The Life, Times (and Death?) of Internet Explorer 6 (Comic Strip)

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In recent years Internet Explorer 6 has become the browser web designers love to hate. Security issues, JavaScript errors and inexplicable CSS rendering quirks have made it the brunt of many jokes. With IE6 in its twilight and big companies like Google dropping support1, it seems like a good time to take a fond look back at our old foe. In this post we’re looking at what Internet Explorer 6 used to be and why its image changed over the years. You can also see the comic in a larger version2.

Do we need to review our projects in Internet Explorer 6? Can we stop supporting IE6? If not, how do we handle those users who are still using IE6? And if yes, how can we prompt IE6 users to upgrade? Or how do we convince those who don’t allow their employees to get rid of the legacy browser to upgrade? What do you think? We are looking forward to your opinions in the comments to this post!

Part 13

Part 24

Part 35

Part 46

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://googleenterprise.blogspot.com/2010/01/modern-browsers-for-modern-applications.html
  2. 2 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/ie6-comic-strip.jpg
  3. 3 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/ie6-comic-strip.jpg
  4. 4 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/ie6-comic-strip.jpg
  5. 5 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/ie6-comic-strip.jpg
  6. 6 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/ie6-comic-strip.jpg

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Brad Colbow is a web designer living and working in Cleveland Ohio (USA). He is also the creator of the weekly web comic "The Brads" about two web designers trying to start a small company. You can follow him on twitter here.

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  1. 1

    I laughed, I cried, and I loved the Bush approval rating chart gag! Maybe others didn’t, but I found it very entertaining! Thanks!! :)

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  2. 52

    Well said. Well done.

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  3. 103

    Thanks Brad for wonderful comic. I feel like IE6 will still survive for some more years

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  4. 154

    Nice comic strip! The style is so similar to that of Scott McCloud.
    And yes – Go to hell IE6. I just wish it could have been one of those monsters in Dante’s Inferno so that I could take all my revenge with my death’s scythe!! :D

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  5. 205

    love this comic

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  6. 256

    Love it! I think I found a new favorite web comic.

    To the people complaining about the Bush joke…You’re assuming this comic was made recently and specifically for this website. I highly doubt the intention was to “turn this website into a political soapbox”, more likely it was something that was already created and also applied here (the subject being IE6, not the political joke that took up 2 panels out of 32). The joke probably was relevant when the comic was first made. Notice it makes the reference to IE6 being 8 years old, and if it came out in 2001…

    Seriously…its not that big of a deal.

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  7. 307

    Nice comic.
    Believe it or not, IE6’s life expectancy is totally up to us. The more we support it the longer it lives. The less we support it the more casual surfers and corporate types realize that it doesn’t work fine at all. In the past we provided them a convenient illusion that it did.
    There is a section in my agreement form stating that the site I build doesn’t have to be backwords compatible with browsers more than 8 years old. I think it’s fair enough.
    Graceful degradation is fine, but the hassle with conditional comments / extra style sheets for lame browsers is annoying and time consuming.
    Sure, there are some projects that you cannot ignore IE6 because of its market share, but it is really up to the average age of your target audience imho. Anyways, whenever a client insists on IE6 compatibility I’m charging extra for it.

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    • 358

      PGabor i wholeheartedly agree with this. I could not have said it better, we are employing the same tactics as you mention to do our little part in making the beast disappear. (not supporting ie6 anymore unless the customer wants it and then we charge additional fee)

      Some people say we are lazy or even incompetent developers and that we always should make any site look perfect in IE6 but i do not agree, this monster has been around too long and it is time for it to lay down it’s old and weary head and die (i won’t attend it’s funeral by the way)

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  8. 409

    Haha…good one…

    if(browser==IE){explode_processor(); }

    else{keep browsing;}

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  9. 460

    I love to have ie6.

    But I think having workarounds and designing for ie6 is easier then convincing non-technical executives of large corporations.

    IE6 has direct relation with Windows XP. We will have to support ie6 untill the OSs are upgraded and Microsoft stops to support Win XP.

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  10. 511

    I liked the respect given in the comic for IE6’s heyday but those days are past. This browser should have been drawn needing a walker and wearing depends. It is clearly in its waning days living in a nursing home. Microsoft decision to sit on its laurels and not pay attention to W3 until it was too late cost them customer trust. IE7 was a band aide and I can see why with such as history that people did not flock to IE8 when it came out last year.

    Microsoft has 62% of the market shared between its 3 main versions. IE6 as of Jan 2010 according to NetShare Market still has 20% of the market. It is dropping every month. I made over my portfolio web site for the fifth time since 1994 in October when IE6’s market share was 24%. I decided that since according to my web stats only 4% of my audience is on IE6 it was not worth it to me to spend the extra hours, no days, of tweaking the code to work the way I wanted. Those on IE6 are greeted with “Sorry but your browser is not supported. Please upgrade.” Some of my clients have also dropped support and others are using 17% market share as their threshold of when they will no longer support. It cost money to code only for this one browser and in this market clients are hesitant to spend the resources. Today I have to work on fixing a padding issue that is only appearing in IE6 instead of doing something else.

    Personally, I am becoming suspicious that for those who are forced to use IE6 at work it is an attempt of the work place to keep people from browsing the web for personal purposes:)

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    • 562

      17%? You are not being serious, are you? I seriously wonder what kind of business can afford to tell one out of six customers entering its store to piss off. And the argument is cost? How much does it cost to permanently lose a customer who, by visiting your site, actually already indicated interest?

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      • 613

        Are you losing your mind

        February 27, 2010 10:24 am

        Seriously, i don’t want IE6 customers… I want them to stay the hell away. If an individual or company is still using IE6, they are either too stupid, or there’s no way they have the budget to pay me what it would take to do anything for them. If someone came to me asking for an IE6 compliant browser, my quote would be easily 10x my normal price for the same project because I don’t WANT those clients, it’s a waste of my precious hair that would be removed during the process.

        Using your “1 in 6″ analogy, if 1 in 6 customers were to cheap to actually buy anything, ever, i wouldn’t want them in my store, and I wouldn’t want their referral either. If 1 in 6 customers were shoplifters, they could take a hike too. You are using pointless, and unrelated rhetoric to make an invalid point.

        I want to run a Lexus dealer, not a McDonalds. You are honestly as dense as they come Ed, wake up and smell the coffee, and stop making my life so frigging miserable by saying IE “isn’t that bad”

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  11. 664

    I agree with Goldendog 100%.
    As long we support the dinossaur, it will always have an audience. Having an audience we will think about loosing our time by trying to fix it`s goddamn stupidities. Doing that, we allow its audience to remain. It`s a cycle of crap. Not to mention what that means in the matter of quality, criativity and everything related to our work.

    This is an issue of most importance.
    I seem to never find people discussing it seriously. We, webdesigners, should be responsable for the maintenance (or not) of this dinossaur (IE6). It means a great deal for the future of our work and also the web in general. Yet, nobody seems to discuss it seriosly. Ed said about “nothing we can do”. I couldn`t desagree more. It`s this kind of perspective that mantained this sort of “status quo”. And even if it was true, that`s not an excuse for not talking about it. Let`s not be, as we say in portuguese, “over the wall”. We have to choose a side to jump.

    I want to know your opinions about the issue itself. Not the way Brad exposed.
    The exposure of the theme was great, by the way, in many ways. Sorry about my english. Not my mother language.

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    • 715

      André,

      don’t worry. It’s not mine either, you are coming across perfectly fine. To reiterate my argument: I believe everyone who is willing and able to upgrade to a better browser has already done so. This includes big companies’ IT departments. We are stuck with a market share of overall about 10% who are stuck with IE6. And: I believe it’s almost entirely the result of choice, whether it’s their own or their superiors’, not of a lack of education.

      I can see three scenarios here:
      a) People cannot choose a better browser than IE6. Educating those is pointless because it’s not within their power to change. That’s the “corporate environment” scenario I attribute most of the market share to. This market share will go away as soon as their superiors, who are usually already educated about this issue, is able and willing to drop IE6.
      b) People deliberately chose to use IE6. Those people have a mighty high pain threshold. Educating them is pointless because they already have the arguments and choose to ignore them. If you’re savvy enough to choose which browser to use, you simply must have come across any number of arguments against IE6. I fear that this share of people will stick around, but I also think that it is not a very large amount of people.
      c) People are technologically illiterate. Educating them may make _some_ sense, but chances are they are easily overwhelmed by tech talk. And out of fear to change something to the worse, they choose to not make any change at all. Those people will, in time, get or buy another computer, have their system set up new, and with that change to another browser.

      I’ve seen this before, with Netscape 3, Netscape 4, and IE5(.5), but back then the social part of the web wasn’t nearly as pronounced as it is today, developers were suffering in silence, nowadays they cry out in public. I don’t want to sound like your grandpa, but this will also pass. In a few years’ time, we’ll all laugh about it. And get equally annoyed with IE7, Netscape 3, or whatever browser will be the weakest then.

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      • 766

        Many IE 6 users are found in the working places of mostly large companies. Reasons why IT departments of those companies do not say goodbye to IE6 are that applications that are used in these companies are often build around IE6 and the IT people are scared that there will be problems or that applications will fail if IE6 is traded for a better browser. Just enrolling a companywide browser upgrade should not be too costly but many companies ar still using old operating systtems like Windows ME (my company) Windows 2000 or XP

        The best thing to do (i have advised it on the latest meeting in my company) is to keep IE6 for the company applications that cannot use other browsers and to install Firefox on every computer for normal browsing.

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      • 817

        ...A.Lot.O.Crap...

        February 12, 2010 5:49 am

        Culture change, society change and people’s behavior change, my son, who is 3 years old, sits at my desk, power on my pc (running linux), waits, takes the mouse with his little hand and plays supertux… my dad (who died last year at 56), have a facebook account, used firefox, and he was a retired cop, not a techie or something… If the world functions the way you think It does, then basically all of us we’ll be lazy bastards that wouldn’t give a fuck about anything at all… just because the world, like it is, works, there wouldn’t be advances or anything… I work at a corporation and maybe we don’t use the browsers we like, but at least is not IE6 anymore (IE7 at least)… so if you think that doesn’t make sense to even try you should take a real look around you and wake up…

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      • 868

        I kind of disagree with how its not a lack of education. Whether it’s someone who isn’t very tech savvy, or a corporate environment where the individuals don’t have admin rights, somewhere along the line someone ignored prompts to upgrade based on the fact that they don’t see a need for it. Non-tech savvy users think they’re seeing web pages just fine, so why upgrade to something different? Corporate IT departments don’t see a reason to spend the time to upgrade the browsers of everyone in the company, because they feel most sites work fine in IE6. If we keep spending extra time and money to fix problems in IE6, people using IE6 will never see a need to change. If it’s a problem with a company having applications that use IE6 and don’t work in newer browsers, then that company obviously doesn’t realize that they should keep up with technology, and doesn’t feel the need to upgrade.

        Yes, it will pass in time, and as long as Microsoft keeps releasing browsers, we’ll have more to complain about. I’m even starting to find IE8 specific issues with my company’s website. Strange when something works just fine in IE6, IE7, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, but not IE8…

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  12. 919

    A agree with Goldendog 100%.
    As long we support the dinossaur, it will always have an audience. Having an audience we will think about loosing our time by trying to fix it`s goddamn stupidities. Doing that, we allow its audience to remain. It`s a cycle of crap. Not to mention what that means in the matter of quality, criativity and everything related to our work.

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  13. 970

    I’d like to see the cell where ie6 is down and out, beer drinking as a wallpaper.

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  14. 1021

    good to see that only 1.8% of visitors to my site are using IE6

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  15. 1072

    Ed, I can`t say you don`t have a point. But in the end it seems to be a matter of choice. This choice most take place on the ground of valueing what`s most important for you and for your work, not only on what it`s possible to change immediately. What I mean is that perhaps it is worth to loose one of six customers, like you said, if that means improving your work in terms of, well, almost everything. That might mean, in the end, loosing one of nine customers in the future. And then one in twenty.

    My experience is that a lot of people working on web support IE6 because they`re to frighted to risk that one in six.

    About you looking like a grandpa, i do hope you`re one of those who`s always right in the end!

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  16. 1123

    It would be great if we got it in animation.

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  17. 1174

    The author manages to convey the message. He wants us to make the decision ourselves. But in my opinion it’s very clear & out there.

    It’s time we kiss IE6.0 goodbye.

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  18. 1225

    Cool story. Will there be an part 2? What about IE 8?

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  19. 1276

    Some true insights on I.E which most of us didnt know.. specially the 4-5 year gap. Loved the comic strip by brad as always! :)

    cheers

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  20. 1327

    this kind of comics are pretty amazing..jokes and humor in the post.Maybe you should stick with this kind of method..it’s really cool and fun to read it..

    thanks a lot, definitely I will abandon IE, I’m using FF and Chrome right now and still don’t understand why people love IE in my country other than more advance browsers.

    Maybe the older user still love to use IE for their web browser, but there are also few of them still did not know what the browser means..

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  21. 1429

    Great comic as usual, It has all that I despise IE and bush lol. F*** both.

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  22. 1480

    A truly awesome homage to Scott McCloud if ever I saw one :) Gj.

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  23. 1531

    Great and interesting comic strip!
    Thanks for creating this Brad.

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  24. 1582

    :) I like that!
    I must say, as a designer and developer, I totally abandoned ie6 support some months ago. I also do not provide alternative content or gracefully degradable pages at all: it would cost too much for my clients. I simply code aligned with the ie7/8 features and that’s all.
    Sadly and obviously, as a Mac user, I hate to have to do it..

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  25. 1633

    Fantastic comic^^, like how it turns out and the way it is told. I myself hate IE6, but I love it because it’s a challenge to make something work on an old Browser.

    Still in the end…. shoo IE6.

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  26. 1684

    great stuff, but i think all this campaign “kill IE 6″ is wrong…

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  27. 1735

    we at saismo decided to NOT support IE6 for future releases – exceptions will be made for clients who insist on supporting IE6, but they have to pay the extra work for fixing the problems with this dinosaur…

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  28. 1786

    the solution is simple… have ie6 support as an additional extra, then the client can decide if they want to support it or not.

    Yes, ie6 gives our developers headaches, but they have never not been able to fix a very complex website to work in ie6, it just takes a bit of time and a lot of skill. Every good developer should be developing to an audience, if the audience needs ie6 support then give it to them… nobody ever said it was easy, lol.

    nice comic, informative, but leave out the jokes…

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  29. 1837

    Great strip! Yes as designers we’d love to see IE6 walk off into the sunset, but as the cartoon so nicely points out many of the IE6 users either can’t upgrade due to work systems (I know plenty of people who suffer at the hands of this) or are less tech savvy and see no reason to change.

    So when you have to design for a large etailing company it’s always important for me to reach as many potential customers as possible. Hopefully the audience reach will outway the many headaches that IE6 still brings.

    Great job Brad!

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  30. 1888

    I’m not a real web designer but sometimes I like to design something and one thing what I’ve learn is IE6 holds back web evolution. We cant use CSS3 and HTML5. I know that these technologies are new and still experimental but many browsers already supports custom fonts, text shadow, video tag, rounded corners and so on. These features are helping to make easier to design and making website loading faster (smaller amount images are needed, most of work is done by browser). I don’t support IE6 anymore although I try to make small changes so it can be viewed in that browser. IE6 must die. Stop supporting it, users will upgrade if no one supports it.

    Sorry about my crappy english :)

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    • 1939

      IE6 death will not unleash CSS3 and HTML5 (which are still drafts), IE7, 8, FF2 and FF3.0 and so many others don’t support css3 and html5. not gona happen any time soon.

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  31. 1990

    What is this comic’s license?
    Can I public this? Can I translate this?

    I think, if everyone helps, it can happen. :)

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    • 2041

      I second that. Would like to translate to brazilian portuguese and release back to public. Some CC license would be great.

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  32. 2092

    More people are using IE6 then MAC (5%).
    Why not write a strip about getting people to leave MAC for other OS’s?
    It would save me a lot of time not having to test on a MAC.

    BTW: I don’t like IE6 but I understand why it’s still used.

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    • 2143

      5% Using OSX must be a miscalculation seeing as my statistics show 60% of my visitors being OSX. Also, this leave mac for windows argument is getting old. IE6 is the problem here, thus i’ve already ended support for it. When users visit my site with IE6 they are ALLOWED to see my website, but they’ll get a very annoying javascript overlay every time they load a page.

      I rather annoy them to get Firefox then spend another 5 hours per project to fix all the bugs only related to IE6.

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      • 2194

        ...A.Lot.O.Crap...

        February 12, 2010 5:54 am

        Actually is not a miscalculation… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_operating_systems …is just that you don’t have a wide audience…

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        • 2245

          I suggest looking at the references of that wikipedia page. The info on there is more than 1 year old.

          According to more recent references. In the past 3Q’s the market share of Safari went up by 3%. Whereas the market share of IE6 went down by 15%. Nice try though.

          And EVEN if you were correct about the safari usage. Have you bothered to check how much of the percentage of firefox are mac users?

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    • 2296

      You can upgrade from IE6 for free, but you can’t change OS’ for free (well, unless you use Linux, but even fewer people use that than OSX). You can’t compare the two anyways, they’re on totally different levels.

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  33. 2347

    I look at it like this:

    All the stats I have for sites show that IE6 still accounts for 10% of IE users. Some more, some less but the average for a generic shopping site is 10% of IE users. With IE still dominant that is a large chunk of visitors so my view is this:

    If a site has 1,000 sales a year it would roughly lose 65 sales a year if I hadn’t catered for IE6. If I have to spend an extra half a day to help IE6 (even if it’s just to degrade gracefully) the client is still quids in. To this day I simply cannot justify (in my own head) not supporting IE6 because when you look at the bigger picture (like yearly sales) you can quickly see that extra bit of work could have got the client dozens more sales over the year.

    I am “limiting” my IE6 support for info sites and I’m slightly increasing my use of CSS3 because it can be a very useful tool on some sites. I still can’t personally justify dropping IE6 until the market share is below 1%. At that point that extra half a day simply wouldn’t be worth it.

    It’s the same as browser resolutions – As soon as 640×480 went below 1% I dropped support. When 1024 hits the same stat I’ll drop it.

    10% of IE users is still too big a number for me…

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    • 2398

      I totally agree with you, but on some aspects I’m not as benevolent as to wait for 1%

      as for screen res. goes, I discovered, that most people that still have 800×600 res (mostly because they are short sighted), they often use the browser’s zoom to reduce de size to about 75% to fit in the window. From that moment on, I forgot about 800x600px, even though my stats show more than 10% using that res.

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  34. 2449

    Degrade gracefully!! Give an honor to this browser. In its golden days served with best it can provide. Its time to hear call from heaven IE6… Goodbye IE6.. we love you.. RIP

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  35. 2500

    Great way to tell this story!: ) Love your work.
    I agree with Simon, it’s still too big a number and needs consideration. Bring on the day 1%

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  36. 2551

    Great Post Brad :) ;)

    i have stop using a separate css for ie 6 with wasting loads of time, so people checking the sites in the IE 6 will see the horrible side of the IE 6 and then they will find a better browser or atleast upgrade to the newer version of IE.

    Hates IE 6 (No Tabs, slow., etc)
    Loves Firefox (Tabs, Fast, lots of addons., etc )

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  37. 2602

    Good clean fun and makes a good point! I like it!

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  38. 2653

    it’s a good comic but that was not a joke…

    I think Microsoft needs to be get better to Internet Explorer in comparison of other Browsers..

    Truly now i am a big fan of Mozilla Firefox.

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  39. 2704

    Nice one (:

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  40. 2755

    Really cool comic strip. Nicely done Brad.

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  41. 2806

    Ahhahah, nice! I’ve enjoyed this comic :)
    We totally stopped supporting IE6 last year.

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  42. 2857

    interesting..

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  43. 2908

    Podveg Razvedcheka

    February 12, 2010 3:50 am

    I have IE6 on my computer still to test pages. And Firefox Mozzilla.

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  44. 2959

    You should keep your dump@ss political comments to yourself!

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    • 3010

      Nice comment. What you’re saying is that you think freedom of speech should be revoked? If you don’t like his political comments then write your own cartoon.

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  45. 3061

    Great story :).

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  46. 3112

    IE6 took my youth, and my hair…

    Good riddance.

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  47. 3163

    I wish IE6 to die and RIP … but they still support it until 2012???

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  48. 3214

    Great article.
    We spend many hours to adjust the code for IE6. It’s very, very bad for business.

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  49. 3265

    Wonderfull Man… I am going to celebrate this day as IE6 death day, Shell We…

    Thanks & Regards,
    DesigningStudios

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  50. 3316

    Great interpretation!

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