State of the Browsers — IE edition

Recently I held a presentation at a local Microsoft conference in the Netherlands. Slides are here. Fanatical followers will recognise most of the topics I discussed from earlier slide shows, but the last one, about the changes to the market share of IE6, 7, and 8, is new.

Basically, IE6 will continue to exist when IE7 has all but disappeared, and, contrary to what you might expect, this situation will create exciting opportunities for Microsoft’s competitors.

Besides, last week the news came that Microsoft is going to voluntarily de-bundle IE from all Windows 7 machines that will be sold in Europe, and I continue to have my doubts about that affair.

So it’s time for a special State of the Browsers IE edition.

Market share

As we all know IE8 is out, and whatever your opinion, no one will doubt that it’s a better browser than IE7, and that a quick growth of the IE8 market share will serve web developers well.

Still, the real problem for web developers is IE6. That’s the browser we absolutely have to get rid of.

IE8 is picking up quite a bit of market share right now; but as far as I can see that share mostly comes from IE7, and not from IE6. The following graph shows where I think the market shares of the various IEs are heading:

IE8's market share is on the rise, but it's IE7's that falls, and not IE6's.

Although IE8 will become the largest Microsoft browser, I expect IE6 to retain about 20 to 25% of the market even by the end of 2010 (OK, maybe 15%, but still considerable), while IE7 will drop below IE6 sometime (early?) next year.

Now why do I expect IE6 to stick around while IE7 goes down? The answer is simple: Intranets.


In the era of IE6 dominance (2000-2006), countless companies created countless Intranet application for time registration, sales support, contact information, you name it. All these applications are absolutely vital for the daily datastream in these companies.

Some companies deliberately opted for Microsoft technology and a Microsoft-only Intranet, while others were lazy and didn’t bother to make these apps compatible with other browsers, even though they did not particularly use Microsoft products.

The net result is that there are countless vital apps around the world that only work with IE6. Not with another browser — not even IE7. Therefore the companies did not upgrade their browser. (Incidentally, this was the most important reason for Microsoft to introduce the versioning switch — the IE team wanted to prevent a repeat performance of this problem.)

Sure, some companies will revise these apps to work with other browsers, but many won’t, partly because it costs too much money in this time of recession, partly because it’s so hard to find good front-end engineers (which good front-ender wants to work on Intranet applications for several years?), and partly because the old apps still work, don’t they?

So many old apps won’t change, and many office workers will continue to be condemned to IE6.

Office vs. home

At work, that is. It’s quite likely that on their private computer at home they run another browser — IE7 or 8, Firefox, or maybe one of the smaller ones.

What generally gets too little attention is the difference between browser stats during office hours and browser stats outside office hours. More than one web developer told me in the past year that there is quite a bit of difference between the two.

Basically, most of the IE6 market share comes from office-hour surfing, while it drops significantly in the after-hours period. This is something to keep an eye on when a client comes with his site stats. If you can, split out the office hours and after-hours stats, and take a look at the pattern that emerges.

I wouldn’t be surprised if business-to-business clients will continue to demand IE6 compatibility, while business-to-consumer clients will start to drop this demand — especially when we put a realistic price tag on IE6. It all depends on when users visit their site.

Update: reader S. Anand found exactly the predicted result when he checked his logfiles

The price tag

I think that we web developers will start to get fed up with IE6 to such a degree that we are actually going to charge more money when this browser comes into play.

“Want a site that works perfectly in IE6? Fine, but it’ll cost you about 20 to 30% extra.”

In fact, I hope web developers will start to charge this extra amount reasonably soon. Some clients won’t be willing to pay, which will save you a lot of heartache (and hair care products), some clients will actually pay you for your extra-special IE6 trouble, and yes, you might lose some business as a result. Therefore this is a decision everybody should take on their own.

Despite understandable hesitation, in the long run charging extra money for IE6 compatibility is inevitable. The result will be that less and less sites will work perfectly in IE6.

Two corporate browsers

The victims will be the office workers during office hours. They’ll find that they are less and less able to view perfect sites on the Internet — even though their Intranet applications will still work fine.

The obvious solution to this problem will be to install another browser for real surfing on the corporate network. Whichever browser the company will eventually select, one thing is certain: it will not be IE.

After all, it’s officially impossible to install several IE versions next to each other, and I doubt whether cautious and conservative corporate sysadmins will go with one of the unofficial ways.

In fact, a source within a large company told me they are seriously considering installing Opera as the real browser on their internal network, and use IE6 only for accessing their internal apps. I have no idea whether that will actually happen in this particular company, but it shows that the basic scenario is viable.

Thus IE6 will more and more become an internal system browser, while office workers use a non-IE browser to surf the real Internet. This process will work to the detriment of IE’s overall market share relative to the other browsers.

Companies will be forced to choose one non-IE browser. Which one? Probably the one with the best marketing machine.

This opens up perspectives for the other browser vendors — unless they’re locked up in battles that are purported to serve and protect web developers and end users, but will certainly harm the latter, while the former will not benefit much.

Opera vs. Microsoft, round 3

Microsoft has voluntarily decided to unbundle IE from all Windows 7 computers that will be sold in Europe. It leaves the choice and installation of the browser to the hardware vendors or the consumers.

This is supposed to be a great victory for web standards. Hurray, hurray.

Frankly, I’m getting downright frightened of the whole affair. I wish the European Commission, Opera, and their allies would just stop it. It’s opening the path for an endless series of partisan complaints.

Sure, it was to Microsoft’s advantage that IE was automatically installed on any Windows computer. Sure, it has inflated IE’s market share to 90%, because the other browser vendors didn’t have comparable distribution channels.

Still, I wonder if anybody would have complained if IE had been 100% standards compliant. It’s the combination of distribution advantage with the eternal IE6 problems that made people get sick of Microsoft.

Besides, I have my doubts about the fairness of the process. I have not yet heard a similar complaint against Apple for tying Safari to its operating system. Or against the KDE guys for tying Konqueror to theirs, for that matter.

Canned worms, anyone?

In any case, Microsoft is not awaiting the European Commission’s formal ruling and has chosen the Zero option. A new Windows computer will contain zero browsers — unless the hardware vendor installs a browser of its choice.

There are several things wrong with this solution:

  1. Suppose a consumer buys a new computer and it doesn’t have any browser installed on it. How is he going to get one?
  2. Probable answer: some kind of temporary download program that pops up the very first time he uses his computer and gives him the choice of no less than five browsers. Problem is, the consumer doesn’t want this choice because he has no idea what’s going on.
  3. Besides, if this solution is implemented we can expect a stream of complaints from the truly tiny browsers nobody has ever heard of. In all fairness, we should include them, too. So the user will get the choice of eight to ten (twelve? fourteen?) browsers — a choice he doesn’t want and has no idea what to do with.
  4. Or will somebody have to decide which browsers to allow in this program? Who? How long will it take before this person or institution is accused of unfairness because he forgot one browser?
  5. Now suppose the hardware vendor installs one browser on the computer. Even worse, suppose this browser is actually IE. Are we going to get a crusade against hardware vendors, too, for daring to install the wrong browser?
  6. Suppose the world caves in to the mighty pressure of teh Interwebz and forsakes IE forever. Now hardware vendors will install another browser. Let’s say they mostly opt for Firefox — a reasonable choice in today’s market. Will we get a re-run of the entire thing, but now aimed against those evil hardware vendors who’re giving Firefox an unfair advantage? If so, when will it stop? If not, where’s the fairness in the process?

We’re opening up a can of worms that should remain firmly closed.


Finally, with this ruling we’re setting a precedent that I feel should not be set.

Opera Mobile used as default browser for all HTC phones? Unfair advantage! Google WebKit default for Android? Unfair advantage! And let’s not talk about the iPhone and Apple’s manifestly hideous unfair advantage there.

If we take this ruling to it utmost conclusion a mobile phone vendor may not install a default browser on its system, but will have to allow consumers free choice, too. So the innocent end user who just wants to surf with his brand new mobile phone will first have to pick one of approximately two dozen browsers.

Where will it stop?

I feel we should allow Microsoft to continue to bundle IE with Windows. Not because it’s good and proper what Microsoft has been doing, but because the alternatives are far worse.

As I showed in the first part of this article, Microsoft’s competitors are granted a unique chance to conquer the office market. I feel they should spend their energy on that part of the market instead of setting potentially dangerous precedents that will most likely harm the end-users more than anyone else.

This is the blog of Peter-Paul Koch, web developer, consultant, and trainer. You can also follow him on Twitter or Mastodon.
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Comments are closed.

1 Posted by Marijn Huizendveld on 16 June 2009 | Permalink


I completely agree with your point of view. I think that the EU should not dictate what can and cannot be bundled with a certain operating system. Whether it's a media player, a browser or some other application. Instead the EU and its member countries should focus on making their own systems compatible with different browsers so people won't be locked into systems. The consumer will eventually make the right decision.

Thanks for addressing this issue:-)

- Marijn

2 Posted by Martijn van der Ven on 16 June 2009 | Permalink

Interesting, while I was very interested in the move Opera made when starting the lawsuit you wrote down exactly the points I think everyone was wondering about. What should be the default browser and how is it going to affect the end-user.

I never thought about the whole mobile platform, but you make a good point there. One thing you could ask is whether this case should only apply to Windows as the desktop OS or not. Being aimed against Microsoft doesn’t it mean the EU verdict is just as valid when it comes to Windows for Mobile phones? I believe that one ships with IE too.

The iPhone might be able to make an excuse as many of its components are based upon WebKit and so is their “internal browser”. Changing the phrasing can make it sound like you’re not actually forcing a browser. It will mean they have to allow other browsers through the AppStore too though.

I guess only time will tell us where it stops?

3 Posted by Andrew Sterling Hanenkamp on 16 June 2009 | Permalink

I agree, pretty much. Removing IE from Windows 7 is missing the point. The point was that Windows in IE5/IE6 land couldn't function without IE, the UI of the OS depended upon it, so you couldn't escape it. Providing a way to uninstall it after you've installed the browser of your choice is a much better solution.

4 Posted by Sander Aarts on 16 June 2009 | Permalink

I disagree!

HTC, Andriod, Mac Os X all don't have the kind of marketshare that Windows has. That's what makes the difference.

Of course there wouldn't be as many complaints as there are now if IE6 (or 7) would have been almost 100% standards compliant. If that was the case users wouldn't have been stuck on IE, because the websites/apps they use would work in other browsers as well.

I'm sure that one of the reasons that Microsoft seems to act less monopolistic nowadays is because of the penalties they've recieved from the EU.

Although IE8 is a big step forward in web standards compliance Microsoft continues to implement techniques in their own proprietary way. Even with new techniques/standards that don't require backward compatibility with older IE versions. As IE still has the biggest marketshare and is being bundled with Windows (well maybe not in Europe anymore) which has by far the biggest OS marketshare, it has a very powerfull channel to push these proprietary techniques, making it harder for other browsers to compete.

I'd like to see users having to choose which browser they install. It will mark the end of the blue E 'being' internet. I consider that a win situation for open standards.

5 Posted by Brian on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

The argument about "I wonder if anybody would have complained if IE had been 100% standards compliant" is likely true. However, for most, the complaint is less about market dominance or distribution complaints. The filings are regarding the *abuse* of monopoly by defeating the competition, then abusing this position by failing to innovate, or sometimes even protect their customer base.

6 Posted by Brian LePore on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

Any chance you can provide a source for the difference in B2B vs B2C browser stats? I find that remarkable.

I do not think that IE needed to be 100% standards compliant to avoid the lawsuit for the distribution advantage. I see it more as a prolonged distribution advantage of an aging product that was left to rot. If IE7 had came out in 2003-2004, IE8 in 2005-6, and so forth I do not see where a case could even be filed (assuming said browsers contained rendering engine upgrades and weren't just minor tweaks).

And Apple nor KDE will suffer from similar situations because they have not been ruled monopolies that have used their monopoly in one market to branch into another. Nothing will happen in the mobile market because no one has a monopoly in terms of devices nor of browsers on mobile devices.

I think you're right that this opens up a can of worms that won't be good for anyone involved. If this issue was going to be addressed it should have been addressed 4-5 years ago. I know this will sound weird, but I think the best thing we can hope for is to have a ruling that sets a shorter than 10 year limit for support for a browser. I don't think the new Windows Mobile 6.5 should have come with the IE6 rendering engine.

7 Posted by Lea Verou on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

I personally hate IE so much that I can't think rationally and fair about it. I admire you for being able to do so.

8 Posted by Adrian Parker on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

I think we can all agree (as web developers) that IE6 is the bane of the internet; it has single-handedly slowed the consumption of information on the web (a medium of data, information, and knowledge) for no good reason.

The argument that IE was disliked simply because it is IE is flawed -- more to the point, IE6 is what was disliked, and had Microsoft been keener on following standards (even when they weren't finalized) rather than going off and implementing their own ways of doing things (and summarily letting IE6 rot), I'm sure IE6 wouldn't be on the business end of many complaints (and jokes).

Also, the notion that the makers of "the little browsers" (< 1% market-share) would complain about being excluded from a list of installable browsers ignores the fact that they have not been in the lime-light -- and have not complained. The authors of those browsers do not cater to the broader audience (normal users, rather than the more technologically-savvy power users) and simply do not care. The ones that do care, however, have a nobler cause: providing a high-quality browsing experience for most (if not all) users, while adhering as close to established standards as possible.

9 Posted by Chris Brandsma on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

I agree with you, and I wonder about the future ramifications of the ruling. Right now Apple has a growing monopoly on the smart phone. Plus their tactics are extremely predatorial in nature.

For instance, Opera also cannot get their browser on the IPhone. How long until Apple is TOLD what it can and cannot put on the app store (which it also has a monopoly on).

You can't say that Microsoft's monopoly is bad and Apple's is good without the stink of hypocrisy.

Personally, I think software is hard enough as is without getting more layers and bureaucrats involved.

The EU was just on a witch hunt for which the rest of the world will now suffer for.

10 Posted by Damien Buckley on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

Its not just intranets we have to be wary of using IE6 - anyone with an older machine - millions of them out there - running OS's older than XP can't run IE7+. Sure, for us tech-types, we'd never run such old machines but I assure you there are plenty who don;t regularly update or worry about having the latest tech. I've seen plenty of offices and homes in recent years still running IE5 - shocking I know but true.

I agree in principlewith charging more for IE6 compatibility but I do think there will be more jobs lost than won with that additional fee in the mix.

Most clients have no clue about web standards, are easily sold by windows/IE-only developers now and until they see their sites on someone else's machine, generally have no idea that their site doesn't work outside the Microsoft eco-system.

Try selling those clients on an additional fee for IE6 and see how you go…

11 Posted by Scott Trotter on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

The best solution to the IE6-on-Intranets problem is for companies to choose Firefox as their primary browser, but to also include the IE Tab extension with a pre-configured list of intranet (and other) sites that have to be rendered using the IE6 engine.

This would be completely transparent to end users, except for perhaps an occasional issue with things like other FF extensions that don't work with the IE engine.

12 Posted by Michael Kozakewich on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

Every second comment has a scrollbar.
I guess that means I'm up for a long comment!

I agree with you about most of that, but you're overly fatalistic. Microsoft is getting in trouble because of its past actions and because it's hated, more than anything else. Microsoft was also ruled as a monopoly, as mentioned above.

Back in the day, Microsoft was actually entering agreements with vendors to not allow Netscape onto the system. In that time, they were doing something obviously wrong and horrible.
Today, they've got a browser that renders things mostly the same as the other browsers, and anyone can install whatever on the machines. I haven't heard of MS engaging in any shady deals, lately. I'm almost surprised firefox doesn't come bundled on some machines, with IE, because we're almost at that point.

The proper action, I would have decreed, would be that Microsoft DOES include IE8, but also has a first-run window pop up that gives a short and simple tutorial about at least the four other common browsers. That should be enough; the rest is in our hands, and is our responsibility.

13 Posted by John on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

A browser must be installed by default. With a mobile I have a choice of a large number of handsets. So I might choose one with Opera, or one with Safari or whatever. But it's my choice. With a PC I don't have any choice - I get IE.

If hardware vendors choose a browser then I have a choice. I may choose one make over another based on the default software installed.

Then it's up to Opera, Mozilla and co. to forge partnerships with these vendors to get their browsers installed by default instead of IE. But this provides choice, as Microsoft isn't dictating what software a hardware vendor should be supplying.

(All PCs I've bought have a welly load of stuff put on post-Windows so this is hardly new.)

Admittedly you can buy Windows without hardware if you really want to, but I'm not sure that's so much of a problem. But a version without a browser is not really any use to anyone - and I don't think that's the point.

14 Posted by Lennie on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

@Michael Kozakewich "Today, they've got a browser that renders things mostly the same as the other browsers, and anyone can install whatever on the machines."

Euh, yeah, but SVG, Canvas-tag, geolocation and quiet a few other things (mostly HTML5) aren't available in IE, other browsers do have these things, so IE is still behind, holding back progress. Just have a look at Mozlla Bespin-project or the Google I/O conference videos for some examples.

15 Posted by Wybe on 17 June 2009 | Permalink


You ask the question: "Which good front-ender wants to work on Intranet applications for several years?"

I wouldn't mind giving it a go. One condition though: the team developing this intranet, of which I would be a part, get to develop it for (oh...let's say) Opera. Finally we would get to make use of the full strength of the internet.

Just dreaming of course, but I shure wouldn't mind working on a project like that for a year or two.

16 Posted by Rimantas on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

You confused me with that "Google WebKit". It's Apple's WebKit which Google uses on its Android.
And the best engine, I must say.

17 Posted by ppk on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

@rimantas: No, it's not.

iPhone WebKit and Android WebKit are two different browsers. They resemble each other, but not nearly as much as Safari Desktop and Chrome.

In general, differences between the various WebKits on mobile are larger than between the various WebKits on desktop.

18 Posted by Joel Evans on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

@Damien Buckley

I agree - clients may be unhappy at being charged extra to support IE6, but I think it's just a case of altering the sales pitch...

Quote them an initial price which includes IE6 support, and then offer a 20-30% *discount* for abandoning IE6, and it's much more palatable ;o)

19 Posted by Ross Kendall on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

I think that Microsoft has decided on the zero option almost as a protest to the EU. Microsoft are counting on a public backlash against having no browser bundled (and articles just like this) so they can get more leverage for getting a final result they are happy with.

Microsoft are like a child, who rather than playing by the rules have decided to take their ball and go home. (good riddance)

20 Posted by Lee Kowalkowski on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

Dunno, perhaps MS are banking on most people choosing IE8.1 anyway, if it lives up to its hype.

21 Posted by John on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

IE8.1 being the april fool edition?

22 Posted by Maaike de Laat on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

The difference in browser usage during office hours vs. weekends can be viewed at Statcounter's Global Stats:
As you can see there is a significant difference, though it's not as big as one might expect.

23 Posted by Lee Kowalkowski on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

@John: *sigh*, you ruined a good joke by spelling it out like that!

24 Posted by David on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

The browser compatibility issues have an effect on small business too. I recently needed you update a gallery at a small directory site. It wouldn’t update in IE7, so I had to install Safari. This is obviously a bigger issue for the site owner than for me, as he will have many people wanting to update their listings. I also tried to contact another sole trader recently via their on-line form and it turns out that that form only works in Firefox or Safari as well. Having installed a couple of additional browsers, I thought I would check my own site and discovered the layout worked differently and doesn’t look as good as it does in IE. Not being a web developer myself, I find this all a little confusing :(

25 Posted by Sam Hasler on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

Businesses will just use Windows 7's XP Mode to have IE6 and IE8 running side by side:

26 Posted by ppk on 17 June 2009 | Permalink


As a small business owner you only have the responsibility to gather accurate browser stats about your site. With those in hand, you can sit together with the web developer to decide in which browsers your site should work.

In his offering that you're going to sign, the web developer is required to make a specific statement about in which browsers your site will work perfectly, and should then deliver.

As I said, I think more and more web developers will start to charge extra money for IE6 compatibility, and then it's up to you to decide whether it's worth it.

27 Posted by John on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

Oops, sorry Lee you were too clever for me. :)

I did have to google to check though if that's any consolation. (Although obviously I would have been free to use any other search engines....)

28 Posted by Ryan Roberts on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

Opera reported MS for investigation for abusing their monopoly, they did not start a lawsuit as someone said and they are not involved with the investigation. The EU agreed there was enough of a case to take it forward.

Apple, Opera, KDE do not have a huge monopoly to abuse.

29 Posted by Rob on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

I'm glad others have pointed out what many forget when saying Apple should not bundle Safari with OSX. Microsoft's problems arose from illegal, monopolistic activities and not just in Europe. Do not forget they settled with US Justice Department over this same issue and are under Federal oversite to this day because of it.

30 Posted by Martin Brown on 17 June 2009 | Permalink

May be bundling IE in Windows actually helps to break MS's monopoly? Lets face it their real monopoly is in the OS market. An OS with a dud browser is not very useful to end users these days and so aren’t they are more likely to choose a Mac or Linux machine with a decent browser bundled if IE is left in?

31 Posted by John Fredrickson on 18 June 2009 | Permalink

It makes zero sense to me to have the government stepping in to decide how software producers are allowed to bundle their software. It's one thing if the companies are blocking usage of competitor's software, but even then, it should really be up to the consumers to decide if this matters to them. It's not like people don't have a choice which OS to buy. I just don't see how the monolopy argument plays has any merit here.

32 Posted by Ivan on 18 June 2009 | Permalink

While the support IE6 or not debate has been raging for some time now this is the first time I have seen someone suggest giving the client an option to pay for support. This makes total sense especially if they have web stats that back up the need to support it (high percentage usage on their site). While a lot of issues can be neutralised through knowledge and experience there is always extra work involved in providing support for IE6 (and often design constraints which provide a poorer experience as a whole).

33 Posted by Elton Lester on 18 June 2009 | Permalink

Interesting article. We, a govt department, were looking at moving to IE8 this year, we got to final testing and found one internal app that had one module that didn't work in IE8 because it was designed for IE6.

We've now had to put the whole thing on the back burner because another govt department owns the software and won't fix it (it's only three lines of code people).

An interesting event will be when all those businesses who have held off going to Vista start switching to Windows 7. Can I measure how many people a visiting our sites in compatibility mode ; - )

34 Posted by Dave on 18 June 2009 | Permalink

Microsoft refused to handle bundling in a way that was responsible to consumers -- they insisted on imposing unnecessary barriers to switching browsers.

As a response, governments solved the consumer-rights problem by attacking Microsoft's bundling itself.

Analogy: If you disobey the rules of driving and the requests of traffic cops, then you risk having your license taken away.

Microsoft disobeyed the rules of bundling, so they can no longer bundle.

Remember, Microsoft has an undeniable monopoly in the OS market that is sustained through network effects -- this is not illegal. By making it difficult to switch browsers, they are using the monopoly in the OS market to -force- an advantage in the browser market -- and that is illegal.

35 Posted by golly on 19 June 2009 | Permalink

@Martijn van der Ven: "Being aimed against Microsoft doesn’t it mean the EU verdict is just as valid when it comes to Windows for Mobile phones?"

No. Microsoft does not have a monopoly there. Far from it. Also, it is /NOT/ a lawsuit. What Opera did was the equivalent of reporting a crime.

@John Fredrickson: "It makes zero sense to me to have the government stepping in to decide how software producers are allowed to bundle their software."

So, I guess it makes zero sense to you to have the government deciding on safety regulations for airplanes and hospitals? I mean, since you are obviously opposed to the government in the first place.

"It's one thing if the companies are blocking usage of competitor's software"

Microsoft broke the law. It's that simple. No sense whining over a criminal being punished.

"I just don't see how the monolopy argument plays has any merit here."

Because Microsoft abused its monopoly.

36 Posted by Stephen Tomlinson on 19 June 2009 | Permalink

"Which good front-ender wants to work on Intranet applications for several years?"

Rather than spend 10% of my time on IE6 compatibility for the next ten years, I'd much prefer to spend 10% of my time upgrading intranets for the next three.

37 Posted by Doeke Zanstra on 19 June 2009 | Permalink

Even Microsoft isn't supporting IE6 with all their products. Sharepoint 2010, a tool especially for intranets, is IE7+


38 Posted by John on 19 June 2009 | Permalink

To be fair, bundling IE with Windows did have some advantages. Specifically for desktop software developers - being able to rely on IE has allowed them to provide rich multimedia elements to their software that would otherwise not be cost effective. I remember Nick Bradbury making this point on his blog a year or so ago, and saying that his products - Feed Demon and (at the time..) Top Style were greatly enhanced by being able to rely on IE being installed. I wonder what will happen to this kind of software in future.

The real problem is that they made such a mess with IE up until recently with regard to the standards that user's have been unable to install a 2nd browser for many sites (mainly intranets) because they are designed for a non-standard browser. I think if they had developed according to the standards up front then this would be far less of a problem. And that's why Safari on the Mac isn't a big deal.

But much as I hate IE, let's just be glad that Microsoft didn't develop Netscape 4. Things could always be worse!!!

39 Posted by Fletch on 19 June 2009 | Permalink

What an excellent article! Insightful, new (to me), well argued points. I use IE6 on our (big) corporate intranet and the latest FF as my "real browser" as you put it; and have done exactly the same as a contractor on other company intranets. However as a developer I have always got admin rights - the other users just had to use IE6. So your premise about corporate IE6 use is correct. What's more, I think the motivation to upgrade is even lower than the article implies. In Australia we say "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" and to the decision-makers, IE6 ain't broke. Your dual-browser solution is much cheaper and totally feasible - though only if you're talking about more than say 2 intranet apps.

If I can fault one thing - this is really two entirely separate articles and should have been posted as such even if it was delivered as one speech. Unfortunately the comments mainly focus on the legal issues as they are at the end, although this is by far the less interesting section!

40 Posted by Ryan Kirk on 20 June 2009 | Permalink

If the EU wants to enforce choice, why not force a default .eu start page that gives browser options. It would open up in IE but perhaps list the top browsers more prominently, with the vendors able to write their own description, and the minors would be listed secondarily. Similar to IE's default start page now.

41 Posted by John on 23 June 2009 | Permalink

The problem with having a start page (e.g. is that it doesn't really solve the problem. It just opens up an unwelcome page that people will have to change, and means that manufacturers wouldn't be able to have their own home page or whatever they want. And who's going to maintain it? And who's going to decide which browsers to list, and in what order?

Microsoft offering a browserless OS for hardware manufacturers to use is fine. The hardware manufacturers would then have to install a different browser before shipping. This means other browser companies - Opera, Mozilla etc. - can then forge partnerships with hardware vendors as they see fit. If they don't want to, fine, but the choice is there.

For a boxed windows, I'd say microsoft should have the freedom to bundle whatever they want in it. Having a reduced version would be daft there.

The solution is NOT to give the end user a choice of browser when they start up. That just complicates install. The choices comes from choosing which hardware to purchase.

42 Posted by John on 23 June 2009 | Permalink

On the subject of us being stuck with IE6 due to intranets, maybe the solution is for Microsoft to release a standalone version of IE6. MultipleIE and IE Collection do this unofficially. Microsoft can smooth out the edges and do a "proper" release. Wouldn't that solve the problem? That would be good for Microsoft too, wouldn't it?

43 Posted by Chris Hester on 25 June 2009 | Permalink

MS should include IE in Windows 7 but have an announcement on first run that "other browsers are available". Or include a few on the desktop (none of them marked "Internet") and let the user choose. No browser at all makes no sense.

I also think companies will stick with IE - it's what everyone has used for years - but apps are being tweaked to work with IE7. That way no-one will notice a change when IE7 is installed.

44 Posted by John on 26 June 2009 | Permalink

No one is going to take the slightest notice of a statement like "Other browsers are available", or a list of browsers that appear or anything like that. We're all too well trained to ignore stuff that computers tell us these days. (Whether it be terms and conditions, windows alerts, important notices, spam or anything)

45 Posted by John di Stefano on 26 June 2009 | Permalink

Being a web developer myself and working in the Commission in Brussels I can only agree with your points. The Commission itself uses only IE (now 7) for their intranets and usually develop external applications and sites to work in most big browsers. IE 6 is not really considered as important anymore, even your charts show the high amount IE 6 is still used. I am not so sure about mobile browsing. I personally can't see this ever picking up. The screens are much to small and because of that require a complete different rendering engine. Even browsing on an IPod is a nightmare. Mobile internet will surly create new markets with new applications and will cover niche markets. I can see mobile web applications to connect to applications installed on the device and therefor do not require a specific browser. But lets see.

46 Posted by David Hopkins on 3 July 2009 | Permalink

Are the stats for your prediction for IE6 market share based on Dutch sources?

Here in the UK, I have a non-technical site which gets pretty much 100% UK traffic and the overall IE6 share on that site is about 8%. On my technical site, its even lower, about 5% and a lot of that is from India.

Or were your prediction figures only taking into account IE browser users?

47 Posted by Joey on 5 July 2009 | Permalink

I was more glad when we finally got rid of IE5.5 than losing IE6.. not that 6 was great by any stretch of the imagination..

48 Posted by Fredrik Wendt on 5 July 2009 | Permalink

"As we all know IE8 is out, and whatever your opinion, no one will doubt that it’s a better browser than IE7, and that a quick growth of the IE8 market share will serve web developers well."

Adding another browser, which requires a new set of quirks for new workarounds - how is this good? It will not reduce the amount of JavaScript, CSS etc needed to support "major web browsers". I agree that it's a better browser, but having to support yet another monster from Microsoft isn't reducing the headache for any developers, just adding to it - unless another browser is dropped/EOL.

49 Posted by Todd Budnikas on 8 July 2009 | Permalink

IE8 offers the "rollback" option to operate as if IE7. Why couldn't newer versions of IE offer rollback options to IE6 to help diminish the market share? I don't know what value Microsoft gets out of perpetuating it's older technology, so if the newer versions offered the support (for IE6) for those who needed it, we'd see the decline of exclusive use of IE6 browsers everywhere. Those users could still run their older applications in IE6 mode when needed but get the benefits of a more secure browser with modern technologies supporting it when not.

50 Posted by Richard Le Poidevin on 9 July 2009 | Permalink

I couldn't agree more about problem of having no bundled browser. If a user is savvy enough to want another browser they'll download it when they get a new computer. If they're not then they'll be happy running IE and not care about other browser, they probably don't even know the difference. Whilst that's not ideal for web developers IE8 isn't as bad as what came before.

51 Posted by John on 13 July 2009 | Permalink

If you're savvy enough to install a new OS then you're probably savvy enough to know about web browsers. :)

I think the "no bundled browser" is entirely the right thing for Microsoft to offer when buying a new computer (as long as the hardware vendor then puts on a browser of their choice) but it is completely useless when buying an OS in a box.

52 Posted by Ralf Schroeder on 14 July 2009 | Permalink

In my mind the real problem is the ignorance of the average user. Even if there would be rollback options and what not - what really counts is promoting the new IE for the ordinary Joes out there. My experience is that most people don't care what version they use as long as they can navigate through the internet alright.

The task for Microsoft here is (forced) promotion. A simple pop-up or other notification in the older IE6 or 7 versions that the new version is strongly recommended should diminish the market share of these old versions considerably.

53 Posted by Frank on 27 July 2009 | Permalink

Well, talking about monopolies, I think Apple will be the next one to be forced to open up. As iPhone apps are becoming more popular, and they use Safari's base, they are really showing monopolic measures like Microsoft. You can even find a Blizzard Authenticator app that (so far) only works for iPhone.

Personally, I wish I could use another browser, such as portable Firefox, since I've had plenty of experience of Safari crashing in the 2.x days.

54 Posted by Raphael on 24 August 2009 | Permalink

I work for a major US-based evangelical ministry as a front end web programmer. According to demographic information we've collected, most of our visitors are older women. However, stats that I just ran minutes ago show that for the past 7 days 16.53% of our visitors used ie6. This shows that even this older demographic had finally upgraded their browsers.

We are dropping support for ie6 when our brand new site launches in a few months. It's designed purely for W3C-compliant, CSS2.1 browsers. We're probably going to put in code that detects if they're using a non-compliant browser and tell them to upgrade.

55 Posted by Aura on 27 August 2009 | Permalink

Clearly, the solution for intranets is to install Firefox with the IE Tab extension. You can set those sites that need it to use IE's rendering engine, and still have Firefox for everywhere else.
Of course, that still has the problem that it prevents people from switching to Linux... :-p

Even if Microsoft removed IE and presented a "choose a web browser" program instead, you know many people would just select the first option on the list without a second thought. Being Microsoft, that will likely be Microsoft's browser. Then what, people will complain that they're making IE a monopoly by putting it first on the list? The arguments do get ridiculous.