The Top 30 Websites, Viewed in IE6

IE6 might be a "dying" browser, but many folks still use it. So how do the top 30 sites on the web look in IE6? No problems, or totally broken? Do they ask users to upgrade? This article reveals all!

The Top 30 Websites, Viewed in IE6

Internet Explorer 6. Nine years on, it's still a headache for web designers and developers across the globe!

Most of us would like to forget about this horrid old browser — first launched in 2001, for crying out loud — but there's always that client or user who insists on using it (or is forced to by their employer). Even among the audience of W3Schools — a web-savvy crowd if ever there was one — there are still around 5% of visitors using IE6 at the time of writing.

The result of all this is that we are forced to spend hours of extra coding time, just to make our sites work in this outdated browser.

How many big sites these days actually bother supporting IE6?

But how many big sites these days actually bother supporting IE6? One might think that they all would, considering their huge user bases. But is this the case?

For this article, I fired up Alexa's Top 500 Global Sites list — this is a list of the most visited sites on the web, according to Alexa. I then worked my way through the top 30 sites in the list, testing them in IE6 running on a Windows 2000 Server SP4 virtual machine. I also tested them in Firefox 3.6.12 on the same VM, for comparison. Both browsers had the Flash plugin installed.

You'll find a screenshot of each site as it looks in IE6 (and occasionally Firefox). Sometimes I've shown the whole page, sometimes just a problem area within the page. I've also included a brief description of any problems found.

Generally I tested just the homepage of each site. However, if there's another page that better represents the experience of using the site then I've tested that page instead.

I've omitted several types of site from the list, for various reasons:

  • Variants: Many sites are variants or country-specific versions of existing sites (google.com/.co.uk/.com.au etc).
  • Non-English sites: Partly because I wouldn't be able to tell how broken the site was if I couldn't read it, and partly because Windows 2000's handling of Unicode is pretty bad.
  • Ad network sites: I suspect they're in the Top 500 because of ad impressions, not because they're some of the sites most visited by people.
  • Sites requiring login to work: Unless I happened to have a login for it.
  • Porn sites: For the sake of decency.

A couple more caveats: I've only tested each site briefly, so there may well be IE6 issues in a site if you dig deep enough (if you find any please let me know in the article comments!). Also, of course, sites change all the time, so you might find that a site's IE6 compatibility has changed by the time you read this!

Google

google.com

Google in Firefox 3.6
Google in IE6
Google in Firefox (top) and IE6 (bottom)

Although Google search works fine in IE6, with no layout issues, it does have reduced functionality. There are fewer options in the sidebar (see screenshot above), and Google's new "Instant Search" option is unavailable.

Facebook

www.facebook.com

Facebook in IE6

Facebook doesn't officially support IE6 any more, and once you've logged in you get a message encouraging you to upgrade. Certain features such as chat don't work either. That said, the site's still pretty much usable in IE6, with no major layout issues.

YouTube

www.youtube.com

YouTube in IE6

YouTube is a bit more insistent with its "upgrade your browser" messages. Again, though, the site seems to function pretty well in IE6. The main differences seem to be no Add to Favorites, Share or Embed buttons below the video, and everything looks a bit uglier.

Yahoo!

www.yahoo.com

Yahoo! in IE6

Yahoo! works pretty much flawlessly in IE6. The only slight issue I spotted on the homepage was the word "Groups" being garbled when hovering over the "Finance" link (see screenshot).

Wikipedia

en.wikipedia.org

Wikipedia in Firefox 3.6
Wikipedia in IE6
Wikipedia in Firefox (top) and IE6 (bottom)

Wikipedia is generally flawless in IE6, with slightly reduced functionality: the expandable content areas in the sidebar and footer are permanently expanded, with no option to fold them up (see screenshots above).

IE6 also reports JavaScript errors, displaying a warning triangle in the status bar. (This is a very common occurrence which I noticed across many major sites.)

Blogger

www.blogger.com

Blogger in IE6

Blogger's admin functions seem to work fine with IE6. The only issue I spotted was that their new post editor doesn't work (you just get a blank screen), so you need to select the "Old editor" option under the Settings tab if you're using IE6.

Twitter

twitter.com

Twitter in IE6

The new Twitter interface (when you're logged in) is pretty screwed in IE6. There's no content in the right-hand panel, and it's hideously slow (and hits my MacBook Pro's i7 CPU pretty hard too). The top-right drop-down is partially hidden by the right-hand panel, and there are grey squares around many images, due to IE6's lack of PNG transparency support.

MSN

msn.com

MSN in IE6

Oh the irony. Visiting msn.com in IE6 pops up an "Are you looking for your local msn site?" dialog, which is completely non-functional — clicking any of the links or icons in the dialog brings up JavaScript errors, and there's no way to close the dialog and view the site. Maybe Microsoft don't have a copy of IE6 to test with? ;)

Amazon.com

www.amazon.com

Amazon.com in IE6

Amazon works perfectly in IE6. Flyout menus, videos, music samples — everything. I guess Amazon can't afford for it not to work...

WordPress.com

wordpress.com

WordPress.com in Firefox 3.6
WordPress.com in IE6
WordPress.com in Firefox (top) and IE6 (bottom)

WordPress.com is pretty broken in IE6, layout-wise. We're talking rectangles around images; boxes all over the place; and missing text in the top bar. One assumes that the WordPress folks don't care much about IE6...

Microsoft

www.microsoft.com

Microsoft in IE6

As you'd hope, Microsoft's site works pretty well in IE6, with no major layout or functionality issues found. The only thing I spotted was the grey box around the top-left Windows logo (see screenshot), but this only appears for a few seconds until their transparent PNG fix JavaScript kicks in.

LinkedIn

www.linkedin.com

LinkedIn in IE6

LinkedIn's site seems to work pretty well in IE6. There's the odd issue like misaligned form fields (see screenshot), but otherwise good. (That said, I haven't logged in to explore the site further.)

eBay

www.ebay.com

eBay in IE6

eBay has various CSS issues in IE6. The red bar that should go all the way across the top only goes from the right hand edge to just after the green Search button. There are transparent PNG issues all over the place (grey rectangles), and the background images on the Sign In/Register buttons aren't repeating as they should. The site seems to basically work though.

Bing

www.bing.com

Bing in IE6

Bing seems flawless in IE6. Even things like the video preview rollovers work. A vast improvement over MSN!

Conduit

www.conduit.com

Conduit in IE6

Apart from the odd very minor layout issue — and the inevitable JavaScript errors — Conduit's site seems to work fine in IE6, with no noticeable functionality glitches. The homepage did seem to hit the CPU pretty hard though.

Flickr

www.flickr.com

Flickr in IE6

Flickr on IE6 is pretty much a no-go. Buttons are all over the place; rollovers explode into separate images; and random text overlaps the photos and other content. The site also wisely displays an "unsupported browser" banner along the top, advising you to upgrade.

Craigslist

www.craigslist.org

Craigslist in IE6

Craigslist works perfectly in IE6. But let's face it, there's not much to go wrong!

Go

go.com

Go in IE6

Go generally works very well in IE6, with only the odd minor layout issue, such as the misaligned top-right ad in the screenshot above.

Myspace

www.myspace.com

Myspace in IE6

Myspace in IE6 is a bit of a train wreck, with a messed-up main menu and transparent PNG issues. Then again, Myspace isn't exactly beautiful in other browsers, is it? ;)

The Internet Movie Database

www.imdb.com

The Internet Movie Database in IE6

The IMDB is pretty good in IE6, with just the odd layout issue like the misaligned header in the screenshot above, and the odd transparent PNG rectangle. Movie listings and video trailers all work fine.

Apple

www.apple.com

Apple in IE6

This is pretty funny. Try browsing the Mac page on the Apple site, and IE6 pops up a friendly dialog: "Internet Explorer cannot open the Internet site http://www.apple.com/mac/. Operation aborted". In other words: "How dare you try to defect to a Mac?!"

To be fair, the rest of the site works nearly flawlessly in IE6. :)

Mozilla

www.mozilla.com

Mozilla in Firefox 3.6
Mozilla in IE6
Mozilla's site in Firefox (top) and IE6 (bottom)

IE6 is at it again! As well as trying to stop you buying a Mac, it tries to stop you downloading Firefox by refusing to display its logo. IE will rule forever!

The rest of the site seems to just about function, although the "Add-ons" section is pretty screwed. Then again, you're unlikely to be browsing for Firefox add-ons using IE6...

BBC Online

www.bbc.co.uk

BBC Online in IE6

Very impressed with the BBC. I couldn't find a single problem with IE6 on their main site or any of their sub-sites, including the design-heavy CBeebies site (see screenshot). Videos and Flash games all work perfectly.

PayPal

www.paypal.com

PayPal in IE6

Paypal's pretty minimalistic site works fine in IE6. There's the odd minor CSS issue, such as square borders around radio buttons, but no obvious functionality issues. Some pages feature a gentle warning to use a newer browser (see screenshot above) — this appears in all browsers, not just IE6.

AOL

www.aol.com

Mozilla in Firefox 3.6
Mozilla in IE6
AOL in Firefox (top) and IE6 (bottom)

AOL's very content-heavy homepage just about works OK in IE6, albeit with the odd missing ad and transparent PNG issue, as well as painful browser freezes/slowdowns. But check out the homepage in Firefox in the screenshot above. I've heard of ad-heavy sites but that's just ridiculous. Oops!

Adobe

www.adobe.com

Adobe in IE6

Adobe's done an impressive job with their site's IE6 compatibility. It looks practically identical on IE6 and Firefox. The only differences I found were sharp drop shadows around boxes (they're nicely blurred in other browsers), and no smooth opening/closing of the accordion items in the right hand sidebar. Otherwise, spot on. (This is partly down to the site's heavy reliance on Flash, of course.)

Ask

ask.com

Ask in IE6

Ask.com is nearly flawless in IE6. All the search functionality is there, and there are no layout issues. There are small differences like no rounded corners on some boxes, and the odd transparent PNG issue, but that's about it.

ESPN

espn.go.com

ESPN in IE6

While the ESPN sports site just about functions correctly, it has some fairly major layout issues such as central columns dropping down below the left and right columns (see screenshot above), as well as many transparent PNG issues and JavaScript errors. It's obvious that IE6 is far from ESPN's top priority! The site's also very slow in IE6 — in fact, any content-heavy page really seems to hit IE6 hard.

CNN Interactive

www.cnn.com

CNN in IE6

CNN's site works okay in IE6, with no layout issues to speak of. On the minus side, the site's slow to load, videos are a bit jerky, and the Politics page reliably crashes the browser (see screenshot). Still, could be worse!

About

www.about.com

About in IE6

About has some oddities with IE6, including images randomly disappearing, a curious white rectangle at the top of the page where the ad should be, and the inevitable JavaScript errors. The basic functionality seems OK though.

Summary

The chart below shows the broad spectrum of IE6 support across the top 30 websites, from flawless down to catastrophic:

Pie chart of IE6 support in the top 30 websites

Two things surprised me about these results:

  • The wide range of IE6 compatibility levels across the 30 sites, from 100% compatible to basically not compatible at all.
  • 27% of the top 30 sites have major visual or functionality problems that severely impact the experience for IE6 users.

Personally as a web coder I find these stats cheering. If major sites such as Twitter, WordPress.com and ESPN don't care about IE6 support, maybe the rest of us shouldn't care so much either? :)

What do you think of these results? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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Responses to this article

10 responses (oldest first):

12-Nov-10 10:25
I'm in hearty support of ditching IE6 support... testing for cross browser compatibility is the worst part about web design. Even if you think you're coding smart, there's always something you have to fix, patch or redesign entirely. It's not good for the creative flow.
13-Nov-10 14:34
@beckthomson: Yes, it would be lovely to ditch it entirely. It's such a pointless waste of time.

I know some designers who give clients a base price for a project, then give an additional cost for adding IE6 support. (It turns out that many clients would rather save the money!)
15-Nov-10 11:26
Aside from the articles I have read about major sites officially ending support of IE6, it was "put to rest" back in March: http://ie6funeral.com/

Though in my freelance work I too try to stay away from IE6-isms, it is a bit nerve racking when/if you have try and explain this to clients...
16-Nov-10 04:11
@kendouglass: Ah yes, I remember that funeral. The flowers from Microsoft were a nice touch.

If only IE6 really were dead. It still keeps on getting up and walking around!

Simon from Elated pointed out that this article could be useful to show to clients who ask for IE6 support - it might just persuade them otherwise...
16-Nov-10 16:06
That is something I will keep in mind.

And I like the idea about charging extra for IE6 support...

Thanks!
18-Jan-11 18:28
Hi guys! Nice one on this post. Very interesting and specially important to show to clients about what to do with IE6.
Still missing a bit from my old days coming here regularly, but I will soon get back to my old life style, and whatever that means...
Great 2011 to you all and thank you for the post!

Cheers from Portugal

Márcio Guerra
20-Jan-11 13:50
Thanks Márcio - good to hear from you! Hope all's going well - how's the design business?
20-Jan-11 17:09
Hi again! Well, design itself as a business is not yet moving. I am considering some options, hoping for some luck in some job offers... Well, lets see what 2011 brings on. But recently I have been supporting my girlfriend because of our next project for the time being. We are going to be parents, it is a girl, 99% sure she will be Carolina (Portuguese for «Caroline») and since the school is finishing right now, mid-term, for my girlfriend, I've been laying a hand to some info and help she might need. We had some issues which got us scared in the beginning but everything seems ok now, and we are almost 26 weeks so far in the pregnancy...
Let's see... Meanwhile I'll try to came back here as well as I used to, because of all this stuff in my life at the moment...

Thank you and cheers from Portugal to you all!

Márcio Guerra
23-Jan-11 20:48
Márcio, congratulations on the upcoming baby, that's fantastic news! Great name too.

Catch up on sleep now while you can...

Hope all goes well for you this year with the baby and the business. Sounds like it'll be a busy year for you!
24-Jan-11 04:22
Congratulations Márcio! I can only agree with Matt - get some sleep now!

Simon

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