How To Support Internet Explorer and Still Be Cutting Edge


Everyone has been going on about how we should use CSS3 more and all of the possibilities and flexibility that come with it, but that we should still consider IE6 and other troubling browsers.

But how do we actually do that? How do we create websites that are up to date with the latest coding techniques but that are also usable for people experiencing the Web on Internet Explorer?

In this article, we’ll see what measures we can take to provide a good experience for IE users but keep moving on. We will mainly focus on the CSS part but will also provide some handy tips on dealing with overall markup.

Also consider our previous articles:

The Content Is What Matters

Jeffrey Zeldman once said4, “content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design; it’s decoration.” In fact, the most important thing on your website is the content. This is what everyone should be able to get, no matter which browser they’re using.

Using CSS3 doesn’t mean we should forget about older browsers and lock visitors out of our websites. We should check our websites on browsers as old as maybe IE5 or 5.5 and make sure the content is accessible for every user.

This doesn’t mean we should quit the fight to eradicate IE6 either. We can still follow the example of websites such as Twitter and YouTube and add visible but not dead-end warnings to upgrade.

YouTube's IE6 warning message5

Twitter IE6 warning message6
YouTube and Twitter warning messages for IE6 users

And remember: each profession has the duty to educate those who are not familiar with their trade. We must explain how stuff works to our clients without being patronizing. It’s not their job to know this after all.

Basics First: The Three Layers (HTML, CSS and JavaScript)

When we create a new website, we do it in steps. First, the HTML. We will mark up our content in the most semantic way possible: titles should be marked up as headings, lists as lists, etc. The bottom line is that our content should be perfectly readable and its hierarchy understandable with only this part of the coding done. The content has to make sense, and we must never forget that this layer is the foundation on which we will develop all the rest.

Secondly, we add the style, the CSS. In this step, we add the visual elements to our design; we give the website its personality. We also make sure that the content is accessible without the third layer.

And finally, the third layer, the JavaScript, the behavior. Here we add the interactive elements to our website. We make the experience richer using things such as tabs, sliders, lightboxes, etc.

With this path in mind, our content will always be accessible in any browser. We make sure that older browsers get only the basic content and disregard more complex layers that could hamper their users’ access to it.

Adding Basic Style For Old Browsers

So our semantic markup is done, and we know that some browsers cannot render CSS properly or at all, such as browsers before Netscape 4.0 or Internet Explorer 4.0. For those browsers, displaying the bare content—the naked version—is the safest choice.

Some people say that, today, there is no need to do this. But if you’d like to make sure that these people on these browsers don’t run into any problems, just link to a basic version of your CSS with the link tag and then to the more advanced file with the @import declaration:

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="basic.css" media="screen" />
<style type="text/css">
	@import "advanced.css";

You can also skip the link tag altogether and leave them with a text-only version of the website:

<style type="text/css">
	@import "style.css";

Embracing The Differences

Now let’s deal with the black sheep of commonly used browsers: Internet Explorer 6.

You’ve got two options:

  1. If only a negligible percentage of your audience is browsing the Web with it and you don’t want to throw your client’s money down the drain, you could create a basic style sheet for IE6.
  2. Acknowledge that your design will not look the same in IE6, and make decisions on what to leave out: which IE6 quirks will you fix and which will you leave be.

If you choose to feed IE6 a basic style sheet, the best course is to use the Universal IE6 CSS7. Your website will have virtually no design, but this style sheet makes sure that the body has a readable width, that heading sizes are reasonable and that the content has some nice white space surrounding it.

In your HTML, you will have to add some conditional comments to link to the style sheet and to hide the other sheets from IE6:

	<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="styles.css" media="screen" />

In the first conditional comment, we link our main style sheet to all browsers that are not IE6 (hence the “!”). And in the second comment, we link directly to the Universal IE6 style sheet on Google’s repository (and save some bandwidth at that!).

Make Photoshop Faster on Firefox8

Make Photoshop Faster on IE69
The Make Photoshop Faster website uses the Universal style sheet for IE6

If you prefer the second route, you must be prepared to embrace the differences between browser renderings. Know that some details of your design will not be visible or render as nicely in IE6, or even IE7 and 8. And don’t be upset about it.


As you know, all browsers have different default styles for the various HTML elements. This is why using a reset style sheet is wise, so that we can start with a clean slate.

Plenty of style sheets are around on the Internet for anyone’s benefit. The one that is usually considered the standard and most often implemented is Eric Meyer’s reset10, or some variation of it.

Eric Meyer's CSS Reset11

With the advent of HTML5, including the new HTML elements in your CSS reset is also a good idea. html5doctor12 provides a good update to Eric Meyer’s reset that you can use for free in your projects.

html5doctor's CSS reset13

You can use a CSS reset either by embedding it at the top of your own CSS file, or, if you like to keep things tidy, by importing it from your style sheet:

@import url(reset.css);

CSS Differences That Could Break Your Layout

If you decide to use the Universal IE6 CSS, you’ve just saved yourself many a headache. But don’t let the shiny logos of IE7 and 8 fool you: if you intend to use the latest CSS techniques, you still have to do a lot to cater to them.

IE6 and PNG support

We all know that PNG images with alpha-channel transparency (i.e. the good-looking ones) don’t play nice on IE6. We’ve all seen that annoying light-blue background on our carefully crafted logos.

You can choose from among a few workarounds to this problem so that IE6 can display PNGs. Each is fairly quick to implement and does make a difference in the overall design.

Here are a few of the best scripts and techniques for dealing with this issue:

That said, we should mention that more and more Web designers nowadays opt not to fix the PNG issue on IE6:

31three website on IE619
The newly revamped 31three website doesn’t apply any fix for PNGs in IE6.

Advanced Selectors

These selectors are almost the definition of smooth CSS development by themselves, because they hold the true power of CSS and can make our lives as developers so much easier (and our budgets so much lower!).

The decision of whether to make them work on Internet Explorer or not depends largely on what you are using them for.

For example, if you are using them to add extra detail to your designs, such as small icons to represent different file types, it won’t make a lot of difference if the icons don’t display on some browsers. Visitors to your website won’t know what they are missing, and the links will still be perfectly usable.

These selectors are also widely used to enhance typographic detail, and lack of support for them won’t be a big issue for your designs.

Comparison of the rendering of the Hicksdesign website on Firefox and IE20
Hicksdesign uses advanced selectors for numbered bullets in its navigation menu, and they simply aren’t visible for IE6 users

Which browsers don’t support this? Internet Explorer 6 will not see styles applied with virtually any advanced selector. It only really understands simple descendant combinators and classes and ID selectors. It even struggles with multiple classes applied to the same element! It’s not to be trusted.

IE7 ignores the :lang selector and pseudo-elements, such as :first-line, :first-letter, :before and :after. But it does understand all attribute selectors.

Also, none of the Internet Explorer releases to date supports the :target pseudo-class, UI element states pseudo-classes (:enabled, :disabled, etc.), structural pseudo-classes (like :nth-child, :nth-of-type or :first-child) or the negation pseudo-element.


Box-sizing allows you to tell the browser how you want it to calculate the width and height of an element.

For example, if you set the box-sizing property to border-box, then the paddings and borders will be subtracted from the specified width and height of that element, instead of added to them (as stated in the W3C’s specifications for the standard box model).

This can make it easier to control the size of elements and to make sizes behave the same across different browsers.

If you believe that your website renders in IE in quirks mode (and therefore renders with the non-standard box model), you may want to use this property in your style sheets to make all browsers uniform.

Make sure to add the standard property and the vendor-specific ones:

div {
	-moz-box-sizing: border-box;
	-webkit-box-sizing: border-box;
	box-sizing: border-box;

Which browsers don’t support this? If the website is rendered in quirks mode, IE6 will render using the non-standard box model, so it will already be rendering as if it had the “border-box” property on. You can force IE6 to render in quirks mode. There are a few ways of doing this; one way is by adding an HTML comment before the doctype declaration of your HTML pages.

Media Queries

Media queries aren’t fully supported by most browsers, and Internet Explorer doesn’t support them at all.

However, because they are mostly used to call variations of style sheets for handheld devices, such as the iPhone, this fact is almost irrelevant in that case.

If you use media queries mainly to cater to the iPhone, the fact that they are not supported by other browsers makes no difference anyway, and their use is highly encouraged.

If you are using them to create a more flexible website design that adapts to changes in, say, window size, then know that only Safari, Firefox and Opera support them (partially).

Which browsers don’t support this? Internet Explorer and, in some instances, Safari and Firefox.

CSS Differences That Are Mainly Decorative

These are the issues that are best left alone for non-supporting browsers, because the lack of support won’t be a problem for users who want to access your content (i.e. your pages won’t break).

This has to do mainly with some of the new CSS3 properties, such as border-radius, text-shadow and border-image.


This is the first CSS3 property that designers learned to live without on Internet Explorer, because of its clearly decorative nature. With border-radius, you are better off not trying to replicate it on IE at all. Just let it be.

Gowalla's homepage on Firefox21

Gowalla's homepage on IE622
Gowalla uses border-radius on its website, but Internet Explorer users don’t see it.

Which browsers don’t support this? All Internet Explorer browsers. Opera, too.


Font-face can be used with IE, but you may need to use Microsoft’s Web Embedding Fonts tool23 to convert your fonts to EOT.

Microsoft Web Embedding Fonts Tool (WEFT)24

If you are including both font formats in your website, your CSS will probably follow this structure:

@font-face {
	  font-family: "Delicious";
	  src: url("Delicious-Roman.eot");
	  src: local("Delicious"), url("Delicious-Roman.otf") format("opentype");

Usually, a browser not being able to render the first font in a font stack shouldn’t break the website or hamper in any way the user’s access to the content. So, the recommendation here is to carefully ponder which fonts you want the visitor to see if their browser doesn’t support font-face and has to rely on the fonts you have declared in the style sheet.

Elliot Jay Stock's website on Firefox25

Elliot Jay Stock's website on IE26
A browser that doesn’t support font-face simplys show the next available font in the font stack

Which browsers don’t support this? If you use the EOT version for IE, even IE users will see the correct fonts.

Multiple Columns

Rather than create multiple floating DIVs to organize your text into columns, you can create columns automatically by using the multiple column properties in CSS3. But this means that some browsers won’t see them.

Multiple columns are better used for text, not layout. If you use them on your website, the worst thing that will happen is that visitors see a wider line of text.

If you’re dealing only with short text, than why not go ahead and use it and finish the job in two minutes? But if it would seriously impair the readability of your content, then your best option is to stick to the regular DIVs to create columns.

Multiple columns on Firefox27

Multiple columns not rendered on IE28
Here, the introductory text is displayed using CSS multiple columns. IE users will see normal single-column text.

Which browsers don’t support this? Internet Explorer and Opera.

RGBa and Opacity

RGBa colors are bliss. Rather than use hard-to-update PNG files for backgrounds, you can create the same transparency effect with CSS. But IE doesn’t get it. IE6 doesn’t even understand the PNGs to begin with.

It’s safe to assume that these transparencies won’t usually be applied to elements that cover important content; in which case, the content shouldn’t be behind another element in the first place.

So, when using RGBa colors, make sure to include a normal color before the RBGa one, so that browsers that don’t understand it will still have a fallback color:

div {
	background-color:  #FFFFFF;
	background-color: rgba(255,255,255,.5);

Opacity can be applied to IE using the opacity filter, but IE filters work only on elements that have layout:

div {
	filter: alpha(opacity = 50);

Also, remember that opacity works differently than RGBa colors: all of the elements enclosed in this DIV will be rendered transparent.

24ways website on FIrefox29

24ways website on IE830
24ways uses RGBa colors and alpha transparency heavily, even though Internet Explorer doesn’t render the transparency.

Which browsers don’t support this? Every browser sees opacity, provided that filters are applied. IE doesn’t see RGBa colors.


This is an easy call: ignore it. Assuming that the text is still readable, trying to recreate text-shadow any other way than with CSS is a Herculean task. So, unless missing text-shadow would seriously reduce the clarity of a large amount of text, or a small amount (in which case you could use image replacement), you’re better off without it.

Brokers Direct website on Firefox with text-shadow31

Brokers Direct website on IE with no text-shadow32
The white text-shadow on Brokers Direct’s website is not visible on Internet Explorer.

Which browsers don’t support this? Internet Explorer.


The border-image property gives us an easy way to add beautiful borders to our elements that would otherwise be a nightmare to implement (and that in most instances we would probably choose not to implement).

Because the property is almost always decorative, the best option would be to include a fallback for browsers that don’t support it using the normal border property, and adding the enhanced CSS after it for other browsers.

SpoonGraphics blog on Firefox with border-image33

SpoonGraphics blog on IE with no border-image34
SpoonGraphics uses border-image, but it is not visible in Internet Explorer.

Which browsers don’t support this? Answering the opposite question is easier: for now, only Safari and Firefox support this feature.

Multiple Backgrounds

This feature depends on the design of your website, but in a lot of cases, the lack of a second or even third background will not affect the readability of the page.

Multiple backgrounds in CSS saves us a lot of the development headaches that were caused by having to use different HTML hooks and nested elements to achieve the same effect. So, if you opt to use multiple backgrounds, you are already choosing which browsers to display the results to.

If all users seeing all of the backgrounds is important to you, then do it the old way and apply different backgrounds to different elements.

If not, your best bet is to give a fallback to browsers that don’t support it: pick the background that you feel is most important or that best fits the overall design and add that property before the multiple backgrounds one. Browsers that don’t support it will ignore the second property.

Which browsers don’t support this? Internet Explorer, Opera and Firefox up until version 3.5 (version 3.6 is currently in beta, but it supports multiple backgrounds!).



Modernizr homepage35

Modernizr36 is a little JavaScript that is quite useful if you are using advanced CSS properties. It adds some classes to the html tag in your pages, to see whether a browser supports certain CSS features, such as:

  • @font-face
  • rgba()
  • hsla()
  • border-image
  • border-radius
  • box-shadow
  • Multiple backgrounds
  • opacity
  • CSS animations
  • CSS columns
  • CSS gradients
  • CSS reflections
  • CSS 2-D transforms
  • CSS 3-D transforms
  • CSS transitions

Take border-image. When a page loads in a browser that supports the property, it output borderimage. If the browser doesn’t support it, it outputs no-borderimage.

Modernizr doesn’t enable these features in browsers that don’t support them, but rather gives you important information (in the form of classes) that you can use in your style sheets to apply distinct selectors and properties to elements.


IE-7.js37 makes IE5+ behave like IE8, supporting more advanced selectors and fixing some rendering bugs. Here’s an excerpt from the creator’s website38:

  • Added support for advanced selectors: >, + and ~; attribute selectors; :hover, :active, :focus for all elements; :first-child, :last-child, :only-child, :nth-child, :nth-last-child; :checked, :disabled, :enabled; :empty, :not; :before, :after, :content; :lang.
  • It uses the standard box model in standards and quirks mode.
  • Supports min- and max-width and -height.
  • Supports PNG alpha transparency (but doesn’t solve the PNG problem for repeated or positioned backgrounds).

The disadvantage of this technique is that JavaScript has to be enabled for it to work, which is unfortunate. So, you will have to be careful to give users who have disabled JavaScript an acceptable version of your website, especially if some behaviors will not work or, worse, if the lack of JavaScript will break your layout.


As they say it, this is easier said than done. So, we’ll show that these ideas can actually be put into practice with some nice examples. These are websites we’ve come across that render differently in different browsers. In some cases, the differences are quite noticeable, but the developers have chosen to embrace those differences.


Twitter on Firefox39
Twitter in Firefox

Twitter on IE640
Twitter in IE6


WordPress on Firefox41
WordPress in Firefox

WordPress on IE642
WordPress in IE6


WWF on Firefox43
WWF in Firefox

WWF on IE644
WWF in IE6


Remember that the purpose of this post is not to teach you how to hack IE or deal with its quirks or even how to achieve effects by resorting to JavaScript. Rather, it is to explain how we can design and build websites knowing that differences will arise between browsers.

You won’t see people rioting over the lack of rounded corners on Twitter or WordPress; they aren’t even upset by it, because those differences don’t fundamentally break the websites. People can still use the websites and have a good experience. In most cases, they won’t even notice it!

All we have to do now is explain this politely but seriously to our clients, so that we can all contribute to the ever-evolving Web.

Further Reading And References

Do your designs have a support for older versions of Internet Explorer (<= 7.0)?

Related posts

You may be interested in the following related posts:



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Inayaili de León is a London-based Portuguese web designer, specialist in cross-browser, semantic HTML and CSS, and clean, functional design. She writes frequently for well-known online and print publications and also on her own web design blog, Web Designer Notebook. In May 2011, she published a book, Pro CSS for High Traffic Websites, and she speaks frequently at local and international web conferences and meetups. She is currently working as a web designer on Canonical's Design team.


Note: Our rating-system has caused errors, so it's disabled at the moment. It will be back the moment the problem has been resolved. We're very sorry. Happy Holidays!

  1. 1

    Yeah, sure….my grandma still uses Internet Explorer, i’m using Google Chrome. No offense :))

  2. 2

    Great post. I always display an “Upgrade your Browser” on my sites.

  3. 3

    Thanks for the post! Working with IE is tough, but I think this does a great job. Thanks for the explanations about the CSS3 elements as well! Definitely bookmarked!

  4. 4

    I’m curious if we still have this discussion over a couple years. But it’s a sad one.

  5. 5


    Very useful article much as I loath IE6 you still have to work with it, your hints and tips will help with some of the pain.



  6. 6

    its good to educate end users and its tricky that we have to work more to accommodate IE users. but still, this is life.

  7. 7

    Best post I’ve read in a while! I’d never even heard of the Universal IE6 stylesheet.

  8. 8

    Also something to consider is the use of HTML5 and still support all browser (even IE6!) is to use the following script:

    Although it’s javascript (very small; 350 bytes) it will help you to create real cutting edge templates. And with use of the tips described in this post you won’t even see the difference.

  9. 9

    great article

  10. 10

    Useful post, to those saying it is the older generation that uses IE, this is not true – a lot of workplaces, Universities, colleges etc use IE as a default browser so unless you don’t mind excluding these viewers (and potential customers) you sadly can’t afford to ignore IE altogether.

  11. 11

    Nice Post :)
    Keep it up :)

  12. 12

    Great post! and i do ignore IE users on my site! it helps filter out some time wasters and not over fill my work schedule to allow quality customers, :P

  13. 13

    Until developers and designer stop kowtowing to IE6’s woeful inadequacies, there will be no incentive for those that still have it installed to upgrade or change. The one and only thing you should ever have on your site that is IE6 specific is a warning about upgrading or changing browsers. I don’t listen to music on 8 track because something better came along. I don’t use IE for the same reason.

  14. 14

    A nice article, but still there’s an assumption that people choose IE6, or rather that they have a choice to upgrade it.

    Some of the sites we work on have 35-40% of IE6 users, the second largest percentage after IE7. When you dig deeper, the vast majority of those visits come from large corporations. A lot of our clients also work for large organisations who have an IT policy to have Windows XP and IE6 on every machine, simply to allow them to easily support said machines. Often they have Intranets optimised to work in IE6 only. It might be wrong, and it might be counterproductive, but that’s the way it is, and no amount of patronising “upgrade your browser” messages will make any difference. I’m hoping that the launch of Windows 7 will see more IT departments consider upgrading their software, but I won’t hold my breath.

    The rest of the IE6 users out there probably don’t know what a web browser is, or why they should upgrade, so please consider these users more than you consider your peers.

  15. 15

    Ikram Hakimi, aww, you really sounded devastated there *giggles*

    Anyway, this is a very optimistic post. I enjoy reading it! I definitely agree on this line particularly, “..those differences don’t fundamentally break the websites. People can still use the websites and have a good experience..”

  16. 16

    Ignoring the IE older than version 7 isn’t a very professional solution. The IE6 will be supported until 2014 and therefore I prefer solutions like the IE7.js. Smart and easy to implement.

  17. 17

    Great article!

    I agree with James M.

    And showing messages to IE users will not help since a lot of theme can’t upgrade. It’s just annoying for the user.

  18. 18

    Very nice article.. I have great respect for… you guys are the best! (I like that you are found of wordpress :P )

  19. 19

    IE6 is still part of the webworld. So unfortunately we have to support this oldie. Even if we have to waste up to one day for the hacks sometimes.

    I think it’s a good idea to advise the end users to upgrade their browsers, but many of them do not have the permissions to install programs on their computers ’cause they work for a greedy company who will not pay money to someone upgrading all their browsers.

  20. 20

    if people would stop bending over backwards for IE6 the problem would just go away.

    i understand why people are pigeonholed into an IE6 environment, but why do i have to suffer because of someone else’s shitty planning and shortcutting? why am i putting in hours of extra work and stress because someone else was too bad/cheap to do things properly?

    if people would just stop getting pushed around by this problem it would go away pretty fast. yes, it’s expensive and time consuming to redo any enterprise software that’s reliant on IE6, but the company did that to themselves. they should deal with it, not me.

    you want to be cutting edge? get involved with technology that will let you. want to stay with ie6? you get work of 2001 calibre to go with it.

  21. 21

    How many times has the “we must support IE6 because it’s still heavily used” vs “support is holding web development back” debate get thrashed out in in forums and comments across the Blogosphere…yawn…

    That universal stylesheet looks a bit extreme to me. A good reset, a few extra rules to sort out the double margin bug, spacing between lists, etc, served up with conditional comments, DD_belatedPNG, and you’re pretty much done.

    It’s not that hard to offer support for IE6. And it will eventually die, whether we pander to it or not.

  22. 22
  23. 23

    nice post. Unfortunately ie6 is still alive and very much in use in india.

  24. 24

    Great article! I’m a huge fan of progressive enhancement and this explains what it’s all about and that websites don’t need to look the same in every browser.

    The problem of course is always clients. I try to use the universal IE6 stylesheet along with a polite upgrade notice wherever I can :)

  25. 25

    “other troubling browsers” = IE7 and IE8

  26. 26

    As a Firefox user I viewed this posting then sent the link to a mate of mine in the office (where IE6 is our default browser and anything else is probably a sackable offence) who immediately responded that the article renders incorrectly in IE6 – I assumed he was kidding so I tried it (IETab in Firefox and natively) and oh the irony… it doesn’t render correctly!

    So unless there is something nasty happening between your servers and the content landing inside IE6 on my machine I’d say this is a bit of a mistook, albeit a deliciously amusing one…

    It is a great article though… seems to me that all the while site designers and builders are planning to support a browser that’s known not to play nicely with the world then said browser won’t be replaced by users and Microsoft will have little or no incentive to fix it…

    my two pennies (for what they are worth) is that a web site should be designed and built to the requirements of the owner and it’s intended purpose… if that means using features/functions only available in a particular standard then that’s what it should use and if an elegant (and low impact to the owner/builder) solution can be found to either degrading or advising the punter that their browser isn’t supported (or has restricted functionality) then go for it…

    If IE6 users who quite probably don’t know they can use a different browser (we were all in that situation once remember!) start to have a degraded experience then their motivation to ask questions and possibly seek out alternatives will increase…

    I would therefore argue that as site designers and builders we have a responsibility to meet the requirements of those paying our bills and where possible to educate and support the general web-surfing public with easy-to-understand guidance and assistance to help them get the best from the web…


  27. 27

    I wish people would let go of the idea of a seperate IE only stylehseet. This makes managing your CSS much more complicated as when you need to make changes you need to make them in two different places.

    A much better approach would be to put a wrapper div for each version of IE in special conditional tags so you can manage your CSS in one stylesheet. Details about that here:

    Also don’t forget the period and underscore hack to deliver IE only styles.

  28. 28

    Very important post, thank you! It made me to re-view my attitude to IE, to be honest in my last project instead of normal CSS sheet for IE I simply added additional CSS for IE6 with not more than display:none for the whole content, so lazy I was! IE6 users see only white space on their screens and probably are sure that something wrong either with their computer or with this website… I will re-write IE CSS sheet, your post makes me do it immediately, thank you for this!

  29. 29

    Regarding the nasty grey background on transparent PNGs in IE6. Please be aware that you can set that background color to whatever is appropriate for your design using tools like tweakpng and GIMP. Sometimes that is enough.

    If anyone knows how to set the PNG background color with Photoshop please let me know! Seems like the option must be in there somewhere.

  30. 30

    This is a really excellent article, so thanks for that Inayaili.

    I think also that a lot of people overdesign and overthink this stuff when they could deliver content in such a way that it’s attractive and makes sense in all browsers, including Lynx. Progressive enhancement is the smartest approach, and allows even the dreaded IE6 to present something worth seeing and reading.

    If we keep in mind the “three layers” and maintain good semantic structure, a lot of browser quirks take care of themselves. On the other hand, we’re going to suffer if precise rendering in all browsers becomes too important to us; that isn’t possible, and isn’t worth getting stressed about.

  31. 31

    Wonderful article, thanks!

    Just a note: @font-face *is* supported by Opera (10), but not by Chrome (yet, it should be soon, currently is activated in 3+ manually with a switch: –enable-remote-fonts).

  32. 32

    For my rounded corners i use:

    -moz-border-radius: 5px;
    -webkit-border-radius: 5px;
    -khtml-border-radius: 5px;
    border-radius: 5px;

    Seems to work in Safari, FF and IE8 without problems. Hard to live without IE7 support tho.

  33. 33

    Which browsers don’t support this? Only Opera.”

    Opera doesn’t support “font-face” or font-stack? WTF are you saying? Use Opera 10. haven’t expected such an incompetence from SM.

  34. 34

    Correction: Opera 10 supports @font-face just fine.

    edit: ha, looks like a couple of people got in there before me…

  35. 35

    best post in ages. back on form! (don’t read anything negative into that though)

  36. 36

    I agree…
    I didn’t know something like IE-7.js existed…
    don’t think the “JS support”-issue is a drawback, since IE 6 users probably don’t know there’s a way to disable JS anyway…

  37. 37

    Oh dear, you are all right (re @font-face). This is what happens when you write an article over the course of a few months :(

    I’ll make sure that mistake is updated promptly.

    Thanks for reading!

  38. 38

    Okay, fixed now! :)

  39. 39

    If you’re careful when you build, the alternate stylesheet for IE6 isn’t terribly inconvenient. We build a lot of sites that need to be IE6 compliant, since most of our clients happen to have IE6 on every frickin’ machine in their building. That said, I can’t wait for it to explode in a glorious cloud of fire. I’m sick and tired of making minor tweaks to get the nav lined up in exactly the same position in all browsers because the designer can’t accept a two pixel difference.

    When you’re talking about @font-face, it’s not supported by Chrome either. Not sure why, since technically it uses webkit. If anyone does know, or has heard of a workaround, it would be much appreciated.

  40. 40

    Exxxcellent article!

    I cannot wait until 75% + of internet users use something other than IE.
    Maybe we could all pitch in and hire some celebrities to dis it publicly.
    Snoop Dogg would be good: ‘Firefox is the shizzle, Chrome is off the hizzle and Explorer can suck my dizzle …’

  41. 41

    That’s not a particularly useful way of converting users into customers though is it! People have a choice over which browser they use, in some cases they don’t. I think it’s important to educate and recommend a better user experience but to deny access because of their choice of browser is unprofessional and not very ‘open’ in the spirit of the web now is it!

  42. 42

    It’s often done to validate CSS as most of the hacks are within embedded IE style sheets.

    Really not that difficult to maintain if the main style sheet has been created well in the first place!

  43. 43

    Or you could use a bit JavaScript like DD Roundies or a host of other JS files to get rounded corners in most versions of IE

  44. 44

    If they use IE6, I don’t want ‘em.

  45. 45
  46. 46

    So is cholera and poverty. What’s your point?

  47. 47

    As several others have commented here – a large number of big companies are yet to upgrade from IE6. When you build websites targeting businesses, there really is no other option than to bear the headache and build in support for IE6.

  48. 48

    Don’t forget jReject plug-in for jQuery:
    And its modification by

  49. 49

    A lot of people using IE 6 don’t have a choice so maintaining support is generally a good idea. There are sadly a lot of companies that think that sticking with IE 6 will make things easier and, ironically, safer. It isn’t true, but often the employees who are aware that the browser should be upgraded or changed aren’t in the position to install the upgrade.

  50. 50

    Nice reading Yaili …. Good article…

  51. 51

    Just had an quick view in my personal webstats: IE6 = 0,5%! ;) no chance, sorry!

  52. 52

    I wonder what percentage of Smashing Magazine’s users are on IE6. I work for one of those huge corporations that blindly supports IE6 because some of our systems run on the browser (and the company is old and our CTO is blind to current web standards.) I have to bring my own laptop in to read Smashing during the day or else I

  53. 53

    It’s unbelievable that the worst browser (i’m talking to you, ie!), is still the most used worldwide. It makes me think about how weird is users (consumers) behaviour.

  54. 54

    Jewen Soyterkijns

    December 1, 2009 11:28 am

    Maybe for your circle-jerk wordpress-template webdesigners it is kosher to drop IE6 support.

    Stop whining about IE6. Stop designing flash applications in xhtml. Any professional worth his or her salt will provide IE6 support. Stop looking at the stats: How many blind visitor do you think visited your site? Ow, I see: it dropped below 5%, so let’s forget about putting in “skip navigation”, because if we do, we are wasting the clients money.

    Years and years of arrogant and most of lazy webdevelopment, always the same discussion. If customers use IE6, well I don’t want them. Use a modern browser before you decide to buy something at my webshop!

    Dropping IE6 support, when lots of legimate users are forced to browse with it, is like dropping accessability, because those visually impaired don’t produce enough leads. IE6 support is wasting your clients time? Nope, not supporting IE6 is discrimination of your clients userbase and potential customers. Get your head out of CSS3 and HTML5 and develop and design for reality.

    This very website is a gross offender of this smug attitude towards IE6 users and IE6 support advocates.

    Jesse probably doesn’t do his own development, but those transparant PNG’s that are not solved in IE6 is probably a mistake or lazy developer, not a conscious decision. I could fix that in many ways, in under a minute. Transparancy is not even needed there! Look for comparison to the jpg next to it.

    The border-image example is also silly. Anyone could make such borders, and have them work in IE6, without relying on widely unsupported technology.

    Sigh… Abusing a technology that is widely unsupported, while dropping support for a current technology that is the cold reality.

  55. 55

    Great article. Keeping your site displaying properly in all browsers/versions can be time consuming.

    At the end of the day you need to be aware of your audience. If the site you are building is targeted to individual users who are most likely accessing the website from their personal computer, then fixing display issues in IE6 may not be on the top of your priority list.

    On the other hand, if your users are going to be accessing your website primarily from their place of business, fixing those IE6 display issues is a must. A lot of the time those medium and large businesses don’t upgrade their computers and/or browsers.

    This could be for various reasons such as:
    – the cost to complete the upgrade
    – the time/people power to complete the upgrade
    – they’re using old software such as an intranet that will “explode” when upgraded
    – they don’t care enough to upgrade
    – they don’t know they need to upgrade

    It’s unfortunate, IE6 was released in 2001. Eight years is a long time in “internet years”, but IE6 still holds a large share in the global market. W3Schools notes that 10.6% of users are currently using IE6 as of October 2009 (

    With that in mind, we recently used IE7-js ( and found that once installed there were fewer IE6 display adjustments required.

    Another tool we like to use is IETester ( Once installed on Windows, you can easily open multiple tabs in the IETester browser to view your site in IE 5.5/6/7/8. A great utility as we’re a Mac-based studio with only a few machines running Windows.

  56. 56

    You sounded very gross here. I’d suggest you apologize to praveen.

    Great and very useful article, thank you SM!

  57. 57

    Somewhat off-topic, but as others have pointed out, the browser choice is taken away from those of us working for large corporations and government. In this case, the behavior of consumers is strongly influenced by years of very deliberate predatory marketing by Microsoft. In one local school where I live, an entire school laboratory full of very expensive Macintosh computers was “bought out” by Microsoft’s sales reps who donated PCs to replace them (the donation required school officials to surplus the Macs). The school ended up with a bunch of crappy virus-ridden PCs within just a couple of years, but this was a success for Microsoft because they prevented hundreds of students from learning to use and appreciate their chief competitor’s products.

    Microsoft is pretty good at denying consumer choice in this way, though they really do make some good products. Another way that they’ve locked people into IE6 is by lobbying for U.S. state and federal government IT professionals to have Microsoft certification as a condition of hiring and employment, a part of their job description. So the people buying and supporting all those government computers have all had a big taste of the Redmond kool-aid, and now that they’re in those jobs they may not change anything for many years. It’s a shame, but it’s a reality we have to face.

  58. 58

    For personal projects I don’t offer IE6 support anymore at all. IE6 users will see a web page that offers them browser alternatives (or Google Chrome Frame) and the reasons why I’m not supporting IE6. I also apologize to corporate users and tell them at the same time to complain to their IT-Department.

    I explain the situation to clients and offer them to either have support for IE6 or additional features and functionality on their web site.

    If everybody is afraid of dropping support for IE6 no one will ever stop using it and, after my opinion, it seriously slows down the evolution and progression of the web.

  59. 59

    Totally agree.

  60. 60

    I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding about why IE6 continues to be significant in large organizations, and it has nothing to do with Microsoft.

    Example from my own workplace – we supported a financial package used by a major municipality. There was a multi-million dollar investment in this program and disruption of it might cause severe financial headaches (purchase orders not going through, vendors not being paid, audit trails not being kept, etc.) and require hours of extra work (read – labor costs) to repair. The program was accessed through a browser. The software vendor *would not* certify that the program would work in anything except IE6. So, what is the intelligent response? Use something besides IE6 and lose vendor support and possibly have the application go belly up in the middle of closing the books? Not going to happen until there is no more value to be wrung from the initial software investment. (The municipality is now standardized on IE7.)

    The other big reason major organizations standardize on IE, regardless of version, is because the deployment can be centrally managed, updates can be tested *before* being deployed to thousands of desktops, and security can be enforced. No other browser supports this. You can sneer at “lazy IT shops” all you want, but this the central reason for why IE dominates large organizations.

    This is a good article on how to work with browser rendering differences, but, in the end, it is really talking about current design trends. Round corners and gradient colors are popular now, but they are not my focus in web dev. Security, management of massive amounts of data, and ensuring 24/7 access is.

    That’s just how corporate IT works, folks, and has nothing to do with rounded corners and tranparent pngs.

  61. 61

    I feel lucky that IE6 are almost not used in Switzerland and Germany anymore.

  62. 62

    Very good.

    My company wins a lot of major Govt projects. Most local Government organisations are still strictly using IE 6 or 7 here due to their internal standard policy. So we have a lot of major projects that involve developing for this `wonderful’ browser. Keep in mind most of these projects are not for public viewing but rather internal software applications and intranets.

    Whilst we would love as a company to dismiss IE 6 altogether, the harsh and commercial reality is that our clients dictate that we cant.

  63. 63

    Great article. Very helpful! And like was said already, it’s insane that internet explorer is used so widely. If they only knew how much of a headache it is for us to design for!

  64. 64

    For layouts that require opacity, IE does support it, just in a roundabout sort of way.

    Using filters the desired effect can be easily achieved.

  65. 65

    You underestimate IE a little. It supports :first-letter and :first-line since 5.5 version. Also, IE7 recognizes :first-child pseudo-class and IE8 has some further improvements in this matter.

  66. 66

    Dude, what’s wrong with you?!

  67. 67

    Regarding IE7 support:
    I do not encourage my visitors to change browsers. I encourage them to purchase my clients products. For this reason, the best browser in the world is – the one the visitor is using. If I support them and not visa versa, I win, my client wins, and the visitor buys products and services.
    Any other approach is politics.

  68. 68

    Double Amen

  69. 69

    Out with the old In with the new.

    I guess someone over at Microsoft read this article and is trying to do something to help us developers out, just kidding but its certainly is good news :P.

  70. 70

    You can pretend to have rgba background support in IE by using its gradient filter. (If you want to use it for a dropdown menu you can use a 1 pixel transparent gif for the background image to fix any problems.)

  71. 71

    this was a great read , cheers guys

  72. 72

    I’m currently working for a very large and very modern corporation based in London. The corporate intranet browser is IE6. Around 20,000 users access the web using this browser. I mention this, just in case anyone was thinking of skipping the tutorials and howtos and dropping support for IE6. IE6 is alive and kicking – still!

  73. 73

    Another decorative CSS3 property is box-shadow, which can be surprisingly well emulated in IE with the little-known Blur() filter:

  74. 74

    Make this website available in IE6 and I could possibly consider the content of the message credible. Meanwhile screw with IE6.

    Consider this : your website is readable with IE5.5 (despite the javascript errors) but not AT ALL with IE6, so where is your credibility ?

  75. 75

    Embracing The Differences your commented codes are not working buddy


  76. 76

    aarrgghh… please dont use IE…

  77. 77

    IE5? Is this some kind of joke? My agency gave up support for IE6 a year ago – if a client demands it now and can’t be persuaded otherwise, we turn them down.

  78. 78

    José Maria Barros

    December 2, 2009 2:54 am

    Inayaili de Leon, its great to see portuguese people around smashingmagazine! Im portuguese too and im proud that there are great web designers that come from Portugal too!

    Great article! Keep it up


  79. 79

    The existence of such articles is not only bad for progress, it also perpetuates the use of such technologies and the companies supporting them. We need, want and should look forward. Being petty about a single browser with ever declining support among web users is not only bad for business, it’s bad for the user.

    Large and high profile websites have already stated that they won’t support IE6 any more, we must follow that line for better browsing (and better development) in the near foreseeable future.

    Mikey’s corporation prioritizes the upgrade to a better browser so low ‘thanks’ to that attitude. There are more corporations like that around the world of course. If there would be NO support for IE6, what corporation will see the reason in keeping it alive?!

  80. 80

    How many people out there turn off their javascript (and why)? Most people don’t even know how to do that.

    Anyone got some figures on that?

  81. 81

    totally agree with Enchanter

    even Microsoft itself now started to urge users more to upgrade IE!

    and literally NOBODY uses IE5.5- anymore… all versions together below 6 make at most 0.3% of users…and usage of IE6 dropped significantly too, it’s now around 10% (guess from stats from my country)

    let it die and rest in peace, it’s time :)

  82. 82

    In response to this post i have tried explaining why not to use different CSS files for different browsers to overcome Cross Browser Compatibility issues. Here is the link

  83. 83

    Re text-shadow – only supported by Firefox 3.1/3.5. Older FF users on 3.0 don’t have it. A good overview of support is provided by:

  84. 84

    I think ie6 should be treated as an ‘extra’ cost in projects as it a time consuming monster!

  85. 85

    This kind of articles are great as a reference of that ooold navigator, personally I don’t care about IE and less about IE6. IE is still the worst navigator and I’m sure will remain so.

    Anyway thanks for this article I know is a hard work.

  86. 86

    No one would love more than me to scatter a handful of dirt over the coffin as IE 6 was lowered into it’s grave, but my point is that no matter what the arguments, it is still used by lots of people.

    In my organisation’s case these users don’t have a choice, it’s the corporate roll-out browser. It’s the corporate rollout browser because many moons ago several important web apps were written that only work on this browser and to re-write them will be expensive. No doubt there are also a host of other reasons such as the ones that WAF points out earlier in this thread.

    Here is another example to ponder. When I sent the URL of my portfolio when applying for the job here, it would have been viewed by someone here using the corp. browser IE6. If my page was all messed-up do you think they would have given me the job?

  87. 87

    Another great disadvantage of the mentioned IE-7.js is that it slows down the website very much. The bigger the site gets, the slower it will be when using this script. Some time ago I was a big fan of it and planned to use it in a big commerical project.

    Well, I did that and regreted it very much in the end. The website was so slow that it almost got unusable. It took me very much work to get the website to a state that it funtctioned and looked quite good without the IE-7.js script in IE6.

    So I advise everybody to NOT use it except for very small and non-commerical websites. Else you will have much, much headache. I also contacted Dead Edwards, the founder of this script, and informed him of this problem and asked him for advises, but he never got back to me, which is a real shame!

    One last thing about IE6 in generell: Many people don`t have the choice to not use it because they work on a business-pc where only that administrators can upgrade or install new software. Another point is, that I bet there are many people that don`t use legal version of Windows and so will not be able to upgrade their version of Internet Explorer. So it will still be there for a long, long time and will cauce much, much headache and discussions.

  88. 88

    Wow, great way! I hope you know that everything, which is inside the HTML-code, needs to be loaded every time someone accesses it. On the other side if you write something into the CSS-file it gets cached and doesn`t have to be loaded every time. So when you make wrappers for every IE-version you unnecessarily expand your code and your website in general. If you would use seperate CSS-files four every IE-version your users would be much happier …

  89. 89


  90. 90

    Just my POV – text rendering in Windows is still plain awful! Using Windows7 with IE8 and cleartype active. It’s only gotten slightly better from XP to Windows7. I never used Vista before.

    Using @font-face, I’ve tested many fonts (EOT) in IE7 and IE8. Even the cleanest, most legible fonts – IE tears them apart.

    If I was a Windows user, I’d suggest using Safari because of its option of better text rendering.

    I’d like to know what other Windows users (graphic designers) think.

  91. 91

    Well, I think it`s the other way: If you don`t support IE6 they don`t want YOU!

  92. 92

    Wow, what a great post. I totally agree!

  93. 93

    Didrik Nordström

    December 2, 2009 7:17 am

    I think this article lacks something very important, and that is history! Think about it, developing websites is not about supporting browsers, it’s about following standards. If you follow standards, it is probable that it works in future browsers, mobile browsers, not yet famous browsers etc. That is the only light in the tunnel. If we keep wasting our time with that shitty IE6 we will never be evolving, because then they have no reason to upgrade. The ignorance is necessary for evolution. And in this case the only casualties are 15 minutes for the IT-man to install firefox.

    Imagine you’re an architecht and you’re drawing a super awesome amusement park. Then some boring politician comes up and says “hey, you can’t build that, because some kids are allergic to balloons, and some kids are afraid of clowns, and some kids can’t walk in stairs.” Thats too bad but what about all the others? Is this communism or something? If everybody can’t have a piece of the cake, then you trash it?

    I do NOT think that content is the overlord which everything else should be adapted for. What if TV was forbidden because the people with a radio could not use it?

    Don’t waste your time, trash that piece of shit. However, tell your users to upgrade. It’s not their fault they’re retarded

  94. 94

    My opinion is exactly the opposite and it’s probably based on what one is used to

    I haven’t seen anything as nicely readable as cleartyped text, mainly in Vista/7, and I find Safari’s AA very blurry and of bad quality that it’s painful for me to read

  95. 95

    If you’re going to use Eric Meyer’s reset (or tell people to use it in a blog post), make sure it’s the latest version. Not the outdated one linked in this article.

  96. 96


    December 2, 2009 7:34 am

    I just picked this up on my feed and I thought i’d drop in a small comment. I like that this post covers the differences and as we should be able to accept its not usually functionality but more the added tweaks designers add to there work. But the closing statement about how most people dont notice the rounded etc is so true, unless your a developer most people dont use two browsers so in essence the ignorance is bliss, as if your not aware of the “rounded edges” or “frilled up text” you wont miss them

  97. 97


    December 2, 2009 7:38 am

    Just a quick thought on your post although I do agree people should upgrade. You say that content isn’t the overlord but if people aren’t on your site for the content what exactly are they going to go there for.

    The basis of the internet is sharing information, whether its evolving from plain text educational resources to more hobbies, games, video etc is not the point the content remains the core of any development. If you dont have anything to share then no-one wants to go there, why are you on this site, is it for the design? No your here for the articles, the content is why everyone is here, the nice look is just a bonus feature.

  98. 98

    Yes, we need more posts on this aspect!

  99. 99

    DIE ie6 DIEEEE!

  100. 100

    Jason, I’ll gladly take your IE6 customers, and the customers of your customers. Seems like bad business not to market to people just because they are not ‘cool’ enough for ya.

  101. 101

    Because you are getting paid to.

  102. 102

    Good post, I’m forced to support IE6 at work. There’s still a large amount of IE6 users out there but Firefox has been doing pretty well on the statistics for our sites and still growing.

  103. 103

    This was one amazing post that I have read… Great job – Inayaili de Leon… It goes in my delicious… I will come back to this whenever I am stuck anywhere as it has an amazing list sites that will help in solving IE issues…

  104. 104

    We, as web enthusiasts, know ALL about browser issues. We spend a lot of our time debating them. And now consider how most of the websites we design and / or build are for other people with a totally different set of priorities.

    Yes, I’d like everyone to use and getting holier-than-thou just because people make different tech choices than we think they should isn’t as user-centred as it might be when we consider why they don’t upgrade.

    I don’t know anyone else (other than web designers / developers) who gets as excited as I do about CSS3. But that’s not their fault! It’s more important to me that users are able to satisfy their own goals when they visit a site, not that I get to flaunt new tricks.

  105. 105

    Maybe Ashton Kutcher could finally have a purpose?

  106. 106

    I use IE7.js (actually IE8.js) on all my sites so that I can use advanced CSS selectors and do away with unnecessary extra classes or IDs.

    I don’t really see the point of Modernizr at the moment as my approach is to always provide a fallback for browsers that don’t understand a more advanced CSS feature, or only use it if its absence doesn’t negatively impact a layout. About the only CSS feature I’d find useful that would cause problems in browsers that don’t understand it is multiple backgrounds and I can’t see the value of Modernizr for that as I’d nearly always want all the extra imagery to be available to all browsers anyway.

  107. 107

    mmh, sometimes I use Netscape Navigator 4… why didn’t you mention it? ;-)

  108. 108

    Not sure if anyone ever will read my message since it is so far down but:
    This is the first CSS3 property that designers learned to live without on Internet Explorer, because of its clearly decorative nature.” clearly contradicts with this phrase in the new smashing magazine book: “They look nice and add that extra bit of visual polish to your
    interface; but that’s not all they can be used for. Rounded corners define boundaries of objects.”

  109. 109


    December 3, 2009 5:56 am

    What a exceptional, wonderful resources found here…!

  110. 110

    IE – 70% ( IE6 53%, IE7 26%, IE8 20% ) – !@#$% happened and I work in country where IE has that many users.

    I always do for IE6 and in fact its not that much work. Good css and reset is a key to success . Than few hacks and Js for png – result – everything works fine on every computer.

    The websites are for people not only for designer/developers.

  111. 111

    Didrik Nordström

    December 4, 2009 1:05 am

    Still don’t agree :) Content sure is the main thing, however, what I think I meant, is that it’s not the responsibility of site creators to make it available to everyone.

    Should we ban hockey because it’s expensive equipment and not everybody can afford it? Come on, we’re talking like 7 clicks to install firefox. It’s free and all good. What’s the problem here? IE6 is 8 years old ffs! IE7 has been here forever and IE8 is free for all Windows XP-7 users as well.

  112. 112

    Thanks for this article. Rapidly added to my favourites.

  113. 113

    Nikolaos Dimopoulos

    December 7, 2009 5:52 am

    Good post that focuses on some interesting points.

    Like others that have commented, I am too forced to provide support for IE6, although it is an antiquated browser imo. With the announcement of IE9 I find myself using a great deal of my time to make the site look like it does in other browsers (FF/Chrome/Opera/Safari) on a browser that does not adhere to standards…..

    I think that it is really good that we can work around issues like the ones mentioned above (how IE behaves vs. other browsers) but I wonder if it were easier for IE and Microsoft to follow some standards …. Others do so can Microsoft :)


  114. 114

    This is a slightly ironic article given SM’s stance on IE6 during their revamp… but still, in a surprising move, my company upgraded to IE7 over the weekend, so at least now I can visit Smashing Magazine again. So I’m not bitter. :)

  115. 115

    Try looking at this very page in IE6 just for a good laugh.

  116. 116

    Thanks for this very very helpfull info!

  117. 117

    exceptional! I have something good to read this wknd, Thanks!

  118. 118

    For cross-browser friendly font embedding for your title bars and headers etc., you can always use SIFR – a flash replacement technique. So far it was the best method to embed font on specific parts of the site.

  119. 119

    what the…
    very well written article…

    i see it as advanced CSS article rather than article about how to support older browser :P there’s still many CSS tech i’ve never heard :D

  120. 120

    Sign the petition to urge the UK government to upgrade away from IE6.

    You can only sign if you’re a UK citizen. Please tweet this link, put it on facebook or blog about it!

  121. 121

    François Germain

    April 27, 2010 3:43 am

    I found and extended a conditional comments technic which offers some selectors to deal with Internet Explorer and javascript, selectors like :
    .ie, .ie6, .gt-ie5, .lt-ie7…
    Demonstration and source code here :

  122. 122

    Support for Technology

    June 14, 2010 11:32 pm

    i see it as advanced CSS article rather than article about how to support older browser :P there’s still many CSS tech i’ve never heard :Thanks for this very very helpfull info!
    Support for Technology

  123. 123

    Support for Technology

    June 14, 2010 11:34 pm

    i see it as advanced CSS article rather than article about how to support older browser :P there’s still many CSS tech i’ve never heard :Thanks for this very very helpfull info!

  124. 124

    “if the lack of JavaScript will break your layout.”

    i assume you mean in IE6, when using ie7-js.

    but, isn’t ie7-js designed NOT to break anything? in other words, in IE6 browsers without javascript enabled, won’t ie7-js simply do nothing, in which case it’s IE6 that’s breaking your layout, not ie7-js. Further, isn’t ie7-js designed to have no effect at all in non-IE6 browsers, whether or not they have javascript enabled?


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