Mac users clinging to Internet Explorer

John Oxton has encountered some problems with Mac users who insist on using Internet Explorer as their main web browser. Read about his frustration in Why do you cling to IE5/Mac?.

I’ve seen this myself. Old time Mac users who upgrade to Mac OS X are very likely to keep using Internet Explorer, despite the wealth of modern browsers available. After talking to a few of them, the obvious reason is that they don’t know that Internet Explorer is seriously outdated and has been end-of-lined. Most of the sites they use also keep working. No big surprises there.

Not sure what it’s like in other countries, but here in Sweden IE/Mac is used way too often when a web browser interface is needed for a screenshot or ad in computer or design magazines. You even see it used in TV commercials. No wonder people who don’t work in the web industry think it’s still the browser they should use.

The question is this: What can we do to convince Mac OS X users to switch to a better browser, giving them a better experience browsing the web and letting developers stop struggling with CSS support for IE/Mac once and for all? Through education and information, obviously, but how do we reach them?

Posted on October 23, 2005 in Browsers, Mac, Quicklinks


  1. October 23, 2005 by Lord Palf

    Perhaps we should create some common information block which states the advantages of switching to a modern browser.

    This block should be visible to visitors with an outdated browser. People with modern browsers won’t have to see it.

    Make it interesting for people to make the switch by providing cool (extra) features in your site for modern browsers, but make sure your content is reachable for all visitors.

  2. Funny thing. In Denmark there’s a youth tv-show called “Boogie” (it’s about music). They sometimes brings up information on how you can get impact on the show, by using their website. And in that ad, they use Safari. Now, I’m sure no-one except me has noticed, but I get a smile on my face every time I see that.

    (By the way, I’m 16 so it’s okay for me to watch youth shows! ;-).)

  3. Perhaps, but chances are it will just be overlooked like it was an ad.

  4. Perhaps there is too much people stuck with ye olde Mac os9? I usually point them to Wamcom Mozilla builds (yes, tabbed browsing for os9)

  5. @Greg: Last time I checked, iCab also seemed to have become quite a decent browser for OS 9 use lately, just a little tip if you didn’t know.

    …I always liked the gimmick iCab have with showing a “smiley” for how well the site is coded, makes the webdevgeek in me feel warm and fuzzy. Sadly, they’ve never managed to keep quite up with the rest of the market…

    Anyway, on to the point: For once I’d like to be as bold as suggesting that a lot of sites start using a symbol to alert users with old browsers that they should consider upgrading. It should not be obtrusive (some can’t upgrade) of course, someone should make a decent-looking icon (like the 9rules one on this here site). Lord Palfs idea is good, and even used before.. But maybe if sites started showing this icon, and link to the information site?

    I realize this icon-idea is not something one would use on company sites a lot, and putting it on sites like this probably won’t catch many users with old browsers.. But I still think there exists some sites bold enough to use it, which would be amongst the sites visited by casual browsers and “unenlightened” people.

    @Rowan: The ad-trap is certainly something one would have to be aware of. But I think one could manage to convince people that it’s for their own good, rather than a company’s fortune if one doesn’t glorify one single browser, and create a plain and simple informational site. Of course the icon (or whatever used to link there) itself will have to be “non-advert” as well..

    Anyway, that’s my 0,50 NOK…

  6. For people stuck on good old OS 9, you can always point them to iCab 3.0. Runs very fast, has a much smaller footprint (both harddisk space and memory usage), and it beats even the latest Firefox/Opera/Safari builds on CSS 2.1 support.

    And then, for some people, Safari has just too much of a ‘toy’ feeling. And they like a number of (interface) features missing in other browsers (save as webarchive, the scrapbook, the page holder — yes that one works like a tab, long before any other browser had the concept of tabs). Gecko and Opera feel just to geeky for many, although the latest Firefox has improved on this.

  7. It’s interesting to see this post on the same day as I read Martin Belam’s breakdown of visitors to the BBC’s homepage and in particular the section “Browsers Visiting The BBC Homepage From Mac Users” on page 5 which shows that 30% of Mac visitors to are using IE, a massive percentage for a browser which is no longer supported!

  8. ok, there should be an underscore in each of those URLs between “user” and “agents”.

  9. October 23, 2005 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Phil: I fixed the underscores in your comment.

  10. As I just noted on John’s site, with the latest OS, 10.4, Tiger, (and with all moving forward) IE5 is no longer included as a default installed browser at all. If people really want it, they’ll need to go fishing around Microsoft’s site for the download. Most won’t do that.

    So it’s only a matter of time.

  11. Time, Doug, yes.. But 10.4 is also one of the OS X releases which demands quite modern equipment. I’ve managed to run OS X on my 2001 G3 fine up until 10.3, but 10.4 is just too much to be useable. And I know of a few people not wanting to upgrade to 10.4 still, since they are perfectly content with 10.3.9.

    There’s still quite a few people using Windows IE 5/5.5! It’s only a matter of time before we see all of these and the IE 6 users on IE 7 - of course that’s after IE 7 is released… sigh And I still have clients using older versions of Windows than XP…

    The situation is a bit similar between users with IE on Windows, and IE on Mac, only that IE Mac is a discontinued product altogether and OS X flourishes with a lot more capable browsers - in part due to WebKit.

  12. I recently was asked to help a woman who uses Mac OS 8.6 and Netscape 4.7. She thought Netscape WAS the internet and didn’t know what a browser is. She wanted me to help her make a reservation on Travelocity: impossible with her setup. She keeps being advised to upgrade but she’s afraid she won’t understand how OS X works. As you can probably guess, she’s using dialup. However, the millions of dollars begin spent by Netscape and Net Zero advertising for dial up business on American TV lead me to believe that there are still a great many dial up users to entice, and that women like this are not yet an endangered species.

  13. Virginia said almost exactly what I was about to say.

    Switch the old woman and replace her with France.

    And let me says this: [French] people don’t know what a browser is.

    It so happens that almost every client I work with has one person on the board that uses IE5 for the Mac. These people don’t know that browsers exists (not that WinIE6 users do, mind you), they have “the Internet”. As I have very little Mac knowledge I’m always afraid to ask them to upgrade because I can’t guide them…

    So please buy me a Mac or count me in on that upgrade campaign.

  14. October 23, 2005 by theUg

    Gee, people, where have you been? Sure is, time freezes in Scandinavia. ;)


    And here are the buttons you have been talking about:

    BrowseHappy Promotional Buttons

  15. I’ve seen this occur too many times as well. But hey, my father is still on OS 9 and running IE 5 on an original bondi blue iMac. (And dialup!)

    At least Tiger doesn’t even install IE anymore!

    As for screenshots, might I humbly suggest Vector Safari?

  16. October 23, 2005 by Poncho

    I’m working at the moment for a client who is a recent OS9 - OS 10.4 upgrader. Much to my amazement, she was STILL using IE5.

    I had set up a IE Mac stylesheet to hide, or dumb-down the more ‘advanced’ elements of the site layout so she thought her computer was broken!

    I have no idea how she got IE5 Mac because I had deleted it from her Classic environment, made Safari the default browser and left an alias on her desktop!!!

    … some people just shouldn’t be allowed computers.

    @Dave Simon, Good job on Vector Safari, very handy indeed :-)

    Cheers; Poncho

  17. October 23, 2005 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Doug: It’s a good thing that Apple no longer bundles Internet Explorer with OS X. That only takes care of those who buy a new Mac or do a format and install of Mac OS X 10.4 though. People who upgrade will still have IE in their Applications folder ;-).

    theUg: BrowseHappy is good, but it doesn’t explain why people should switch from the Mac version of Internet Explorer. As far as I know it does not have the same security issues as the Windows version.

    Dave: As Greg and Philippe have pointed out, there are alternatives for those who are stuck with OS 9. IIRC there are also Mozilla-based versions of Netscape that will work.

  18. RE Intenet Explorer in the media.. There have been some coke ads a while ago (in Australia) which showed Mozilla Firefox on a Mac.

  19. October 24, 2005 by martinelli

    Umm, the Mac G4 I’m stuck with will not run OSX so there is little point in running anything else. Tried Mozilla and it mostly works, is stuck at an old version level as well and is not as good as Mac IE 5. The iMac is getting dumped for a WinXP system and so until we get one of those cute little Mac bricks for quality testing, we’re out of the mix. There are certain limitations out here in the business world having to do with budgets and stuff like that.

  20. Last time I checked, 1.2.1 was the latest OS 9 compatible version of Mozilla. WaMCom looks interesting though.

  21. October 24, 2005 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Note: John’s post is about Mac OS X users who insist on using Internet Explorer. Mac OS 9 users don’t have the same options, but they do have options.

    martinelli: A G4 that can’t run OS X? Is that an upgraded machine? Mac OS X 10.4 will run on any Mac that has a G3, G4 or G5 CPU.

    Anton: Correct, Mozilla 1.2.1 is the latest official build for Mac OS 9, but it’s still way better than IE5 in terms of web standards support.

  22. While I agree that people clinging to IE on Mac is an annoyance, something I regards as vastly more important is to get people to move away from IE 5 on PCs.

    Just imagine not having to use workarounds (Note, I didn’t write hacks :-)) for an incorrect box model, not having to cover up for different interpretations of padding and width etc…

  23. October 24, 2005 by theUg

    RE: #22. Well, why don’t we just write standart-compliant code and forget about it? Natural selection in action. I became lazy like Zeldman, and just do it. :)

    RE: #17. Well, concerned individuals such as yourself can come up with an idea and pitch it to the, I suppose. ;)

  24. I ran into a similar situation a few weeks ago while giving some internet-related workshops here at the university I work at. The primary attendees were parents of students and alumni who were fairly computer illiterate.

    When demonstrating some of the features of browsers, I showed them IE and Firefox (on Windows), and the differences between them. A few people got confused and asked why I was even showing them Firefox since they wouldn’t use it. When I had to come up with reasons why they should use a browser other than Internet Explorer, even for the Mac, I don’t think they quite “got it.”

    So, how do you convince those people that are not internet savvy to use something other than IE? I might’ve convinced 1 or 2 people, if I was lucky.

  25. October 24, 2005 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Patrick: When I’m in situations like that I like to tell people that they are using a web browser that will no longer be updated, and sooner rather than later websites will start breaking in it. So they might as well start using a better browser that still has a long and healthy life ahead of it now, instead of waiting until they have no choice.

    Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

  26. October 24, 2005 by Mark Johnson

    Microsoft quit developing IE5/Mac in 2003. Now, as of 1/1/06, they’re officially ending support for it:

    (For a bit of fun, try plugging the title of that page into Microsoft’s site search.)

    Yet another reason you can give to Mac users to convince them to… uh… “Switch”.

  27. October 24, 2005 by Mark Johnson

    Don’t try to watch color TV on a black-and-white set. Here are some free “color TVs”:

    Mac OS 8 and 9:

    Mozilla 1.2.1
    Page includes links to helper applications

    Netscape 7.0 (Mac OS 8 and 9)

    Opera 6.03


    For OS X:

    Firefox or Mozilla from


    Safari from Apple:

    Camino from Camino:



  28. October 24, 2005 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Mark: Microsoft ending support for IE/Mac is certainly good news and should help convince one or two people to switch.

    Oh, you forgot a few colour TVs for Mac OS X:

  29. How’s this for depressing - I occasionally collaborate on a hobbie project with a guy who works at a small midwestern American newspaper. They have 85+ Macs running whatever version of IE came with the machine (I think they are running Jaguar.) Not only are are employee forbidden by company policy to not install any software, their cheap-ass mgmt has no plans to upgrade anything for the forseeable future. They are so ignorant/concerned about viruses, they wouldn’t let the guy set up an in-house intranet server for managing workflow and facilitating communication because they were concerned that it would leave them vulnerable to ‘hackers’. Who knows how many other similar situations exist in businesses all across the world.

    Since the machines in place are powerful enough for common Word/Excel tasks, the pressures to regularly buy new equipment or upgrade software aren’t nearly as high as they were thru the 90s.

    Even if we decide to dismiss the fractional amount of stale Mac users as too small to bother with, we’re going to be stuck with the sins of the past for a long, long time. Given the number of people still using Windows 98, We could all be retired before the last of MSIE6 finally fades from our log files.

  30. @martinelli: If your Mac has a processor upgrade card you can run Mac OS X, one example that comes to mind is Sonnet . Another tool you can try is XPostFacto .4.0. I have used it to install 10.3 on a old PowerMac 8600 with a G3 upgrade card and it works flawlessly. Try it and I’m sure it will work.

  31. I’ve always found that getting people to switch from IE to Firefox is easy enough (comparatively) when you inform them that they won’t have to deal with adaware, spyware blockers, firewalls and all those extra security measures as much anymore.

    When people truly care about the security of their PC, go for the security opening. IE is full of them, and forever will be. Microsoft patches it, a week later new critical security issues are found and remain open for another 3 months before being patched, and a week after that the whole thing starts all over again. People will simply always be at risk when using IE, and plenty of people don’t want that. Once they acknowledge that little bit, start talking about how Firefox works much like IE but just a little faster and nicer.

    Don’t bother with longevity of a browser, I’d say. They’ve been using IE probably for about 5+ years by now without ever knowingly updating their browser, and they’ll have never (or only very rarely) encountered evidence that it’s become outdated in that sense.

  32. If you need to convince someone who is an AOL user to switch browsers just have them try to open the site from their IE running on OS 10.4.2. Almost guarunteed to crash the IE where it won’t even open anymore. Talk about a pain in the butt to repair just to get IE to run for a temp period till they hit another site that just won’t allow it, and it crashes again.

  33. How’s THIS for depressing: my major New York educational publishing company only configures their intranet pages for Explorer. They ignore all the Mac users when we have technical isssues, because surely Macs are extreme and alternative. They don’t have ANY Mac-savvy people working in the IT department. Not a single one. Of course, this is the same department that sends out warnings about not clicking on an instant message that downloads a virus…and then sends a live link. As in, “Do not click this (red, bold, all caps) BUTTON”.

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