Internet Explorer 6.0 died today: Chicago frontend developer remembers


Today, Microsoft officially stopped support for IE6.
...and the frontend developers around Chicago rejoiced.

When I started in web design the internet was not a place for artists who cared about their pixels. You didn't start your mockups in Adobe programs. You created layouts and added graphics to them. By the time Netscape 4 and Internet Explorer 5 for Mac was released you could create 20-30 nested tables and get your graphics and layouts to match on just about every browser during that time. PROBLEM SOLVED! right? Then some smart people got together and decided the web needed standards and that content should be seperate from layout. Dammit.

After Microsoft started brushing their shoulders off from creating a little known thing called AJAX, they said to themselves, "Hey CSS is the future, let's support the crap out of... kinda." The problem was that the box-model had yet to be formalized. Do borders on divs count as part of a width of a div? As more and more things entered the web design ecosystem, the support got funkier and funkier. After 10 years (50-100 earth years), what was to become the future started looking and functioning a lot like Mom's basement.

Dev 1: "Hey, when we scroll in IE6, why do the bullets disappear?"
Dev 2: "Oh did you declare a position:relative on the ul or ol?"
Dev 1: "[expletive]"

or

Dev 1: "How do I get transparent pngs to work?"
Dev 2: "ActiveX plugin, or gif x2 and make sure you don't have links in there as IE6 has a problem with active anchor tags on top of transparency."

As late as 2009, places like Blast Radius(formerly DesignKitchen), Razorfish, Manifest Digital, Arc, Critical Mass, Accenture, etc couldn't close a single SOW without including the IE6 support requirement. In many cases, Chicago companies that were in all-ie6 environments like Motorola and Sears, were having to add $10,000's to all their project budgets to account for the additional browser support. I was lucky enough to help grow DesignKitchen's frontend team from 4 to 20 between 2007-2009 and one of the deal breaker questions to candidates was, how much IE6 experience do you have? Crazy.

When we started Eight Bit Studios in 2008, we immediately told all our clients that we have no current or future plans to support that browser. We even went as far to use our lack of support for the browser as a marketing tool to find frontend developers. We saved a lot of entrepreneurs a LOT of money and it doubled as an amazing recruiting tool. 

I'm not sure there will ever be a day when I forget all the hoops and trickery it took to protect great design across browsers. When those who endured it are old and gray, my hope is that we start frontend development schools. Maybe to weed out the weak students, we have a history of frontend development that includes 2 months of IE6 support curricula... Maybe followed by a month of IE5 for Mac and Netscape 4 hacks. ;)

RIP, IE 6.0. I hope you fit in your casket. Afterall, you're the one that drew it with those thick borders. Too subtle for ya?


John W Ostler (@seahostler) is Co-Founder and Principal of UX & UI at Eight Bit Studios (@eightbitstudios) a mobile and website design and development studio in Chicago. He has helped lead and produce technical and interaction design engagements with brands such as Cadbury Adams, Burger King, Motorola, Career Builder, Groupon, Exelon, Sidley Austin, and HSBC. His work has been featured in the USA Today, Brandweek, The Daily Beast, NewYork Times Tech blog, Mashable.com, homepage of Drupal.org, and featured on multiple CSS design blogs. He is also Co-Host and Executive Producer of Bytes Over Bagels, Chicago's favorite tech morning show.

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