Is Internet Explorer becoming the web browser for idiots?

Ever since the bad old days of the Browser Wars in the 1990's it has been a major pain to code up websites that are displayed correctly in different browsers. Right now the pain is spreading like a bad rash, and in order to ensure cross-browser compliance for a website with even moderately rich design elements, one has to test it in all the mainstream browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera. They all have their particular quirks and problems, especially where CSS support is concerned. But it gets worse: right now we have to content with not one but two mainstream versions of IE, to wit, IE7 and IE8, both of which render pages in wildly different manners. With IE9 coming up but still deeply in beta and not running on the still widely prevalent Windows XP, this won't change anytime soon.

And of course if you want to test a website with multiple versions of IE, you'll either need multiple computers, or resort to virtual machines, since running multiple versions of IE on a single Windows installation is, to all practical intents and purposes, a shortcut to insanity. Microsoft's SuperPreview does include the IE6 rendering engine, but for this to be a viable solution it would have to duplicate all the bugs and glitches in all IE versions 100% accurately, which it does not. And to add insult to injury, Microsoft expects you to buy this tool, with of course comes as part of a bundle of stuff you don't necessarily want - not to mention that it is essentially intended as a work-around for the mess they themselves created in the first place. Aargh.

The interesting thing, though, is the current usage figures for IE. According to the W3 Schools browser statistics the overall usage of IE has dwindled to around 30%, but (and this is where it gets interesting) only just over half of that accounts for the current version, IE8. The rest is divided almost equally between IE7 and IE6. In other words, half the IE user community runs a version of IE that is either one or two releases out of date!

This suggests that the IE user community is rapidly being reduced to the clueless and the careless. Which is not surprising, really, but it is interesting to see the statistics bear it out.


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