Upgrade Your Browser

IE6 ain’t just old—it’s plumb broke!

© 2012 by KV5R.

Why?

Internet Explorer 6 came with Windows XP, and many people used it for a long time, not knowing how bad it really was.

Sooner or later, you’ll have to stop using IE6. Why? Because more and more of the Internet giants are no longer willing to waste money coding for its infernal bugs. Soon YouTube, Google, Digg and others will no longer code web pages for IE6. Also, web developers will have to stop spending extra time coding for it, if they are to remain competitive.

As of late ’09, Around twenty-two percent of Internet users are still using the aging and broken Internet Explorer 6 web browser. There are several reasons for this:

  • They’re using a corporate computer that doesn’t allow upgrades or new software installations. They need to pester their IT departments to upgrade them to a safe, modern browser.
  • They’re still using Windows 98, ME, or 2000, which will not upgrade to IE7. These users need to upgrade to a non-IE browser, or upgrade their operating system.
  • They’re happy and familiar with IE6, and don’t know how bad it is.
  • They’re simply afraid to upgrade, or don’t know how.

So, what’s wrong with IE6?

First of all, it’s not just outdated, it’s broken, and it always has been. It’s broken in two major areas:

  1. Numerous security holes
  2. Numerous web page rendering bugs

IE6 is bad for you, bad for the Web, and even bad for Microsoft. They are even running an expensive campaign to get users to upgrade and stop using IE6.

IE6 has so many rendering bugs that every web site costs more, just because web developers and programmers have to develop and implement numerous “workarounds” for all those IE6 bugs. Experts estimate that developing around IE6’s bugs adds about 20% to the cost of web development!

You haven’t really noticed any bugs? Well, that’s because somebody has paid too much money to make sure they are covered up! A few examples:

  1. No PNG support: IE6 can only display PNG images properly with the AlphaImageLoader hack, and even then, only on foreground images. If you’re running IE6 now, you’ll see the AlphaImageLoader in action on the graphics in this site. Messy! So, why is PNG important? GIF supports transparency, but only has 256 colors. JPG has millions of colors, but not transparency. PNG has both millions of colors and transparency! And that makes better web pages.
  2. Broken box model: IE6 does not calculate page width properly; it doesn’t correctly add up the widths of adjacent page elements. It does not follow standards. Dozens of nasty programming hacks are used to get around this.
  3. Broken float model: IE6 does weird things with floats. What’s a float? It’s how web developers make things display side-by-side, without using table cells to do so. Things commonly floated include images, menus, and pull-quotes and other text boxes. Making them work right in IE6 is an expensive and frustrating nightmare for all web developers.

In addition to it’s brokenness, it lacks many modern features and conveniences including tabbed browsing and malware/phishing filtering. Also, many modern interactive web sites are using advanced Javascript code that will not run properly, if at all, in IE6.

Ok, so what to use?

In short, anything is better than IE6! There are many options; all free, easy to install, and fun to use.

As a hand-coding web developer, I regularly use 4 to 6 browsers at a time, to test and compare. I also read the various sites devoted to information regarding browsers and their inconsistencies and standards compliance. So I have a few opinions on the subject, and these are not based in what I “like” the best, but in what I see just works the best.

Opera

Download Opera
download

What a magnificent piece of work! Opera, currently at version 10, has a lovely interface and lots of nice features, but best of all, it has the best (most standards-compliant) rendering engine, called Presto. And features? It beats them all, with built-in news-reader, feed-reader, and even email, if you choose to use them. If you don’t, they just stay nicely hidden.

Chrome and Safari

Download Chrome
download

Google Chrome and Apple Safari (which is available for Windows) both use the excellent WebKit rendering engine. Google Chrome is very easy to use, not cluttered, and boasts the fastest Javascript engine by far. Chrome is my favorite browser for heavy research browsing, because it’s simple and snappy fast.

Chrome passed FireFox in popularity in early 2012, and is now the most-used web browser.

FireFox

Download FireFox
download

FireFox eclipsed Internet Explorer in popularity in 2009. This is because it has several years of aggressive marketing history, and it’s a great browser. If you like to customize things, FireFox is the browser for you. With thousands of themes and plug-ins available, you can make it look, and do, anything you like. Be aware, though, that this otherwise fast browser will get too slow and cluttered if you add too many plug-ins.

How to Upgrade

Simply download, install, and customize it, and then get used to it. All will import your IE bookmarks and net settings. It doesn’t hurt anything to install three or four of them and then use them all for a while. When you decide which one you like the best, you can set it as your default browser. Also, you don’t need to uninstall IE—in fact, you must not, because some Windows features depend on IE being installed. But you don’t have use it as a web browser.

What to expect

When you upgrade from IE, the main things you’ll notice are tabbed browsing and faster page rendering. The old sites will look about the same, and the new sites (particularly with PNG graphics and HTML-5) will look much better.

All the above browsers will import your connection settings and IE bookmarks (favorites), if desired, during installation. You’ll have to fiddle around a bit to get things like Adobe PDF and Flash to work in the new browser. Microsoft Office documents probably won’t open natively within non-Ms browsers.

Some web sites that display properly in IE will not display properly in other browsers. This is because the web site was (mis)coded to accomodate IE’s bugs. This is the case with many home-made (non-professional) sites, where the maker didn’t know to test in other browsers. (more info)

Other Sites

If you’d like a broader perspective on this issue, see the following sites.

browserupgrade.info — with handy links to download the best browsers

stopie6.com — another site to help you upgrade

stop developing for IE6 — excellent article about why web developers are dropping IE6 support

Explorer Exposed! — take your IE6 browser to this site and see all the bugs in action

Google about 1.5 million sites about IE6 bugs

There are, of course, a plethora of reviews in the online computer magazines—not to mention millions of opinions in forums and blogs. Beware of articles and blogs that are either old news, or just “it’s my favorite” -type opinions. Look for professional reviews written by web developers and other web experts.

So, go upgrade your old browser to a modern one, and you’ll be glad you did! Can’t decide? Chrome installs quick and easy, is very simple to configure, updates itself silently, and is very easy to like. Opera is excellent in both standards-compliance and features. FireFox is highly customizable, to the point of almost being a bit confusing for the casual user. All three are excellent choices.

—kv5r

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