To Support or Not Support IE?

Internet Explorer, in its many incarnations, is still one of the most popular web browsers in use today. But it drives many website developers straight up a tree, because it is more difficult to support than other browsers – especially older versions of IE. Many developers now wonder if continuing to support IE is worth the hassle.

The idea of not supporting IE on a website became a topic for discussion on our Dev Shed forums. By way of introduction, a new member noted that he’d been developing software for more than 25 years, and doing web development for the past decade. “I’m an entrepreneur with several web services, some commercial, some not,” he added. But he reached his limit with Internet Explorer this week while putting together a new, non-commercial service, and decided not to support it; “It just sucks up too much of my time,” he noted. “So now when users log into my site using IE they will see a message…simply informing them that IE isn’t specifically supported and then I encourage them to try another browser, explaining the benefits.”

He hopes to turn this into a movement. “I understand that commercial sites’ survival probably depend on supporting IE, but there are a lot of sites out there that aren’t commercial that could help.” He asks for other developers’ opinions, wondering if he’s the only one who feels this way.

Respected long-time Dev Shed member medialint seems to think this is the wrong approach. He explains that in his corporate wide installation of about 250 users, IE 8 is the only standard browser; using anything else is considered breaking the rules. “Because I know what I’m doing I have admin rights and reasons to use other browsers, but I think the policy of detecting browsers (which itself is often incorrect) to display a personal rant on browser incompatibility is not the same kind of positive image that trying to be accommodating to all users would send,” he observes. He agreed that commercial sites must support IE in order to survive, but there are other reasons to try to accommodate all users even if you’re not a business.

“What about people who browse with smart devices or smart TVs or people with disabilities with text readers? Will you rant about that too?” medialint asked. “Or will you try to just make it work, instead? Remember that your visitors are not coming to your site to hear your personal diatribes.”

Indeed, medialint has a point. Unless you’re a blogger known for your diatribes, if you’re offering a service, most of the visitors accessing your website simply want to use your service as smoothly as possible. They don’t care about whatever personal ax you have to grind. If you want to make your users happy, you’d best keep this in mind – even if the service you’re offering is free and non-commercial.

Finally, another long-time Dev Shed forum member, Kravvitz, noted that there have been, and still are, a number of anti-IE websites, but one of the most prominent (Browse Happy) has evolved: “It used to be anti-IE and only suggest alternatives, but now it also suggests that people upgrade IE as well.” It seems as if IE 9, the latest version, has won a certain amount of respect among web programmers. Perhaps it has become easier to maintain – and in the future, we won’t see quite as much IE hate among developers as we have in the past.

What do you think? Would you ever make a conscious decision not to support IE? Why or why not? Weigh in with your opinions on the Dev Shed forum thread or in the comments section below.

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