When IE7 came out, any company that still had any Win2k machines had to keep designing with IE6 in mind if they wanted their new apps to work on all their computers. (I'm making the assumption that if they were relying on IE previously, they couldn't just switch to Firefox or something).
Now, IE8 I think most people can accept is going to end up in IE6's current place. It's the IE dead end for XP, a hugely popular OS. But IE7? None of those companies that don't upgrade upgraded to IE7. Home users that upgrade will also have installed the IE8 upgrade. So you're left with what? Unpatched Vista installations. These are much rarer than unpatched XP installations simply because Vista had a shorter lifespan, and Windows Vista to 7 is sufficiently undramatic an upgrade for the types of people who would take years to go from XP to Vista.
So so far we have:
- IE6 will drag on as long as XP does.
- IE7 won't last particularly long. While it's popular now,
earlier Vista computers will be replaced in the close
future (2-3 years), causing it to lose market share to IE8.
- IE8 will have a long lifespan, although probably not as long as IE6.
IE10 will likely also go the way of IE7. While it will be installed by default on Windows 8, the amount of dramatic changes in W8 will scare off many of the companies that are slow to upgrade.
So in 5 years time, what versions of IE will realistically you need to support?
- IE6 (maybe - probably, hopefully, enterprise only at this stage)
- IE10 (enterprise will never use it because Win8 is scary and different to them
so for home users only)
- IElatest-1 So IE13 or something?
- IElatest IE14 or something.
IE6 for home users will be dead at that point. Most of those old early XP computers will be "broken" and replaced, even if "broken" is just slow and annoying. Using XP in five years will be like using Win98/Win2k. Yes, people do use them. No, they aren't a large enough group for most to worry about. I even have a small amount of hits from Netscape 6. I haven't a clue what my page looked like for them, and don't care.
In theory, if even IE is aiming for at least yearly releases from now on, no future IE will end up in the position that IE6 is in, and that IE8 will find itself in, as upgrading your browser frequently becomes a fact of life. The compatibility modes will be much less important too, as the shorter lived the browser, the less likely that the compatibility mode for it will ever be used.
(Sidenote: Sorry for the kludgy lists. HN has no proper formatting for them, and they were causing horizontal scrollbars)
IE7 is 5.25%. Probably slow moving corporations. Some of these guys won't upgrade to IE8/IE9 until they're forced to. So, let's stop supporting IE7 so they're forced to upgrade.
IE8 will be around for a couple of years.
IE9 is around 11.5%. Probably consumers who will gladly upgrade to IE10.
I wish. Our B2B ecommerce system has 34% IE6 usage, as of last week (although this has shrunk by half over the past year or so). I cannot tell 1/3 of our users to shape up -- especially since the ones that aren't upgrading are doing so because they're so big it's incredibly difficult for them. In other words, the ones still in IE6 are also the 800lb gorilla customers, to whom we can't make such demands.
I would love to stop supporting it, but my boss is unwilling to just stop earning the £100k+ a year they bring in.
What I'm getting at is that you should support what matters to your business. If your users are IE based, then you must support IE, plain and simple.
While my default position is to build for modern browsers, these kind of clients will insist on IE6 support, and however much it goes against our best intentions sometimes the customer's insistance is final.
For example one of my client's clients has a rule that disallows Ajax HTTP POSTs - when I asked why they said "security - and it's not going to change".
So upgrading isn't a technical or a feature request - it's a total mindset change.