Maybe it was the tiramisu talking, but Doug, Ethan and I were having a conversation recently, where we half-joked about hiding styles from IE5/Win. Extreme? Too early? It’s a question I’ve been pondering a bit, and Ethan’s been thinking about it even more, with his decision to hide his site’s CSS from IE5/Mac.
My curiosity lies in browser stats. Naturally, here at SimpleBits, I’m told that 2% of all traffic comes here by way of IE5/Win. Surely, a percentage low enough to begin thinking about hiding styles — but the readers here, are highly skewed. What I’m more interested in, is getting a rough estimate on the perecentage of IE5 users across the web in general. What is IE5/Win’s percentage on high-traffic, mainstream sites these days? The number can only be going down.
Thanks to Paul Maiorana, my colleague over at Fast Company, I can tell you that roughly 4% of their users visit FastCompany.com using IE5/Win. The audience for FC is skewed as well, and so my hope is that you’ll do a little investigating of your own, and perhaps we can pull together a non-scientific poll on the state if IE5. Feel free to leave numbers in the comments.
I can remember early on in my experimentation with CSS, thinking it was risky and crazy to hide styles from Netscape 4 — that was years ago, and the amount of users at that time was roughly 2% as well. At what point can we say it’s been long enough for the next browser in line?
IE5/Win’s support of CSS2 is far from perfect, yet it is possible to get things looking close to other standards-aware browsers. But that consistency doesn’t happen without added time, frustration and necessary hacks and workarounds. Up until now, I haven’t thought twice about not trying to get things looking the same in IE5/Win. But can you imagine being Box Model Hack free? Can you imagine just not having to worry about the poor support for CSS that adds a significant amount of time to the development process?
You could also imagine sending IE5/Win a basic set of CSS rules that does everything but layout — much in the way that Doug was suggesting a basic stylesheet that all devices (including handhelds) could render that’s devoid of anything too complicated. IE5/Win is capable of complex CSS — but it comes at a price that we’re all well aware of.
So when will it be time? For me here at this site, it could very well be tomorrow, or next month. 2% is a comfortable number. And that 2% will be always be able to read and use the site without any loss in functionality. We’re never talking about cutting people out, rather we’re talking about moving forward — and perhaps taking as many people along as we can. Lots of questions. Lots to think about.