IE6 Just Crossed the Downward Tipping Point

Internet Explorer 6 usage has been in a steady decline for more than two years now.  Given the gradual adoption of Vista combined with XP user upgrades from IE6 to IE7, this isn’t really all that surprising, and it will most likely drop below the 10% threshold by the end of this year.  

But Firefox 3.0, with 19.11% share, has officially surpassed Internet Explorer 6.0, with 18.85% share, according to the latest Net Applications market share report.  And that is a significant event because it marks the point where the argument for IE6 compatibility due to market share is no longer as important as Firefox 3.0 for internet facing web sites (though corporate sites with known user bases still may have valid arguments for IE6).

It’s also important when you consider that most Ajax frameworks and web site designers have been bending over backwards to maintain IE6 compatibility out of market share necessity.  And there have been numerous attempts to build mindshare to drop IE6 support in the past that mostly fizzled out.  But given these numbers, we will probably start to see some of the big name frameworks dropping IE6 support over the course of the year with most of the rest to follow that next year.

It also means that even more sites are going to be willing to use Ajax frameworks and use them more extensively since the cost of ensuring compatibility with the leading market share browsers will be significantly lower with IE6 off of the table.  This, in turn, will lead to more and more users coming to expect this rich behavior from sites they visit making it a necessity for many sites to remain competitive.

And this is important from an application development standpoint because properly designed Ajax web sites have a very different design and architecture than “traditional” full page refresh web applications.  In the Java community this means that the big name frameworks that we’ve grown familiar with such as Struts, SpringMVC, WebWork, etc are no longer as important as they once were.  They won’t necessarily go away entirely.  However, a lot of what they provide is going to be replaced by JSON and REST based frameworks like jabsorb and Restlet.  Or with web service frameworks that offer Javascript endpoints such as CXF.

It also means that Javascript architecture will need to be taken much more seriously than it generally has in the past.  Because moving from a few hundred or thousand lines of javascript to tens or even hundreds of thousands of lines can quickly get out of hand.

None of this should really come as a surprise.  But Firefox3 passing IE6 market share should serve as a warning that it’s getting much closer to becoming “the present” rather than “the future”.

Topics: Modernization, Executive Insights

Written by Jim LoVerde

Jim is an NVISIA Fellow with 20 years of experience.

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