IE7 Tax is a Fair Price to Pay

Allan Sloan

In a bold move designed to draw attention to the continuing use of outdated web browsing software, the team at Kogan have implemented what is believed to be the world's first tax on Internet Explorer 7 users. In short, visitors to their site who use Microsoft's Internet Explorer 7 browser have a surcharge of 6.8% added to the total price of their orders on account of the cost and time required to make the site function correctly on that browser.

There are many reasons why this is a positive initiative for a web development industry that has hitherto been required to devote significant time and resources to supporting a browser used by a tiny fraction of visitors, but which has not yet been officially retired by Microsoft.

At Paligap we have noticed that Internet Explorer 7 is a browser that refuses to die. From a high in 2009 when it was the browser of choice for 25% of all traffic to the site, Internet Explorer 7 dropped to 10% in 2010 and just 7% last year. So far in 2012 just 3.4% of traffic to our site comes from users who use Internet Explorer 7 as their internet browser of choice, a small group who appear determined to resist the arrival of new alternatives.

The trend was similar across each of our client sites, with virtually all sites showing Internet Explorer 7 users representing between 3-5% of all traffic received, regardless of any particular site's niche, type or the volume of traffic involved.

Despite these dwindling figures, Internet Explorer 7 usage continues at a level just too high to be ignored and sites produced today are still being adapted to function adequately on that antiquated platform. The Paligap web design team spend a notable portion of time on any moderately complex new-build project adapting the design and site to work with Internet Explorer 7, time that could be better spent working on other tasks that would be of benefit to a far greater proportion of the eventual users. The Paligap home page itself required work dedicated solely to producing CSS rules for Internet Explorer 7.

Six years after release there is really no excuse for any individual or company to have not upgraded their browser. There are two subsequent iterations of Internet Explorer available, with a third on its way this year, not to mention alternatives like Opera, Firefox, Safari and Chrome which do not provide equivalent anguish to developers or users.

This is not simply a rejection of something that causes extra work. Our developers are innovative and forward-thinking by nature. Forcing them to spend time on modifying their work to appear adequately on an antiquated browser is not only a waste of our client's budget, but also a waste of our team's talents. 'Adequate' is not a term that sits easily with any one of them. With all new sites being designed and built at Paligap being crafted in HTML5 and using CSS3, our eyes are trained firmly on the future, ensuring sites will not quickly become outdated or obsolete. Combining this drive to meet modern standards with the need to make all sites comply with Internet Explorer 7's peculiarities - as we do for all sites at present - is undeniably an inefficiency that needs to be addressed.

Kogan's initiative may be extreme, but the goal of motivating internet users to switch to more contemporary browsers is laudable. Let's hope the demise of Internet Explorer 7 is less protracted that its predecessor, Internet Explorer 6, which took over ten years to diminish to a level where the majority of developers were comfortable building sites that were not configured for its peculiar quirks and requirements.

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