Legacy Browsers

As a developer, I — and most other developers out there — am often confronted with a raging dichotomy: The newest technology, or the ten-year-old tag-along that doesn’t understand half of what you give it?
There will always be someone clinging to the old, and that’s usually okay. Most old appliances seem to work better than the newer ones, and I’ve heard stories of car crashes where people should have died but survived because of their sturdy old box of steel.
At this moment, though, Internet Explorer 6 is on everyone’s to-hate list. It doesn’t work better, it’s missing a great deal of features and support, and it’s actually more prone to attacks than the newer versions. The two main reasons it’s still around is that those really big companies have been using it for nearly ten years, and it would cost too much to replace, and that there are a number of people who just have no idea it’s replaceable. It’s seen as a basic part of their system.

That first reason, in particular, means that it’s impossible to quit support for IE6. To do so would be like Stopping someone from coming into your home because they’re wearing a uniform. They probably wish they weren’t wearing one, but their employer demands it.
But that’s an imperfect example. If your house was eight stories tall and had no stairs or elevators, and everyone got around because their suits had jetpacks, then you might turn away the guy wearing an old company uniform, because he couldn’t get anywhere but the first floor. Maybe some wise engineer would have installed an old rope ladder in a place or two to let the poor guy climb up a floor or two, slowly.

On the other hand, there are a certain number of things we just can’t do with IE6. CSS3 is still relatively unknown, but that specification will explode into the marketplace before the end of the year, as there are four major browser betas nearing completion (Opera 10, Safari 4, FireFox 3.1, and Chrome 2), all of which should be completely Acid3 compliant.
In fact, IE8 is only just on the level of the current browsers. They remind me of Sega, which released it’s Dreamcast (which was on the level of Playstation or N64) just as Sony and Nintendo put forth their newest generation. Sega was forced to drop out of the console market completely. Will Microsoft be forced out of the browser market?
No, because there’s no money at stake. At any rate, they’ve been losing market share for the past couple of years, and Firefox is quickly rising. In fact, people seem to be streaming to any browser, to get away from IE.

I don’t think I’ve had a problem, yet, with IE8 (except the obvious lack of CSS3 support, of course). It renders things just about where it should render them. I think this means IE is realizing that people don’t care where Microsoft’s vision is heading, they want compliant browsers. If Microsoft wants to add extra functionality to their browsers, like their Filter styles, that’s perfectly acceptable. But they’re cutting their users off from the latest specifications, which seems to be just as bad as if we cut them off from the newer websites. Frankly, it takes two to tango, and more people are realizing that.
Microsoft will start developing a better browser, because it must know, by now, that it has so much to lose, and it’s already losing it.

The only thing we can do is hope that it follows along, as we twist our pages to fit their old standards.

On a side note, take a look at this:

It appears they took auditions across YouTube, and then came together today to perform at Carnegie Hall. Truly amazing.

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