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 Link

  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’d like about 120 minutes of my life back.

    -4
  2. 23

    This is great! Finally I have a way to explain IE6 to non-techies. I will just forward this link.
    @ Brad I used to follow your strip. Good to see you are back, I really like your work. You should, if you haven’t already, publish a book. I would buy one!

    1
  3. 24

    Nice comic strip. I wish IE6 will be history for webdesigners in about a year. Even MS stops support for ie6 in their new server products like e.g. Sharepoint 2010.

    1
  4. 25

    I like this site a lot and come here everyday during work to get some inspiration…but that was plain boring. Sorry!

    1
    • 26

      Are you kidding me, Chorts? :) I found it funny and clever – nice work, Brad, nice to see the comic here, at Smashing Magazine!

      1
  5. 27

    Basically the coolest comic strip ever.

    1
  6. 28

    I hate when my Internet Explorer 6 sits at home all day and watches TV and gets hairy. He doesn’t even like to be taken out for a walk anymore if it is around newer websites because he is too old to keep up. My Firefox goes so much faster due to the flames coming out of his rear end.

    3
  7. 29

    Love it!

    It was a great comic to read.

    1
  8. 30

    Brilliant comic, Brad!

    0
  9. 31

    nice work brad!

    0
  10. 32

    Excellent comic Brad! Thanks for explaining to us the history of IE6. I didn’t know most of that and it was a fun and interesting read.

    0
  11. 33

    Beautiful comic strip! And it is time for IE6 to stay home and never come out again :-)

    0
    • 34

      If I had it my way I wouldn’t develop for IE6 at all, Unfortunately the market share is too large to deny. The result? We spend far too much time catering to IE6 when we could spend that time productively.

      0
  12. 35

    IE6, scourge for mankind… or… web developers at least.

    0
  13. 36

    I think it’s time for Mr IE6 to retire. He’s had a good and long life, but he’s getting very old now. But because I am nice, I will still lend him a hand in rendering my webpages, so long as he doesn’t mind a little bit of graceful degradation.

    0
  14. 37

    Brad delivers as usual. Awesome cartoon once again, Brad.

    0
  15. 38

    Really? Bush jokes over a year after he’s been out of office? Even Olberman and John Stewart have moved on. It’s just tired.

    0
    • 39

      I was enjoying the comic until the unnecessary Bush joke. Can’t I read anything without politics creeping into it? Give me a break, dude. The Bush-bashing is getting old.

      0
      • 40

        Especially since the chart fits Obama better.

        1
        • 41

          You’re a bunch of crybabies. Go shoot some elks with Sarah. I though it was funny.

          0
          • 42

            Yeah, gee golly, it sure is nice to have Bush out of office huh! Obama has done us a solid by replacing that chart with a new, multi-purpose one with exactly the opposite curve and a new name: The Inflation–National-Debt–Broken-Promises Chart!

            Yesss! I love stagflation and interest on a national debt that is soon going to exceed our entire yearly GDP! You Demz sure iz smartz!

            0
      • 43

        Come on people, the point is all about how old IE 6 is, it is of the Bush and even earlier era. You guys not following what’s being said or something?

        0
        • 44

          yeah to everyone that whines about the politics can suck my D. its a comic get a fkn life.

          and to all designers/devs it’s your responsibility to stop using ie6 and educate your users if you are going to require them to upgrade. I refuse to support it and have a laundry list of reasons why and I use some JS to alert those on ie6 that they need to upgrade. to all the large companies that can’t see a site in ie6, you need to update your IT policy and get with the fkn program.

          Great comic, thanks!

          0
          • 45

            Ditto. I too put in JS alert that sends folks to upgrade to a nice selection of better browsers. I remember when people didn’t want to upgrade from a DOS interface in the late ’80s!
            Change is good.

            Death to IE6! http://www.deathtoie6.com/

            0
    • 46

      Exactly. It was a nice comic until the Bush bashing. There was no need to bring politics into this.

      0
      • 47

        Whether or not you dislike Bush or his administration, it’s a fact of the matter that his popularity declined. Isn’t it always that way, especially in second terms? The president burns himself out from too much campaigning and a ridiculously high-profile, hectic life. Poor guys! Don’t you think we should just fire our presidents as an act of mercy? :o Then they’d have a high-satisfaction but very short term. :D Now everybody’s happy: the people get the high point of the administrations, and the president doesn’t burn himself out completely and leave office in disgrace! I think I’m the best politician on the planet to have come up with that idea!

        1
      • 48

        It was such a nice touch to it that it’s indescribable.

        0
  16. 49

    i love the coach-potato-ie6

    0
  17. 50

    A note: it was not IE6 fighting the browser war with Netscape, but its previous versions 4 and 5.

    0
  18. 51

    Another solid comic/article Brad. Great job!

    0
  19. 52

    Its time is over we should stop designing for it as we had seen in past what developers did with the Win98 after the arrival of WinXP. They stopped developing software with support for Win98.

    I’m not designing anymore for IE6. Its my personal stance and I’m standing on it, already started working on it.

    NO MORE IE6 !!!

    0
  20. 53

    I NEVER comment in Smashing Mag.
    I dont agree smashingmag dropping the support for IE6, cause in my work station this is the only stupid browser i can use.
    But i understand why.
    This is the most AWESOME post in SM history, the only post i can count that bring something to think about.
    I still cant reply to that question, if i should drop or not the support…And thinking about this is a nightmare i cant stand =/
    Wish microsoft did things right just one time..

    Things change…I think everyone should embrance the change and slowly drop the support. Hybrid layouts are still the better choice.

    0
  21. 54

    Christian Schlensker

    February 11, 2010 2:34 pm

    Is Opera playing the part of “The Eye of Sauron” on panel 7? : P

    0
  22. 57

    I tried to explain this to someone in police administration in my city. Their question was: “And what is a browser?” I don’t think even this comic would work for people like them. :(

    But perhaps it’ll work with a friend whom I’ve begging to upgrade since early 2007. Great bedtime comic, thank you. :)

    0
  23. 58

    That was great haha! Brad always makes the best comics and for some reason it felt like I was watching a movie.

    I abandon ie6 a long time ago and am not supporting it any longer. If my websites look messed up for ie6 then o well because you should of moved on by now :)

    0
  24. 61

    The world needs more opinion on IE6 at this point in time. Its cute… but make a statement. The end is weak.

    0
  25. 62

    This is brilliant! I agree with Tai, I’ll be linking this one whenever I come across it as an issue. Thanks Brad!

    0
  26. 63

    May I please have a full-sized wallpaper of the epic IE vs Netscape LOTR panel? Pretty please? :-D

    0
  27. 64

    @ #1. You belong with IE6

    0
  28. 65

    A political joke in a web comic? Really? Because Obama is doing so well? Otherwise it was mildly amusing.

    0
    • 66

      I think it was because the release and decline of IE6 happened almost simultaneously with the release and decline of the Bush administration (2001-2008), so I thought it was quite fitting.

      0
      • 67

        yes steve,

        brandon = the entire american public.

        spot on mate. let’s have a geography trivia session over tea, innit? safe bruv.

        0
    • 68

      8 years of that embarrassing moron Bush in the Whitehouse and you won’t even give Obama a couple of years to make an impact? How fickle the American public is. Perhaps Obama should start a few more wars, it seems like you yanks aren’t happy unless you’re invading somewhere none of you can place on a map.

      0
  29. 69

    great comic!! ;)

    0
  30. 70

    I loved that.

    It was refreshing to read something that was well informed and addressed the history correctly instead of crying “OMG IE6 is sh*t!!”

    It’s rather interesting to see why people still use it, to be honest I’ve never had problems supporting it, I usually just simplify my designs for the browser and everything still looks great (and chances are if they’re using an older browser, then they have a slower connection and will thank you for the lighter load times).

    I know a lot of people pin their hopes on the death of ie6, but I find that those people are usually the lazy designers/developers. Rather than seeing it as a chore, use it as a challenge. Learn about why those quirks are appearing, you’ll eventually find that catering for ie6 only adds about half an hour on your development time.

    0
    • 71

      That’s not true. I used to support it as well (and it was quite easy for me too), but since many major companies have stopped supporting IE6 (even Microsoft itself doesn’t support its browser) I saw no point to continuing to code for it. It’s probably at the same point 10 years ago when people had to decide whether to continuing supporting IE5…I’m sure there were a few people still using it, but eventually they upgraded. The same needs to happen as well. Has nothing to do with being “lazy”.

      0
      • 72

        I’m going to disagree with you on this. I do see it as lazy, or perhaps sloppy. But it is important to do as the comic mentions and look at your audience. Just because Microsoft no longer support IIE6, doesn’t mean your audience will stop using it. At least have the decency to serve up a viewable website for your users (design blogs need not apply)

        0
    • 73

      …agree with you in almost everything except the half and hour, you must be some kind of devgod…

      0
      • 74

        Haha, not a devgod, I just have a few tricks and expected quirk solutions I can quickly refer to (or even the odd css reset sheet if I’m feeling dangerous – haha!)

        0
  31. 75

    Would’ve been a great comic except for the stupid Bush joke. Why not show Obama’s crappy ratings? Let’s stick to web development and design on here please.

    0
    • 76

      Amber, as I previously commented, I think he included that joke because the rise and decline of the Bush administration was almost completely in synch with the release and fall of IE6, timing-wise.

      0
      • 77

        The point is that there was no need to bring politics into the subject, let alone jab a specific political figure. By doing so, the author alienates many readers who supported that political figure, right or wrong. So either the author simply overlooked that cardinal rule, or used the post to fire a pot-shot at a political party. Either way, it tarnished the otherwise great comic and message.

        0
        • 78

          Jim, do you really think that anyone is going to stop reading a web design magazine because a cartoonist made a joke about Bush’s approval ratings?

          If he had mentioned the approval ratings of Britney Spears, would that have been inappropriate too, because it alienates Britney Spears fans? I really don’t see why everyone is getting so sensitive about this issue. A lot of things are mentioned or illustrated in this cartoon that have nothing to do with web design, so the Bush thing is not as out of place as people are suggesting.

          0
          • 79

            Louis: Of course I don’t expect people to stop reading the entire magazine over this–that’d be a silly assertion. But it certainly appears to at least bothered or annoyed some of the readers of this post (as evidenced by many of the comments).

            I don’t think Bush vs. Spears is a fair comparison, because let’s face it, taking a shot at GW is also taking a shot at conservatism and capitalism, which rings home to many more people than Britney can even count.

            In addition to bothering some readers, it has also detracted from the whole point of the post, as evidenced by this continuing debate on the use of politics in technical forums, versus…wait…was the post about again? ;-)

            0
          • 80

            One has to accept that people may think differently than onself and express themselves accordingly. Internet is sort of a free world (excepting China).
            If the autor wants or needs to throw in a political joke, let him, respect that.

            0
  32. 81

    Hurry up and die IE6

    0
  33. 82

    Love the part about Bush.

    0
  34. 85

    I put a large bold message to IE6 users (conditional comments) saying that the browser is no longer recommended by Microsoft due to security issues and asking them to upgrade to IE8 or something better (like FF/Chrome/Opera). I think I got the idea for Perishable Press.

    I think that at this point the best way to get folks to upgrade is to simply not support it. If enough developers/services stop supporting it people will upgrade. I am so glad to see Google drawing the line too.

    I sincerely cannot believe that anyone is ok looking at the web in that browser. It’s like driving an ’83 Chevette.

    0
  35. 86

    IE6 IS A PAIN FOR WEB DESIGNERS!!!!

    0
  36. 88

    Great work Brad. I love the representation of the IE icon – and happy Clippy overlooking from behind!

    0
  37. 89

    Yawn. I get so tired of people moving this very technical discussion to an emotional level. Drawing anti-IE6 comics, making anti-IE6 music and videos, wearing anti-IE6 t-shirts. Seriously, you could get the impression that IE6 is a dictatorship torturing its users. Why invest so much energy that you could spend so much better? It’s not like IE6 will go away, it’s still going to be around for quite a while, and there’s virtually nothing you can do to make it go away any faster.

    Take it from someone who, with one of the largest client you can work for, was contractually required to support Netscape 4 up until 2005: I celebrated the day when IE6 became the common ground. With cake. I simply fail to see the harm in IE6 co-existing with other browsers. When it comes to authoring, IE6 certainly isn’t ball and chains, it’s more like a kid you have to take by the hand and explain some things more thoroughly.

    Besides, I’m a strong believer in the “Don’t mention the mechanics” principle of web design. That includes messages to the user that his browser is outdated for whatever technical reason. It’s last century’s “best viewed with” message, just reworded.

    0
    • 90

      Smashing Editorial

      February 11, 2010 3:41 pm

      Dear Ed,

      the purpose of this comic strip is mostly educational. We are not saying “Die, IE6, die”; instead, we are trying to explain the development of the browser and the current state of things.

      0
      • 91

        I get the educational intent of the comic (it’s not that subtle, duh). It reminds me of those graphically “clean”, but dreadfully unfunny educational comics our government feels to issue from time to time. And yet I can’t help but thinking that it cannot possibly make any impact. The comic itself says it: Either you don’t have a choice, or you don’t care. The former you can educate as much as you like, the latter won’t bother to read through a lengthy (and, to the technically unitiated, quite unfunny) comic chuck full of technicalities.

        I believe that we have arrived at a point an audience you can educate to actually make a change is virtually non-existant. I believe now you just have to sit it out, let IT departments (who, at this point, would be more than happy to move away from IE6, believe me) elevate their users, let existing old OS and browser installations die out with their machines.

        Which leaves the comic to be a collection of in-jokes for an already educated audience. I wish I remembered the exact quote and who made it: An audience doesn’t applaud because it likes the music, it applauds its own ability to recognize a song. When I look at the comments, I feel that’s exactly what’s happening here.

        0
    • 99

      I promise you, this guy Ed is no web designer. ANYONE who writes HTML, javascript, and most importantly CSS knows why IE6 is such a beast and a horrible mess. From the box model to the lack of CSS2, the lack of proper floats and clears to the lack of proper media tags to the numerous zero day flaws based in ActiveX – IE as a whole, but especially IE, is a web designer’s nightmare. Anyone who is seriously about web designer or programming knows this. If you claim to be a designer and don’t agree, you’re not a very good designer.

      0
      • 100

        As Ed mentioned the “Don’t mention the mechanics” principle I have far more respect from him as a designer. Taking the user experience in consideration is a design perspective. Making sure it looks as good as it works for everyone is a design perspective. From someone who mentioned mostly development issues I’d say you’re not a designer.

        You also could have said everything you did without instigating.

        0
      • 101

        Adam,

        you are absolutely right in your assessment that IE6 is the “worst case” we web designers currently have to cater to. But there’s always a “worst case”. Today it’s IE6, tomorrow it’s Opera 9.0, and the next day it’s the aftermath of Mozilla dropping support for MacOS 10.4.

        My point is that IE6 is not nearly as bad to support as you make it sound. Actually, the CSS part is the least problem when supporting IE6: Bringing the box model, floats (along with the margins), and some more obsucre bugs in line is a matter of a few workarounds. The bigger problems I see in complex web applications’ JavaScript part, I am certain the high-profile applications are having quite a headache with IE6.

        Still, the need for workarounds for a browser’s quirks has always been, and always will be. They come with the trade. I have been a web designer (and quite successfully, I assure you) since 1996. As far as browser incompatibilities are concerned, I could tell you quite a few war stories. Believe me, when I look back to what we had to put up with just half a decade ago, the current situation – yes, including IE6 – is heaven.

        0
    • 102

      @Ed: In your comment you said:

      “Why invest so much energy that you could spend so much better?”

      I think people don’t mind spending so much energy because if it can convince even just 10 people to upgrade to a better browser, it is time and energy well spent (and with over 200K RSS readers on SM, I have a feeling it’ll be more than 10)

      How should people spend their energy? Taking IE6 by the hand? No, thanks! There’s tons of things we can do to make it go away faster. Creating a comic is one of them imo.

      0
      • 103

        @Jon: Agreed to what you say.

        I guess most people who visited SM would have some sort of knowledge on what’s good for them. In the first place, someone who doesn’t bother about Web wouldn’t have visited SM.

        “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

        0
    • 104

      “My point is that IE6 is not nearly as bad to support as you make it sound.”

      Your static HTML/CSS pages and brochure sites != modern web apps.

      0
      • 105

        Jacob,

        I fail to see where I ever said anything else, quite on the contrary, I acknowledged the pain of web application developers in a former comment. I am fully aware, also from first-hand experience, that IE6 is a completely different beast when it comes to developing complex functionality.

        But thanks for reiterating the difference between web apps providing function and web sites providing information. And why it’s perfectly valid to set requirements for the former, yet absolutely not okay to deny anyone the access to the latter.

        And, finally, on behalf of all web designers who create those “unmodern static HTML/CSS sites” (like, umm, let’s say, Smashing Magazine): Thanks for looking down on us.

        0
        • 106

          You marginalize the difficulty of supporting IE6 based only in your experience of designing static HTML/CSS. You mock developers who can’t move forward because they need to support IE6. You basically say, “Eh, it’s not that hard, why are you throwing a stink? I can do it, why can’t you?” with your statement: “My point is that IE6 is not nearly as bad to support as you make it sound.”

          I think you’re the one who has taken the superior, greater-than-thou tone by trivializing the efforts of other people. “Believe me, when I look back to what we had to put up with just half a decade ago, the current situation – yes, including IE6 – is heaven.”

          So today’s developers have it easy? Not only is that untrue (I’ve been making websites 5 years ago too), but quite insulting.

          The major argument of dropping support for IE6 is not for HTML/CSS-only sites, it’s for modern web applications and dynamic websites such as Gmail, Basecamp, and Digg. Security, cost of development time, performance, and not being able to take advantage of modern web techniques and technologies are all valid reasons to sell your clients into dropping support for IE6. We can live with CSS hacks. But what we can’t live with is memory leaks, security vulnerabilities, and performance issues that must be dealt with just for IE6. You spend a disproportionate amount of your time dealing with that one browser, when there are two major versions of it that’s out and free to download. That type of backwards compatibility is illogical anywhere else but web development.

          0
  38. 107

    I enjoyed the depictions of IE aging, Security and the Vista rocket exploding in space.

    Brad, should you be hiring an attorney after this one?

    0
  39. 108

    Absolutely Brilliant Comic Strip!

    I myself design websites with different style sheets catering for each browser, but I really wish that IE6 could be BANNED from the internet somehow.

    0
  40. 109

    Great visual history of IE6. MS thought they owned the web after the release of this once superior browser, but now almost 9 years later we have seen that nobody owns the web. IE7 and IE8 show progress, but I can’t wait for IE9, it will probably rock he boat again. MS is serious about this one.

    0
  41. 110

    i think u guys just made me develop feelings for an internet browser…

    0
  42. 111

    That comic reads like an Esurance commercial. I’d prefer this site didn’t become a political soapbox either, especially without any legitimate relevance. A lot of things happened over the 160 years we’ve had to deal with IE6. The comic is informative; the Bush bashing adds nothing to it.

    0
    • 112

      How is it Bush bashing?

      I don’t understand why readers are making a big stink over the Bush thing in the cartoon. The decline of the Bush administration is a historical fact (it’s not an opinion, nor is it “bashing”), and it occured at almost the exact same time as the decline of IE6, over a period of about 8 years. I think it’s very funny and fits well as a side joke in the cartoon.

      0
      • 113

        Louis, it’s bashing when a very blatant piece of commentary is added to a comic that has absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand. Considering a lot of things happened over that period other than Bush’s presidency, I’d say that makes it quite obvious. Personally I would prefer politics stayed off of this web site, and I’ve already stated that. It’s just plain annoying.

        0
        • 114

          Aaron, rocket ships blasting into outer space likewise have “nothing to do with the topic at hand”, but you don’t seem to have a problem with that being included.

          It was just a joke based on a historical fact. I see nothing wrong with including it as a humorous “aside”, the same way that the rocket ship was included, even though it has nothing to do with web design.

          0
          • 115

            I agree Louis. And I thought it did have to do with the topic because they happened at the same time. It adds a nice timeframe to when this was occurring, it was nowhere else evident as to when certain things happened. And this is the “life” of IE6.

            0
    • 116

      Who cares if it’s bashing Bush? It’s a comic, it’s supposed to make you laugh. If you didn’t find the joke funny, so what? Does that ruin the educational aspect of the rest of the comic? No. You see jokes like this all the time, there’s nothing special about this one.

      He is widely regarded as the worst president in American history anyways, and nobody cares about offending him or any of his supporters. It might be annoying, but it’s not going away for just that reason.

      0
  43. 117
  44. 118

    Great comic!

    Cant believe people are taking it so seriously! lol

    0
  45. 119

    Ronald | Naldz Graphics

    February 11, 2010 5:31 pm

    thumbs up for the comic strip. thumbs down for IE6.

    0
  46. 120

    awesome comic! love it! The beginning is my inner voice~~

    0
  47. 121

    Ah, wonderful cartoon mate. IE6 does have a very large history, which is nicely explained within this comic. A job well done, Brad.

    0
  48. 122

    Ed’s ‘quote’ about audiences applauding their own ability to recognize stuff is quite accurate.

    Moreover, it’s easy to jump a bandwagon. I’d rather be educated about ways to effectively gracefully support IE6 :)

    0
  49. 123

    the best part of this post is if you dont have 970px width, the page crushes on itself and doesnt display all of the content of the comic, in safari anyway…

    0
  50. 124

    Matthew Heidenreich

    February 11, 2010 6:15 pm

    great comic. I can’t wait to stop supporting crappy IE6… i always seem to find a way to make it look decent enough though for it.

    0

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