It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this blog. Mostly because I’ve been busy on zillion projects. I’ll soon write an update to my cascades queuing post. For a recent project of mine,, I’ve been researching an efficient way to get rid of Amazon’s Simple Queue Service (SQS) service for one main reason, I needed simultaneous queueing capabilities. One message being in multiple queues at once, that is. My experiments with file system and MySQL queues, even when cascaded with memcached wheren’t performant enough. I found my answer in NoSQL. But now, enough for the intro, now the rant ;-)

I’m writing this while watching Stephen Graham making a statement as Al Capone in Boardwalk Empire. So I shall make one too. Now about that fellah’, the INFAMOUS Internet Explorer 6. A friend of mine recently showed me a site of his making where he directs the IE6 users to a deadend page where he encourages them to upgrade. Sweet. I totally agree. Then he tells me that IE6 is a plague. It sure is, still agreeing. Then that it’s been alive that long because of all the conciliatory developers like him and me that worked, harder an harder as new standards like transparent PNGs came along, to ensure IE6 compatibility. And that’s where I disagree.

He sure is right if you don’t look at the big picture. IE6 couldn’t have stayed alive for that long without us, hard working developers. But if you go a bit deeper, you’ll agree that us, hard working developers, are taking “orders” from project managers, who take them from account managers, who take them from clients. And for a client, as well as for an account manager, when still 30% of the population uses IE6, you’re faced with the prisoner’s dilemma: will you refuse to support it knowing that you competitor might? Probably not.

But the rabbit hole goes deeper than that. Why was 30% of the population stuck with IE6 not so long ago? To me, it’s a combination of two major factors: the Windows Genuine Advantage, and Windows Vista failure.

According to Wikipedia, “the Windows Genuine Advantage is an anti-piracy system created by Microsoft that enforces online validation of the licensing of several recent Microsoft Windows operating systems”, starting with Windows 2000 Pro, and including Windows XP and Windows Vista. While I can’t be against their motives — they’re a proprietary software business, they’re in for the money, and that’s alright, we need them as much as we need open source if you ask me, but that’s another debate — I’m against the fact that they denied browser upgrades to pirate Windows installation. Sure, these users are pirates, outlaws. They don’t deserve upgrade. But we do! That decision contributed to two things: keeping the net unsafe and slowing standards adoption by preventing a majority of dummy users (read: not smart enough to get they should install FireFox or Chrome, and that’s still fine, it’s not their fault, the internet success resides in its mass adoption, not it’s adoption by the early adopters, but again, that’s another debate) to seamlessly upgrade to a safer and more modern browser.

The Windows Vista failure was just an aggravating factor. Until Windows 7 started shipping late 2009 (and even after that, until people realized it was a lot better than Vista), people where still ordering computers with Windows XP. Unfortunately for us, web developers, that included “cheap” people who wanted to save a few (hundred) bucks on a (not so cheap) operating system. Internet Explorer 6.0 was released on August 27th, 2001. Almost 10 years ago. But people were still having fresh Windows XP installs no more than 2 years back because Vista known to be crap.

So yes, in the end, we web developers are responsible for not refusing to build web sites compatible with an obsolete and insecure browser. But to me, the whole IE6 mess we’ve all got to cope with is Microsoft fault. Not because they tried to enforced their right to be paid for copy of their operating system that’s being installed, but because they did so regardless of internet safety and standards adoption. The net would be so much farther without that decision. But we’re where we’re at, and IE6 doesn’t have enough market shares to rule the world anymore. Google opened the march not long ago. Please, let IE6 rest in peace, so we can get rid of IE7 while hoping that IE9 will be a bliss. Hate it? Drop it, for the sake of us all.

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category HTML, Usability, Web development Wednesday 16 February 2011 Comment (0)

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