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Browser compatibility expert argues: ditch IE6/7 support now

As reported by .net last week, Microsoft has announced that it's to start auto-updating Internet Explorer, taking users who consent to the latest version of the browser that their systems support. The plan builds on Microsoft's earlier efforts to eradicate old versions of its browser from the web, including the Internet Explorer 6 countdown. Responding to this, Peter-Paul Koch has decided on his QuirksMode blog to track the progress of various flavours of IE, to see how Microsoft's decision will affect global and regional browser landscapes.

When breaking down Internet Explorer traffic by region, it's clear IE6 is already largely obsolete, and even IE7 has relatively little traffic. On that basis, Koch wonders whether web designers should even care about those browsers any more. He suggests you probably shouldn't test sites in them, or, as an alternative, should charge clients more for doing so.

We spoke to Koch about his comments and also Microsoft's decision to auto-upgrade IE. "There's no doubt web developers support Microsoft's intentions, but we can do more than just support Microsoft passively: we can stop developing for IE6 and IE7," he said. "Of course, that's not really an option if those browsers have a 20 per cent market-share on your site, but what if their share is 5 per cent or lower? We have to start seriously thinking about dropping IE6/7 support altogether or we'll never get rid of them."

He told us that even if you're forced to support IE6/7, you should "charge your client about 30 per cent more for the hassle that gives you". Koch added that he'll be closely monitoring IE usage figures over the coming months, revisiting the numbers in February to see how Microsoft's efforts have impacted on older versions of IE.

The news about IE updates comes as StatCounter revealed Chrome 15 is now the world's most popular browser version, with 23.6 per cent of the worldwide market compared to Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 at 23.5 per cent. Add to this Internet Explorer hovering around the 50 per cent mark overall in terms of usage, and it's easy to see why Microsoft's doing all it can to hasten the death of obsolete versions of IE and perhaps slow or stop its market-share decline.