What does a perfect world look like?

If you’re a web designer or developer, chances are your perfect world is a world free of older versions of Internet Explorer.

Despite the popularity of Chrome and Firefox, and the proliferation of non-Windows mobile devices, Microsoft’s web browser is still used by countless millions around the world. Depending on what you’re building and what versions of IE you’re required to support, that can mean big headaches.

But is it time to kick older versions of IE to the curb? The people behind the world’s most popular JavaScript library, jQuery, apparently think so.

Yesterday, they announced that in early 2013, when jQuery 2.0 is scheduled to be released, it will drop support for IE6, IE7 and IE8. Front-end developers that have no choice but to support these browsers will have to use jQuery 1.9, which will also be released in early 2013. One way to do this is to use a less-than-pretty IE conditional.

While many look forward to the day when past versions of IE can be put to rest, some are suggesting that jQuery is jumping the gun, particularly when it comes to IE8. It, after all, was the default browser that shipped with Windows 7 and is the last version of IE for Windows XP, which is still used in more than a few corporate environments.

Supporters of jQuery’s decision point out that Windows XP was released more than 10 years ago in 2001 and that while IE8 isn’t nearly as old, it now has a market share of well under 20% and falling fast.

So who is right? It’s a tough call. Obviously, no two web projects are alike. Plenty of websites could probably ditch everything before IE9 without a noticeable impact; others, because of their audiences, would for all intents and purposes be broken.

jQuery, as the most popular JavaScript library out there, is in a can’t-win situation. If the team behind it doesn’t ditch older versions of IE, it will become increasingly difficult to boost performance and take advantage of new browser innovations. If it does, it will leave some developers in a lurch.

What does this prove? One thing: even as browser makers seem to be getting better at standards, the rapid pace of innovation in the browser space will ensure that developers have new headaches to deal with.