IE7 Is The New IE6

06 Jul 2011 by Bart
1 Comment
IE 7 and 6 under fire

Internet Explorer. The special needs browser that just doesn't want to die.

It’s hard to tell what Microsoft tried to achieve by the public filicide of its ugliest child. Was it genuine concern for users’ safety? An ambitious attempt to improve people’s web experience? Or perhaps a desperate move to retain the remaining scraps of honour in the eyes of the web community? Whatever the reason was, it was good decision. Unfortunately though, whomever made it (I’m imagining here some joined-board-mutant-like-body consisting of PR, marketing and development managers with big Steve Balmer’s head and octopus arms [Cthulhu fhtagn]), didn’t find enough courage to scrap the still officially supported and most deformed of all of Microsoft’s web browsing spawn – IE7.

If we were brutally honest, IE wasn’t ever particularly good in adhering to the W3C CSS standards until IE8. IE7 not only isn’t better than IE6, sometimes it’s even worse, and it’s particularly bad with graceful degradation and some modern JS tools and libraries (ain’t I right, Mr. Walton?). Funnily enough it’s not very good even with these tools which are supposed to make it behave like modern browsers (ie-7.js – anyone had problems with this one too?).

Why, if Microsoft links to IE8 migration workshops, can’t they at the same time stick their hand downs their pants, exert a little effort, and find enough cojones to encourage people to stop using anything below IE8 all together?

Yes, I agree, sometimes these issues may relate to how the scripts were written or maybe because we became so lazy that we look for unhealthy shortcuts, or we dare to create modern website but we forget about the wider audience. Whatever the reason is though, even with smart tools like Compass, we are constantly forced to tweak stylesheets to fix broken IE7. Ultimately, there is a general discomfort with x-browser CSS compatibility but IE7 seems to be particularly bad.

I have two major reasons why I think x-browser compatibility is wrong:

1. It is some sort of dark art, which consists of everything from conditional HTML comments, CSS hacks, and developing very personal ways of writing stylesheets that will work across all browsers.

2. It doesn’t add any value. We spend time writing more CSS, seeking new CSS hacks or testing various Javascript workarounds. We don’t add anything to the website, we just try to make it work. In very fundamental sense it slows down progress, both personal (we spend time trying to make things work on outdated tech) and industrial (because we could be learning or developing exciting tech in this time instead).

IE7 was first released in 2006, don’t you think the web has changed in the past 5 years?

When I first saw official tweet from Microsoft advertising the “IE6 Countdown” campaign I was so close to running to the nearest pub and getting absolutely hammered with an all night celebration of the moment I’d been waiting for for many years. However, I then thought of its younger sibling and decided to just make it a quick pint. What were the real reasons behind this courageous move? Take a quick look at “Educate others” section of the countdown site and here’s what we see: Faster browsing – sure. Tabbed views – almost forgot browsers used to open new windows in… new windows. Security – agreed. And at last a serious enlightenment – “the web has changed significantly over the past 10 years”. Wow! I couldn’t believe my eyes! Honestly? How many years of market research did Microsoft need to come to this conclusion?!

IE7 was first released in 2006, don’t you think the web has changed in the past 5 years? How come other browsers can ship new versions so often? Why can they install seamlessly and don’t make a big deal of it? Why, if Microsoft links to IE8 migration workshops, can’t they at the same time stick their hand downs their pants, exert a little effort, and find enough cojones to encourage people to stop using anything below IE8 all together? It really would just be a matter of some copy adjustments, a few images and a <!–[if lt IE 8]> code update.

Compared to modern browsers IE8 is enough of an user experience devaluation without CSS3 support. Let developers focus on learning the freshest tech rather than finding new hacks for old software.

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Author: Bart Oleszczyk

Bart is a man of few words and occasional long blog posts.

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