IE6 Independence?

Hot off the news that 37signals is removing support for IE6 in their products I thought it would be interesting to look at the stats from as an update to my previous post just under a year ago. Is it reasonable to drop support for IE6 in a mainstream app?

These stats cover Jan 1 – Jun 30: 787 million “absolute unique” visitors, 1.6 billion visits, and 3.3 billion pageviews. I feel these numbers are large enough and blogs diverse enough to be fairly representative. All the numbers come from Google Analytics. In parentheses I’ve put the delta from the last time I blogged these stats.

  1. 59.41% – Internet Explorer (down 3.05%), sub-breakdown:
    1. 53.42% – Version 7.0 (up 18.25%)
    2. 46.28% – Version 6.0 (down 17.82%)
    3. 0.14% – Version 5.5 (down 0.14%)
  2. 32.82% – Firefox (up 2.08%)
  3. 4.81% – Safari (up 0.98%)
  4. 2.04% – Opera (up 0.26%)
  5. 0.41% – Mozilla (down 0.11%)

The operating system breakdown:

  1. 89.41% – Windows (down 0.95%)
  2. 7.86% – Macintosh (up 1.13%)
  3. 1.82% – Linux (down 0.37%)
  4. 0.17% – iPhone (out of nowhere!)
  5. 0.10% – PlayStation Portable (up 0.07%)

So as you can see, IE6 users account for about 27% of all the visits we saw. If I were building something for “the internet” IE6 compatibility would still very much be on my radar. Everyone’s users or customers are different, and if I saw IE6 falling below 10% on one of my sites I’d probably very seriously consider what 37signals is doing.

The good news is most trends are going in the right direction: strong growth of Firefox, IE7, and Macintosh, and the iPhone came out of nowhere to generate 2.6 million visits (and another 1.1 million from the iTouch).

Happy July 4th!

89 thoughts on “IE6 Independence?

  1. Thanks for sharing that informative data.

    It is so true about everyone’s customers being different. I just looked at the stats on one of my sites last week for this same reason. It’s down to 13% IE6, which is half of what it was a year ago.

    In my case, it’s probably time to follow the lead of Apple and 37signals and drop IE6 support, given how much time and money we burn on IE6 in our custom Web application.

    As you say, the trends are going in the right direction. It’s happening quickly and should accelerate as more popular sites find it’s time to drop support based on their user data.

  2. Well, I guess 37signals products are aimed at a more tech-savvy audience.

    Apparently, Microsoft now allows IE7 to be downloaded by people without having to prove that their copies of Windows are legal. That may well slightly improve matters further.

  3. I like the idea behind 37signals, IE6 is oldddd and ugllyy. Although you are right they still do account for over 1/4 of hits so for you maybe its worth it, maybe 37signals has different stats (“,), for them maybe they are below the 10% mark.

  4. I recently dropped support for IE6 on my personal site. IE6 users were under 2%. Of course, I do cater to a more tech-savvy crowd than the average blogger.

    It’s all about audience. And, of course, bloggers can always promote things such as Firefox to their readers to try to get those numbers down.

  5. Almost identical % numbers to the traffic we get – though not in numbers that large.

    27% is a large number and for our big boob website we are waiting until IE6 is under 10% usage as well. I see that happening in 12-18 months at least.

    The main problem is that most schools and libraries (no joke kids visit our site looking for boobs at these locations – its good I guess being that is family friendly) are still using IE6 all around the nation.

    Sara – Owner

  6. Yep – I agree with you Matt – although, given the amount of time over the years I’ve spent dealing with IE6’s infamous bugs, I’d rather it just went away!

  7. I guess it would be more enlightening to post the user-agent stats just for WP admin pages, if it can be extracted from Google Analytics. It would be a better comparison to 37signals’ stats I think, as these are the real “users” of the system.

  8. Scott Y, I agree. These are more “general public” numbers. We don’t run Google Analytics in the dashboard though, so I’m afraid I don’t have any stats. I do for the website though – the top browser is Firefox with 55.95%. On this site ( Firefox has 76.42%!!

  9. Eliminating support for IE7 seems to me more pique than practical or wise. People have their reasons for choosing a browser, and in my case the company I work for has been unable to adapt our support products to IE7 (I know!)

  10. Another interesting note is that the PSP also gets on the radar; albeit a small percentage, it’s definitely being used as a browser agent more and more these days.

    Now if Sony would only allow the development of other browsers on that platform; FireFox and Opera come to mind…

  11. I still find it disturbing that over a year an a half since Internet Explorer 7 was released as a Critical Update to Windows XP, IE 6 still has 46% market share on a site like this.

    That means either a stupid number of people are still using the antiquated Windows 2000 or there really are that many people out there who mindlessly click “Don’t install” for whatever reason.

    The internet has completely changed in the almost 7 years since that browser was released and I’m of the view that expecting software that old to perform on the scale of modern software completely unacceptable.

    I think more companies need to follow in 37signal’s footsteps, even if it means pre-empting IE6’s demise. If it won’t lose market share organically, kill it off by making it almost unusable.

    I also think Microsoft should re-offer IE7 to those who chose not to install it over a year ago or update IE6 to display a warning saying that the browser is completely out of date and that there is a newer version available.

  12. In my first comment I’m excluding the group of people who need to use IE 6 for a specific application or purpose because I assume they would form only a minority of the data presented above.

  13. Matt, what does it look like if you just examine the last 3 months and 1 month? A lot has changed in the browser world with Safari 3.1 and Firefox 3.0 being released and so the state of things _today_ could be quite different from the average of the last 6 months.

  14. Asa, since I assume it’s Firefox you’re most interested in, here are the numbers broken down as you request:

    Jan – Jun, 6 months – 32.82%
    Apr – Jun, 3 months – 33.38%
    June only – 33.94%

    Pretty strong growth there. I’ll try to remember to do this for the second half of the year next January.

  15. Hey Matt. That’s not the brightest move on the part of 37 Signals. Stats I’ve seen elsewhere echo the 27% figure you pointed out. In my opinion that’s too large a demographic to eliminate. What smart business owner would turn away almost 1 out of 3 customers? Granted IE6 is a royal pain, but it’s worth supporting at least for now. I agree completely with your evaluation.

    Happy 4th.

  16. Serendipity! I recently wrote a post titled “Stop using IE6,” prompted by the discovery that my blog’s crossfader display didn’t work in that antiquated browser. I found a fix for the problem but declared I wasn’t wasting another thought on backward compatibility to IE6.

    Developers need to cut the cord and stop enabling the use of insecure, non-compliant browsers. Besides, even the laziest corporate IT department will move to finally upgrade their users as IE8 moves out of beta (even if they only go as far as IE7). That 27% of unregenerate IE6 users will drop like the US dollar. Why waste time catering to a disappearing demographic?

    Independence from IE6 is a worthy goal. Developers for the interwebs should promote that independence by not looking back.

    Hope you had a happy 4th as well!

  17. Those are good thoughts, but has it ever occured to you that WP is also pushing for Firefox, whether accidentally or by design?

    Good example, the latest version of WP, for the image uploads and linking to the images, well.. UP TO NOW, IT DOES NOT WORK PROPERLY WITH IE7, The image upload and linking sytems only works properly with Firefox. I had to tell all our writers/bloggers to download Firefox. They did not want to (some of them are Windows users, some are MAC users), but they were forced to.

    I guess what I’m saying is that for users like me, I really don’t have a choice. I have to go with the flow. It’s not about my choice. It’s about what is expedient for my needs.

    P.S. Formatting text in Firefox still sucks BTW. Style sheets as provided by WP and everyone who makes themes still WORKS BETTER with IE.

    I still recommend IE for viewing the pages (better lay out, better reading experience and better for the eyes).

    But for image uploads and all the background stuff going on with WP, I recommend Firefox. ๐Ÿ™‚

    In short, developers – choose Firefox, surfers, use IE. ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Mari, these are for visitors to blogs, not just the authors of the blogs, so it should be pretty independent from our promotion of Firefox.

  19. I honestly have stopped caring about IE6 as luckily none of my personal projects have to support any browser technically. If for some reason it breaks in IE6 but works in IE7, then oh well it doesn’t matter to me. 2 years is more than plenty of time to upgrade.

    And out of curiosity, I checked my Google Analytics and Firefox accounts for 58% of the visits to my site and IE6 accounts for 6.7%.

  20. I wonder how much the stats are affected by Firefox users who have NoScript installed and have not allowed Google Analytics’ scripts. I imagine that’s a fairly small number, but NoScript is constantly rated as one of the must-have extensions, so I would not think that the number would be entirely insignificant. I only allow scripts that offer me some functional benefit, which doesn’t include Google Analytics.

    Can Google Analytics get any of its info without its scripts? If so (since no script is required to get user agent data), my comment may be moot. ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. I have a very low-tech crowd, and IE6 is still well up there in June:

    Rank Hits Percent Browser
    1 312778 45.73% +MSIE+7.0
    2 189318 27.68% +MSIE+6.0
    3 149463 21.85% Mozilla/5.0

  22. Just to add some feedback on why so many haven’t upgraded from IE6, there are quite a few programs that work with IE6 and not entirely with IE 7 yet. (WHY?)
    I support about 200 windows machines (in higher education) and would love to get all of those folks to the latest, but it isn’t in the cards yet. I have switched to a Linux desktop for my workstation and even tried to show people the light (firefox and opera) but for whatever reason, folks don’t want to change. I am making progress though. Some have changed and when they bring in their home machines, more of their machines actually have all of the security patches on them and are free from virus infections. Small steps

  23. My blog is highly unheard of and my site is still waiting to be revived, but I’ve already decided not to support IE6 when I do get around finishing developing my site. It’s just not worth my time.

  24. Excellent stats. Matt — thanks for posting them. You’ve got a thorough userbase that a lot of companies don’t have the opportunity of enjoying (e.g. some are strictly techy sites) whereas blog users tend to be from all facets of society.

    Delicious, now make pretty pictures out of them ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. I guess it is about time…When I read about IE8 I emediatly thought, please get rid of IE6! And I hope this is the beginning of doing so.

    People should just always have the latest browser version on their PC…Because why not?! The ‘general’ user couldn’t care less and will use IE6 untill the end of times if they are not pointed to IE7 by organisations like 37signals.

    Or WordPress for that matter…

  26. I was going to chime in with my stats, but they’re close enough to the stats that it doesn’t seem worth the bother. I have been carefully tracking milestones — IE7 passing IE6, Firefox passing IE6, etc. And I’ll be very happy to see IE6 drop to 10%.

    I did recently launch another blog, which is getting far more traffic than I expected, and I’m seeing a considerably higher Firefox percentage than usual — roughly 42% Firefox and 47% IE — with only 13.5% IE6!

    It’s a little skewed because I got one day of stats before I realized I needed to filter out the AJAX requests for an automated link checker, which gives FF3 a little boost, but even subtracting those from the total only shifted things by about half a percent. (Yeah, I know, I need to find something that counts by visits instead of hits…)

  27. Could you break down the Windows OS into versions? It would give much insight into those 27% of IE6. Because the larger the adoption of XP and Vista is, the larger the adoption of IE7 (and IE8 in a couple of months) would be.

  28. I’m glad to hear that! I just blogged about this myself – it’s about time that we help usher people into the current age.

    Things move so quick that a lot of folks don’t realize that they’ve been left in the dust. I feel like we can’t wait for those people, but we can still try and bring them with us!

  29. Yes, the data from a .com BSP would be much more like the common data.

    Thanks Matt for sharing this exciting data ๐Ÿ™‚

  30. Firefox is only popular because of anti-Microsoft hysteria. From practical point of view, it is worse in all aspects than IE – less secure, less standard, slover, crashes more often and so on. So it is fine if some geeks drop support for IE, but that should not fool any mainstream developers, IE is a must, Firefox is uneecessary option.

  31. Thank you Matt for making life so much easier for web designers like us ๐Ÿ™‚ IE6 is a really big pain in the butt, and what’s making it extremely absurd is that there are people who are unwilling to upgrade to IE7 even when Microsoft made it clear that even counterfeit copies of Windows can have their IE upgraded.

    Plus, I became aware of the Acid tests recently, and realised how badly IE6 performed for Acid3… that’s probably another signal why IE6 should be abandoned. Faulty and buggy rendering of the alpha transparency of PNG graphics in IE6 is throwing people off too – although there’s a handful of fixes available, the best solution is to upgrade ๐Ÿ˜€

    p/s: I’ve checked visitor statistics for my blog and only 8% of my visitors are coming in through IE6. That’s probably some good news!

  32. I think it’s a great move, the more bigger sites will drop support for IE6 the faster users will move on. IE7 coming so horribly late was one thing, but users sticking to an outdated browser for even longer is really a drag.

    Before we know it we’ll already be having IE8 along as well.

    Then we’re going to be getting a division of mainstream browsers being IE6, IE7, IE8, FF1.5, FF2, FF3 and added to that Safari and Opera still with probably a division in versions as well. Fine in case they’d all render exactly identical but as they don’t you keep having to step back in time and see if it would have worked 5 years ago as well.

  33. The interesting thing, really, will be — what happens now that FF3 has introduced a whole new plethora of positioning bugs?

    It’s been a rather frustrating time as a developer since its release. But, staying on topic — IE 6’s time is coming to a close, of course.

  34. Very interesting data. Let’s hope Firefox keeps growing, although I would have thought the percentage of users would have increased more with the release of 3.0.

  35. Granted, my “audience” consists of lots of Mac users (38%), but only 5% of my traffic (according to Mint, though this is backed up by GA) is IE 6. 17% is IE 7. Interestingly, 21% of my traffic is Safari — not sure how many Windows Safari users that includes (the version numbers aren’t easy to figure out) and 26% is Firefox 3 (out of a total 53% — meaning lots of people were using the betas before the big push for Download Day).

    I think it is interesting to see numbers because they probably are indicative of an overall web population. On its face, those results make 37signals seem potentially too trigger-happy, but if you consider that most users who are on IE 6 are either forced to use it by corporate IT standards (and I don’t know if IE 8 is going to change that — I personally know of SO many places, even places that focus on technology and IT infrastructure that are still using IE 6, simply because the headache involved in porting everything over to work with FF or IE 7 or WebKit outweighs the perceived and in truth, actual, benefits) or are home users on older machines who haven’t had the inclination, knowledge or willingness to upgrade, that really isn’t 37signals’ audience at all.

    If you are an office that is going to take advantage of something like Campfire or Backpack or other 37s products, you are going to likely be a) more technologically progressive, and thus updated and b) not of the size that would make migrating from IE 6 prohibitive (because most of its services are limited to under 50 users at the highest account level).

  36. While I loathe IE6 (or otherwise) it makes for a third of my views on my website, and for the company I work for it is the most popular browser that people use.
    So, sadly, dropping IE6 support would hurt me more than anything.

  37. Could you gives us the stats for Windows subdivided into Vista, XP, and other, please? I know that’s slightly off topic, but so was mentioning the .17% iPhone.

  38. The saddest thing is that we will have to wait until the next version of Windows in order for a drastic change. And it must be a good Windows version because Vista wasn’t the boom that all of us wanted.

    So /i think that maybe over 1year and a half we can get rid of old IE6

  39. IE6 is a pain in every web coder back. I hope it will disappear soon.

    My personal opinion is that if everybody will stop coding for IE6, the IE6 users will switch to another browser to have what they want.

    I support 37signals on this.

  40. I agree that the faster IE 6 goes away the better, but you can’t just drop IE 6 for products like that.

    I run a (small) hopefully tech-savvy blog and I get these stats:
    Firefox 2 – 33.6%
    Opera 9.5 – 17.3% (mostly me)
    IE 7 – 13.48%
    IE 6 – 11.47%
    Firefox 3 – 10%

    IE6 still can’t be ignored!

  41. Very interesting stats, thanks for sharing.

    IE6 support is still needed, but the trends are definitely good.

    Maybe technical blogs could drop IE6 support, but I think it’s too early for such a decision.

  42. for too long, ie6 has brought us hours of miserable frustration. i’ve stopped supporting it for many projects and it has been like getting your foot out of a bear trap.

    but i ask you, what will be bitch about when ie6 is gone?

  43. I have to applaud 37Signals for such a brave and decidedly risky move. I certainly consider dropping IE6 just about every time I design a website, but I never have the guts to follow through. Like Matt said; until the numbers for IE6 users drops below 10% then I have to continue to support that terribly outdated browser. Although I do like that Save The Developers idea…thanks for the link Chris and thanks for the read Matt! ๐Ÿ™‚

  44. Matt, Thanks so much for sharing these stats with the public, as always your generosity is appreciated. We’ve used w3c’s stats in the past when telling clients what the market is like, but deep down I know they aren’t very accurate because most people that visit the w3 site are standards aware front end programmers ๐Ÿ™‚ These stats are much much more useful and representative of the internet as a whole.

  45. It does very much depend on the audience. It still amazes me a little that people are still unaware of IE7 given that the update has been around for years (and you would think automatic updates would trigger for this thing).

    I’ve dropped CSS support for IE6 at this point as I don’t have an easy way to emulate it (I have IE8 instead, which oddly, isn’t much better right now). PNG support is what I’m really waiting for. The day IE6 dies is the day the PNG format becomes much more of a standard on the web.

  46. I just downloaded ie6 again because a new client of mine uses it and so the website looks a bit different to her when we look at our project together.I need to be able to see what she sees but I am working on getting her up to ie7.
    The amazing thing was looking at all my sites with ie6.Very bad.Ha ha.Like your site–the sidebar doesn’t even show-just the cool background but no links or lists!

  47. I think I am with Jakob Nielsen on this, support the latest two versions, in other words drop IE6 support once IE8 is released. Might not think the same if IE8 was still four years away but it isn’t looking that way.
    Supporting two versions isn’t that easy though because it implies the need to support Firefox 2 and 3 and whatever the latest two versions of Safari, Opera, Lynx, Mosaic are (OK I may be getting carried away here).

  48. Well, it’s not like dropping support for IE6 makes sites completely unusable for those people. It might, but it doesn’t HAVE to.

    I’m at the point where if IE6 users can at least get the information/use the website, that’s good enough. If the positioning is weird or whatever, they’ll live. =)

  49. I guess the more upto sites are kept, the less IE6 will work with sites, so it’ll get ‘rotated’ out and people will be forced to upgrade. Like someone said, I can’t believe people are still using IE6 (no tabbed browsing!). I only test against FF and IE7, if it works with those two, then chances are it’ll work for the other major browsers.

    (Been using WP for a couple of years now, and haven’t looked at before (ahem), will keep an eye on it, it’s great.)

  50. I agree that the faster IE 6 goes away the better, but you canโ€™t just drop IE 6 for products like that.

    I run a (small) hopefully tech-savvy blog and I get these stats:
    Firefox 2 – 33.6%
    Opera 9.5 – 17.3% (mostly me)
    IE 7 – 13.48%
    IE 6 – 11.47%
    Firefox 3 – 10%

    IE6 still canโ€™t be ignored!

    ?mm yes ie6 ignored im browaser ie7 imm good browser alternate opera , firefox our time ie-8 browser new intel to microsoft vista ignored ?mm in ie7

  51. Its true… unfortunately you can’t discount IE6’s still very strong share of the market. Its all too easy to think like “all my friends use Firefox, therefore everyone does” – it may be true for your friends, but far far far far from true of the general population!


  52. I agree with some of the above comments that if a vast amount of users is still on IE6, we as web-developers should continue supporting it. But on the other hand, we should also help (not to say ‘push’) our users to make the jump to a better, and safer web experience.

    With Microsoft itself discontinuing support for IE6, and with many users moving to Firefox, I believe this is the right moment to give users that last (soft) push to abandon a browser that’s eight years old.

    Remember the year 2001? When using framesets was still bon ton, and when we were all using tables to create a layout, and formatted text with loads of inline html? Eight years later the web is still a low-tech vessle compared to the vast progress in computer technology, but we as web developers learned techniques to take the web closer to our ideals.

    When it comes to physical technical products, users are pushed to ‘upgrade’ all the time: you buy a portable CD-player which allows you to take dozens of songs with you, then there’s a minidisk which allows you to take hundreds of songs with you, because minidisks are much smaller, then there’s an ipod, which allows you to carry thousands of songs with you. But you can’t play your cd’s from 8 years ago on an ipod. You have to convert your cd’s to work on an iphone. And that’s a lot more work for a user then just pressing the download link for Internet Explorer 7 or Firefox.

    What I mean to say, is: technology moves forward by a soft pressure by developers on their user-base, saying: “You can have all these new features, only if you upgrade”. What web-developers do is the exact opposite: “There’s a lot of new features, and we’ll also make them work with your old technology”.

    If a few sheep stay stuck behind the dike, we do not leave them there: we help them over.

  53. Interesting stats. I detest IE6 with such passion. I just cannot be asked to hack my CSS for a dying browser. I think as developers we need to look for ways to get our users out of IE6 onto IE7/FF etc One method I am planning on using is by using javascript to check if the user has IE6 installed. If true then a popup will inform the user to update the browser with a link to the direct download. What do you guys think?

  54. Hmm.. you guys still have it pretty good compared to me.. as the target audience for my e-business blog is inside Thailand, an astonishing 55%-60% of my customer base (mostly inet cafe guests) are still using ie6 (yeah, you guys read right)..

    if i were to follow along with your opinions i could say goodbye to at least 60-70% of my annual revenues.. not really worth it, eh?

  55. My site has just 18% of IE6 users, even thought I have lots of visitors from south korea (aka MS only zone). According to Analytics, they stay for a shorter amount of time and don’t visit that much pages as users of other browsers do.

    Also, according to a study released 2 days most root kit affected pcs are infected throught the IE 6!—Monitoring-ITW-exploit.html

    I won’t drop the IE 6 support on my sites now, but I will put up a warning to them, that their browser is less secure and doesn’t give them the best online experiance. Thanks to conditional comments, thats a 10 minute task…

  56. There’s STILL people on IE5. These old outdated browsers are glitch, bug, virus prone security disasters waiting to happen.

    Sometimes you just have to FORCE the web into the right direction because others don’t know any better.

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