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IE 6 mobile standards compliance tests

So, I was challenged on my assertion that the new Internet Explorer for mobile that is going to be unleashed in China next year is based on the web developer’s mortal enemy and the virus-writer’s best friend, IE 6 for desktop.

I was wrong, people said: IE 6 mobile isn’t IE 6 desktop back from the dead and dripping goo and pus like a George Romero zombie; it’s an accident, a coincidence of the numbering system. Microsoft are good guys now, they said, committed to web standards.

After all, look at the claims for it:

Internet Explorer Mobile 6 [is] a full-featured browser for Windows Mobile devices that brings the same high-quality browsing experience to the user as desktop browsers. Internet Explorer Mobile 6 supports desktop-quality rendering and has the best compliance support of all versions of Internet Explorer on a Windows Mobile device to date.

So I downloaded the emulator and ran a few tests.

Conditional comments and * html

Firstly, I tested a simple page to see if it picked up Conditional Comments targetted at IE 6, and whether it picked up CSS rules aimed at the valid, but nonsensical * html elements.

The test page is

p {color:red}
* html p {color:blue;}
<!--[if lte IE 6]>
<h1>Conditional comments think I'm IE6!</h1>
<p>Red for non-IE6, blue for IE 6</p>

So, IE 6 (or below) will show a heading, and a paragraph in blue. A modern browser will have no heading and the text will be red. The screenshot shows that IE 6 mobile believes it to be the same as IE 6 desktop on both counts.

screenshot showing heading and blue text

IE 6 mobile and the Acid tests

29% of all internet users in China only ever use a mobile phone to acess the Web. But Microsoft’s “new” mobile browser doesn’t quite have the standards-compliance that Chinese people deserve.

The Acid 2 test:

a very bad attempt at rendering acid 2

and the Acid 3 test:

a very bad attempt at rendering acid 2

IE 6 mobile and CSS support

A big problem for web developers was IE 6 lamentable support for CSS, so I ran the CSS selectors test. The results say “from the 43 selectors, 10 have passed. 1 are buggy and 32 are unsupported”.

selectors test result

Even IE 7 passes 13 of the 43 selectors (“4 are buggy and 26 are unsupported”).

So what IS IE 6 mobile?

Well, it appears that the heart of it is chucklesome old IE 6 desktop, with a few extra bits grafted on from IE 7 and IE 8’s JavaScript engine. So it’s cross between a zombie and a Frankenbrowser.

To verify, I opened up the back of my mobile and hiding behind the battery, clinging onto the SIM, I found the true face of IE 6 mobile, its lips mouthing “Ni hao” in anticipation of its imminent Beijing exhumation.


Joking aside, this is a terrible situation. 20% of the world’s population are being offered an ancient, discredited browser. Who knows whether we’ll imminently see China’s phones paralysed by viruses—after all, the U.S. government’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team advised

there are a number of significant vulnerabilities in technologies relating to the IE domain. It is possible to reduce exposure to these vulnerabilities by using a different web browser.

We need web standards. And China deserves them, too.

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15 Responses to “ IE 6 mobile standards compliance tests ”

Comment by Daniel Walker

Didn’t I say it? IE 6 will become the new Netscape 4.

We need a new strapline, to match our “No more Netscape 4” one. Something like “Don’t be a hick: kick IE 6”, or (with the possibility of a rash of ActiveX-installed viruses in mind) how about “Phones become bricks, with IE6”.

Comment by Michael

as much as IE6 is a hassle for us developers you can’t deny one thing about the old desktop browser: it is FAST compared to later versions of IE or Firefox/Mozilla.

I think that may be one of the reasons IE6 is still so common on desktop machines, especially on older/slower machines.

I’m not surprised they adapted it for mobile devices given slower CPU’s and less memory compared to typical current desktop machines.

Users don’t like waiting for ages for their browser to start up!

I might not like the way IE6 handles CSS but I’d much rather put up with a bit of ugly non-standard rendering now and then than be forced to wait for ages just to start up the browser!

It probably shows they may be learning an important lesson from Vista … people hate waiting!

Comment by John Faulds

I’ll agree that IE6 probably *starts* faster than Firefox, but any gains there are negated by the time it takes to actually load pages as (in my experience) it is way slower than other browsers.

Comment by MK

I disagree with Michael and agree with Mr. Faulds though I really can’t see any difference even with the speed they start… IE for mobile is due next year, you say. Isn’t that the year for IE 8 too? What gives?

Comment by Mark

Hello, I dont know whether this is the right place to ask this question or not but I thought I would ask anyway.
I have an SPV M5000 on the Orange network, it is running Mobile 5 I think. Is there any where that I can get Mobile 6– for it. Ive tried all Avenues that I can think of and asked on many forums but I can seem to get any joy. So does anybody know if I can get Windows Mobile 6 to but or as a Download?

Thank You Mark

Comment by stefan

OMG! are you !@#$ing serious?! WTF!?

I thought we killed off IE6 already? Who the heck let this thing spread!

Comment by Nicholas Shanks

Morning Bruce.
I too was mislead into thinking that the numbering for IE/WinMobile was different from IE/Win. (“OMG, why isn’t Opera Mini using version 10 too?”)
I am hugely happy to be proved wrong. Since IE6 is nearly dead on desktop, web developers will hopefully forget about mobile, and stop supporting IE6. This will force the hand of Windows Mobile device vendors to ship using an alternative browser instead. A big win is in the offing for Opera if you are courting the right execs in asia.

“from the 43 selectors, 10 have passed. 1 are buggy and 3 are unsupported”

I am pretty sure 43 minus 10 minus 1 equals 32, not 3 🙂

I am guessing you forgot to scroll across. You’re also missing the closing quote mark.

Comment by steelwaiter

IE6 sucks among desktop browsers, sure, but IE6 is actually far ahead of the current Pocket IE in terms of standards compliance and rendering capability. So going from Pocket IE to IE6 is actually a giant step forward, for mobile IE at least.

About activex virus and stuff, I don’t think it will pose any problem, after all x86 code can’t run on arm, and after SP2, you need to explicitly click “Yes” at least twice to install and run an activeX control in IE6. If someone is stupid enough to do that, then he/she will get virus downloaded and run whether using IE or Opera or whatever.

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