File Under: Browsers

For Most, Supporting Older Versions of IE Remains a Necessity

IE logos through the ages. Images: Microsoft.

Nothing gets a web developer’s hackles up quite like older versions of Internet Explorer. The web browser we all love to hate still manages to hang around after all these years — in the case of IE 6, the persistence is strong enough that even Microsoft has a website dedicated to getting rid of it.

While almost no one likes older versions of IE, most of us still need to support it to varying degrees. Mobile web expert Peter-Paul Koch recently ended an informal survey of web developers asking them which versions of IE they supported, tested in and whether or not they charged extra to support older versions of IE.

The results — from nearly 18,000 replies (1,150 for the least answered question) — are surprising in several ways, like the fact that 2 percent of web developers surveyed still support IE 5.5. That might not sound like many, but consider that IE 5.5 is nearly 13 years old (it was released with Windows ME in July 2000) and predates most of CSS 2, let alone CSS 3.

The overwhelmingly popular way to detect for older versions of IE is to use conditional comments, with 79 percent of developers reporting they use them.

Roughly two-thirds of developers surveyed are now charging extra for clients that require IE 6 support and 42 percent say they do the same for IE 7 support. Supporting IE 8 (which is admittedly not nearly as difficult as previous versions) remains just another part of being a web developer.

As Koch writes, “it’s clear that the market for IE6 information is collapsing, even though IE7 is still a going concern.” Be sure to check out Koch’s QuirksMode site for the full rundown on the survey.