-browser compliance extends from IE9 and up only (IE9 was the first version to accept CSS3 standards). You can call it arrogance or inconsideration but to me someone using a 5+ year old browser to view the web is not someone I value as a consumer. If you want to join in on a modern day street race you can't show up in a car from the 20's. But still, it's hard to avoid these dinosaur browsers 100% of the time. Just recently a client of the Devshop came to us with continued work on an app whose audience primarily uses IE6....awful.
So death to Internet Explorer! With usage slowly but steadily decreasing each month since 2008, it's time to say good riddance. Once the browser of choice for over 50% of all computer users, IE (depending on which stat provider you choose) is now in the 10%-20% range and dropping. I don't know about you, but I'm counting down the days until we live in an IE-free (virtual) world.
UPDATE: It's Dead