Is IE5 Dead?

Internet Explorer version 5 was released on March 18, 1999. It has almost been nine years since its initial release, and two more versions have followed.

We all know that IE5 is a buggy piece of software with fairly awful standards support, though it was significantly better than its predecessor IE4. It’s no secret that I’m no fan of Microsoft’s browsers, but I do have to grudgingly admit that they’ve come a long way.

I was comparing stats on a couple of my web sites recently, and I wondered: Do we need to continue supporting Internet Explorer 5? There have been two major versions released since, and nine years is a long time in computer years. To put it in perspective, look at this timeline:

  • August 15, 1998: The original CRT iMac released
  • March 18, 1999: IE5 Released
  • February 13, 2000: The final original Peanuts comic strip is published
  • October 23, 2001: The original iPod released
  • November 15, 2001: The original XBox Released
  • January 6, 2004: The iPod Mini Released
  • February 15, 2005: IE7 Released
  • Mid-February, 2005: YouTube launched
  • September 7, 2005: The iPod Nano replaces the iPod Mini
  • January 30, 2007: Microsoft (finally) launches Windows Vista
  • July 21, 2007: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows released
  • February 26, 2008: I published this post

It’s been a long time.

Obviously it’s not a great idea to stop supporting a browser version if there is still a sizable percentage of people using it. Luckily we have statistics software!

According to Google analytics (over a 30-day period), 21.06% of Webmaster-Source’s visitors used a version of Internet Explorer. Firefox totally dominated the user base, though that’s irrelevant here. Of that 21.06% of Internet Explorer users, 64.80% used IE7, 35.01% IE6, and a measly 0.72% used IE5.

64.80% used IE7, 35.01% IE6, and a measly 0.72% used IE5.

On The Site of Requirement, a Harry Potter fan site, which therefore would likely have a somewhat less tech-literate user base, 50.48% of viewers used Internet Explorer. Checking the actual versions, only 0.63% of the IE users has IE5.5 (5.1’s usage was nonexistent). 27.04% used IE6, and 72.33% used IE7.

only 0.63% of the IE users has IE5.5 (5.1's usage was nonexistent). 27.04% used IE6, and 72.33% used IE7

IE5 users are definitely a fairly small group now, according to my sites’ statistics. IE5 seems to be mainly used among “average users” who have very old equipment, though I’m surprised that they could have ten-year old computers (I’ve never had one last longer than three years). Most users who know their way around computers fairly well have either upgraded to a higher version of IE, switched to a different browser, or bought a new computer with IE7 preloaded. So, in the end, it really depends on your target audience. Keep an eye on your statistics, and you can decide whether to support IE5 based upon your user base.

  • Cicco

    Let us hope also IE6 will be dead quickly… :)

  • Matt

    Agreed. It’s nearly as buggy as IE5, and I’ve been having to deal with its “features” all too often lately. I won’t really mind IE much once it’s fairly standards compliant, so hurry up with IE8!

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  • Tony

    Over the last 30 days I’ve had 30,000 visitors, including 20 (0.06%) IE5 users and 1 (0.003%) IE4 (!) user. Together they are about on par with user agents that identify themselves as “Playstation Portable”.

    @Matt — I hear that IE8 will be using IE7’s rendering engine by default :(

  • Matt

    Well, that sucks (about IE8 using the IE7 rendering engine).

    Judging by your stats, and mine, IE5 is definitely a minority, and it’s not quite dead yet, but it’s getting there. And IE4, whoa! I mean… Heck, my timeline doesn’t go back that far…

    You have playstation portable users? Cool. It must be hard to browse the web using triangle, square, “x,” and circle buttons though. :D

  • Guilherme Zühlke O’Connor

    IE5 is a terminal patient. It will eventually die, but since we all, web professionals, want it to die as soon as possible we can also give it a little push.

    Every user is important and your content should not be denied to anyone, yet, you can degrade (and not adapt) your site to fit this kind of browser.

    The content will still available, but you don’t have to
     work for days and limit your work to suit the needs of our soon-will-be-dead
     friend, you just don’t need to deliver your site on full splendor.

  • Matt

    Yeah. My attitude towards IE5 is pretty much “you can view the content okay, just don’t expect it to look good.” You can read WSC fine in IE5, but there’s an issue with the sidebar (it appears down below the content instead of where it belongs). I don’t have many IE5 users, and everything else looks fine, so it’s not really worth the time to fix it (I think would have to deal with IE conditionals and things to avoid breaking it in other browsers).

  • dave

    Great article. I use Win98se, AMD Duron 1200MHz, with ie5.5.

    I have Zonealarm Pro to block out the java/advert/viruses/websites and use the hosts file to block out websites such as google-analytics.

    I find ie5.5 to be the most stable browser, its very quick, and I can access bookmarks readily, which I cannot in Firefox since it almost stalls the PC geting them. I did use ie6 briefly but found it annoying and less stable.

    Since I have little use for annoying Flash, Java, Pop-ups and other adverts ie5.5 suits me best.

  • Matt


    Well, congratulations on still having a PC running Win98. I haven’t had one that lasted more than 2yrs so far (except a Win98se box that’s been relegated to a corner of a back room). If it works for you, great.

    I find it odd that you “use the hosts file to block out websites such as google-analytics.” Why? Google Analytics does nothing but log that an anonymous visitor accessed the site, and some statistics about them, such as what browser you use. In fact, you’re contributing to the demise of IE5 support, since webmasters can’t tell that you (an IE5 user) are viewing their sites, skewing the numbers of IE5-ers. I can see blocking AdSense, but why Analytics?