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Down with IE6?

Down with IE6? 'What's he talking about?' I hear you ask, so for the benefit of those posing that particular question, i'll start at the beginning and cover the basics...

What is IE6? And what's a browser?

Websites are viewed through a browser. The majority of web users will use a version of Internet Explorer or IE, as it is more commonly known. The main reason people use this is not necessarily because they chose it, but because it is the one which was there on their computer when they bought it. There's no problem with that, I did exactly the same thing when i began using the internet to look at web pages. Internet Explorer 6, or IE6, is one of the older versions of Microsoft's browser.

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There are many different web browsers available, the majority of which are Open Source - free! Some of the more popular ones are Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Apple Safari.

Isn't a choice of browsers a good thing?

Yes it is. But the problem with differing web browsers, is that they all have the ability to interpret, or render, the page differently. This is where the web differs massively from physically printed material. If I printed and distributed 1,000 flyers, I know that each and every one of those flyers will look exactly the same to everyone who looks at it. The challenge the web developer faces when creating a website, is to make sure the website they create look the same to each and every internet user on the site.

With different browsers rendering the code differently, you can see where the problems start.

So, why single out IE6?

Well, from the users point of view, there's probably not a lot that you would notice from using IE6 that you would notice to be out of the ordinary. But, from a web developer's point of view, this particular browser is a nightmare.

It scarcely follows the web standards and can have some quite unpredictable and erratic results. It is highly unlikely you will have ever seen these, as most web developers will ensure it is 'fixed' for IE6, before it is published live on the web. This can be very time consuming, particularly for more complex designs.

IE6 was first released in 2001, so in computer terms it is positively ancient. The number of users of this browser will steadily decline and also the number of web developers offering support will follow suit.

So will IE6 be switched off like the analogue TV signal?

No, is the simple answer. So, if you're using IE6, don't worry. It won't be a case of one day you switch on your computer and you can no longer view any pages on the internet.

What is more likely to happen, is over the next few months and years more and more web developers will make the decision to no longer offer support for IE6. This will mean, those using it will almost certainly be forced to upgrade to a newer browser to enable them to view web pages properly.

It is also likely that Microsoft will eventually drop their support of the browser, and it will then be confined to internet history.

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