I finally moved the public side of this blog over to HTTPS last weekend. Traditionally I’ve preferred to put public info on HTTP and save HTTPS for things that need it – passwords, payment info, login tokens, anything that should be kept private — but between the movement to protect more and more of the web from eavesdropping and the fact that tools are making it harder to split content between open and encrypted sides (the WordPress app sometimes gets confused when you run the admin over HTTPS but keep the public blog on HTTP), I decided it was time.

The last sticking point was putting HTTPS on my CDN, and I’d decided to try getting Let’s Encrypt and CloudFront working together over the weekend. Then Amazon announced their Certificate Manager for AWS, which took care of the hard part. All I had to do was request and approve the (domain-validated) certificate, then attach it. Done!

Downside: Because I opted for the SNI option on the CDN, rather than pay the premium to get unique IP addresses on every CloudFront endpoint, the images won’t work with older browsers like IE6. (Server Name Indication is a way to put more than one HTTPS site on the same IP address.)

On the other hand, the cert I have on the site itself is SHA2-signed (as it should be, now that SHA-1 is no longer sufficient), so it wouldn’t work with older browsers even if I turned off the CDN and kept the images on the server.

It’s the first time I’ve actually broken the ability of older browsers to see any of my personal sites. I’ve broken layouts, sure, but not completely cut them off. In general I’d rather not, but I think I’m OK with it this time because

  1. SHA1 really does have to go, SHA2 is well-established, and it’s not like I’m providing downloads of modern browsers or a critical communications forum for people who are stuck with ancient hardware/software because that’s all that’s available to them.
  2. SNI has been around for TEN YEARS.

And as it turns out, DreamHost’s ModSecurity rules block IE6 to begin with, so the whole site’s already broken in that browser.

So I guess next time I redesign I can finally drop any IE6 workarounds. :shrug:

Microsoft has jumped on the ditch-IE6 bandwagon with IE6Countdown.com, following in the footsteps of such campaigns as Browse Happy, End 6, and Save the Developers.

Of course, since it’s a Microsoft-sponsored campaign, it’s only promoting upgrades, rather than promoting an upgrade-or-switch message.

Static HTML points out why you might want to put your effort into some other campaign instead. Because IE6 Countdown is only an upgrade campaign, and IE6 users are all on Windows XP or below (Vista ships with IE7), they can only ever upgrade as far as IE8. Given the huge gap between IE8 and IE9 in terms of standards support, HTML5, CSS3, and so forth, IE8 will soon become the new millstone around the web’s neck.

So instead of plugging IE, consider plugging your own favorite browser, be it Firefox, Chrome or Opera. Or perhaps plug another switch campaign. After all, there are quite a few alternative web browsers out there!

IE7Microsoft released Internet Explorer 8 yesterday, for Windows XP and Vista. So if you’re still running IE6, or someone you know is, it’s once again time to think about upgrading — or switching. (Assuming, of course, that you’re not locked in by corporate policy or another piece of software.)

  • IE6 is now two versions behind the current release.
  • IE6 is almost 8 years old (it was released in 2001).
  • IE6 is lacking in many capabilities that all other modern web browsers have, in web technology, in security, and in features you can use.

You can read a review at Wired, a write-up from the IE team, or a summary of technical changes from WaSP.

Of course, Internet Explorer isn’t the only option out there. There’s Opera, Firefox, Chrome and a host of other alternative browsers that are worth checking out.

If you’re still running Windows 2000 or some other old version of Windows that can’t run IE7 or IE8, I’d absolutely recommend Firefox or Opera. Either will be much better than IE6, both will run on Windows 2000, and Opera will even run on Windows Me and Windows 98 (but you really ought to move to something more current than Windows Me.)

Opera Chrome Firefox

Last October I wrote about some milestones in web browser marketshare. Specifically, I was looking forward to IE7 overtaking IE6, and to Firefox overtaking IE6. Well, both of those have finally happened, at least on this site, and a little more besides. Take a look at these stats from May 2008:

Usage Browser Notes
61.2% IE (all)
35.7% IE 7
28.6% Firefox (all)
26.4% Firefox 2
25.1% IE 6
4.7% Safari
1.9% Mozilla (still not sure if this is SeaMonkey or a catch-all)
1.4% Opera
1.0% Firefox 3

Back when I wrote the original post, I had a series of 5 or 6 milestones in mind, but decided to keep it simple and only post the first two. The next one after Firefox passing IE6 was for Firefox 2+ to pass IE6. I should have been checking in more frequently, since it already has.

So what’s next? Well, I expect to see the following in the next year or two:

  • Firefox 3 replacing Firefox 2. It’s already got a strong pre-release following. (Fx2 will stick around while there are still Win98 and WinMe users, but they’re already at less than 1% here and falling.)
  • Firefox 1 fading into the sunset in favor of newer, more capable releases.
  • Netscape disappearing into history. (It’s already below 1% here.)
  • IE6 dropping below 25%, 20%, 10% (watching it go to single digits will be satisfying), and finally 1%.
  • Safari approaching 10%. It’s holding steady here, but keeps climbing globally.

Things I’d like to see, but am less confident about in the near-term:

  • IE6 disappearing from the radar. There are hold-outs, both at the user and the sysadmin level, plus a sizeable minority on Windows 2000. Plus I think Microsoft is committed to supporting IE6 through the lifetime of Windows XP, which means they’ll keep shipping security fixes until 2014. On the other hand, IE 5.0 is technically still supported as part of Windows 2000, but I see very few IE5 visitors these days.
  • IE8 replacing IE7, for most of the same reasons it’s taking so long for IE7 to replace IE6.
  • Opera breaking out of its steady marketshare and hitting a solid 5%. That would make them much harder to ignore. (10% would be better, since Safari’s still struggling for recognition at 6%.) Of course, to get there they’ll have to pull off a major publicity coup.
  • IE dropping below 50%. Could be done, but it’ll be tough. If there’s no majority browser, it’ll be very difficult to justify building a site for one browser only.

Of course, these will probably all happen faster locally than globally, since the audience seems to skew slightly toward the alternatives, but then local stats are the ones that actually matter for a specific site.