Good news on IE6: government usage plummets in 2012

Almost a year ago, we published some interesting browser statistics based on the logs from one of our Central Government Citizen Space servers. We ran the logs through a piece of open source analysis software called Visitors, and this gave us an anonymous breakdown of all visits to Citizen Space, showing the browsers and versions that were used. We looked at the statistics for all pages, and compared them with the stats for pages only accessible to admin users. The results were insightful but rather scary: Internet Explorer 6 accounted for more than 1 in 3 visits by our Central Government admin users.

For those who don’t know, Internet Explorer version 6 (lovingly known as IE6) is a web browser that Microsoft released over a decade ago. Because it renders web pages differently (in some cases dramatically differently) from more modern browsers, web developers spend a great deal of time creating workarounds so that IE6 users can still access our websites. Of course, this increases the cost of product development without necessarily offering any benefit to the majority of web users who don’t use IE6. Coupled with the fact that IE6 now only receives limited support from Microsoft, almost everyone is in agreement that this ancient and decrepit browser must be phased out.

This morning, we had a comment on last year’s post from a reader who was interested in how Citizen Space’s browser stats had changed. Thank you Perry – you reminded me that I’d been meaning to re-do this analysis soon. So here are the graphs comparing the numbers 11 months ago with where we are today:

Central Government Citizen Space – all users (admin and public)

All users by browser, May 2011
Breakdown of visits by browser: IE8: 23.0%, Firefox: 15.6%, IE9: 14.9%, IE7: 14.9%, Chrome: 13.2%, Safari: 10.8%, IE6: 5.9%
All users by browser, April 2012

These statistics roughly follow the browser trends of the general internet population*, with IE8 and 9 increasing in popularity while the older IE versions decrease as expected. Pleasingly, IE6 usage has roughly halved since last May.

Firefox, Chrome and Safari have gained more of a stronghold in the past year, although interestingly, Internet Explorer as a whole has retained a far larger share of Citizen Space users than worldwide browser usage statistics* would predict.

Central Government Citizen Space instances – admin pages only

Admin users by browser, May 2011
Breakdown of visits by browser: IE8: 60.3%, IE7: 29.3%, Chrome: 3.8%, IE6: 2.4%, Firefox: 1.8%, IE9: 1.3%, Safari: 1.1%
Admin users by browser, April 2012


When looking at the statistics for our admin users, the most exciting thing is that usage of IE6 has crashed by 90% – from 35% down to 2.4% of visits. This is a great relief to us, and shows the huge effort that has taken place in government IT departments to upgrade users away from this insecure, ill-supported browser.

It’s worth noting that overall, usage of Internet Explorer among our Central Government users is more than 90%, compared to 34% worldwide*.

What next?

The interesting question is what levels of support to provide for different browser capabilities. We currently provide Level 2 support for IE6, which means that all content must be readable and navigable, but differences in styling and layout may exist. This works OK for our products at the moment, but as web users come to expect a richer and more fluid experience, the likes of IE6 are going to lag further and further behind. How small does the percentage of IE6 users need to be before we can stop supporting it at all?

To other web developers: when do you stop supporting ancient browsers and those with limited functionality? How much can you rely on the presence of client-side technologies like Javascript, cookies, HTML5, CSS3..?

To government IT managers (thank you for phasing out IE6 btw!) what level of support do you expect for older browsers? Do security constraints dictate that you disable features like Javascript or cookies?

As always, I’d love to hear your views.


*Worldwide browser statistics from statcounter.com.

4 thoughts on “Good news on IE6: government usage plummets in 2012

  1. Interesting figures, thank you for publishing them πŸ™‚

    Just out of curiosity more than anything, I was wondering if you have any sense about where your admin users come from in govt?

    Eg are they in IT and/or comms departments which might just be expected to be upgrading browsers faster than other departments (due to, say, a combination of need, piloting the upgrades and being less tied down by legacy applications), or are they from all over the shop? πŸ™‚

  2. Hi there …. lovely to see some data on this, so much speculation otherwise. My question is a little like Richard’s … who are the people accessing the pages, what’s the spread across central versus local government and how representative do we think the data is today. With election results coming through thick and fast this morning, I guess I’m asking what the turnout is and what should I read in to it on a national scale? alan

  3. Hello Richard and Alan, these logs covered only UK central government departments. I’d like to do the same analysis on our other servers so we can get an idea of other organisations’ usage as well.

    In central government, Citizen Space sites are generally overseen by comms teams, but they give admin accounts to any team that wants to publish consultations. So our actual users are from all sorts of places πŸ™‚

  4. Wow… That was quick, Thanks, very useful. We’re finding that web designers are often saying that even IE7 is not worth supporting. Personally, I’m firmly in the ‘optimise for new browsers, but offer graceful degradation for older tech’ camp.

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