Remove the blockages that keep IE6 around

With all the MS bashing and kill-IE6 sentiments I was wondering what are the actual impediments to upgrading? For the most part it is legacy applications in organizations that have no upgrade path. Stuff like timesheet apps, expense reporting and so on that was written eons ago that is critical to company operations, but has little or negative ROI to replace or fix.

Sure, there are cases where IE6 is in use simply because it was the browser that shipped with XP. Lets put aside the cost and difficulty of operating system upgrades, and focus on the part of the problem we can conceivably do something about. What prevents deployment of IE8 to these desktops? What compatibility problem with which applications are complicating this problem? Is there anything we can do to smooth the path to browser upgrades?

What’s needed is an audit. A big ugly audit of all the gnarly sticking points that IT organizations are faced with which cause the issue to be punted everytime it comes up. Odds are good that there are reasonable solutions to at least some of these problems if we only knew what they were. Perhaps its an upgrade or alternative with a tried and true migration path. Or just a simple code shim that can provide backwards-compatibility. I’m not discounting the ripple effect even a one-line code change can have, the risk and cost of regression, but we can offset that by connecting people in the same boat, by sharing gotchas and tried and tested solutions.

Imagine a clearing house kind of site that lists the offending applications & implementations and details the IE6 dependencies. The audit is crowd-sourced, built by the motivated individuals in every organization that deal with the problem every day but are powerless to fix it. Each problem once itemized, prioritized by the number of IE6 installs depending on it and paired with suggestions, known alternatives, actual patches and even bids or volunteers to fix it. It would be a pragmatic approach to unsticking the development of the web, as well as “naming-and-shaming” the sticking points. In the web development community we all share the burden of the continued existence of this browser, yet we are powerless to fix it. With information comes power.

Community pressure on browser vendors to support standards in their future browsers has started to yield results. But for the legacy browsers - to-date we’ve had a strategy of sitting and waiting. IE6 usage is dropping slowly but surely and for some the end is in sight - it is approaching the threshold where they can officially drop support. For many though this is still years away. What can we do to help?