So. Internet Explorer 6 is still polluting the internet with its presence. An amazing 4% of visitors to this website are still using IE6. What the fuck are you doing? Someone accused me of showing contempt for visitors. Look at the content on this website! It’s all technical stuff. I am contemptuous of anyone who visits using IE6! I am an elitist prick. I don’t really care if they go away and don’t come back.

IE6 is bad for the economy, wasting millions of person-hours hacking around its antique defectiveness. It’s bad for progress, with its lack of support for even basic features like transparency. It’s bad for stress, because every day people waste their time making stuff work in IE6 when they could be doing something interesting and satisfying instead. Heck, it’s probably bad for the environment, for all I know.

Well, persuasion hasn’t worked. Facebook, YouTube, and Norway haven’t gone far enough. Maybe it’s time for coercion. I’m thinking of something like a Low Emissions Zone for the web. First, we warn the polluters. Then, we deny them access: we make IE6 unusable on the web.

So here’s the plan. First, we put big, obnoxious, obvious banners on all our sites, telling visitors using IE6 of the forthcoming apocalypse. We name a date—September 1st, say—as the day of reckoning. We threaten catastrophe.

Then, when D-Day rolls around, we replace the obnoxious banner with something even more hostile: code to crash IE6.

The idea is to deny large swathes of the web to Internet Explorer 6. If enough people do it, IE6 will become unusable literally overnight. Upgrading to another browser will become a pressing need.

I’m not saying that you should do this at work: many commercial sites probably can’t realistically take part, and I don’t want to get anyone sacked. But that still leaves plenty of sites that aren’t subject to such stringent constraints. When people can’t get to all the interesting sites they’re used to browsing, they’ll be forced to take action. When the hairy-palmed masses can’t browse their porn, they’ll be motivated to do something about it. (Although if you are browsing porn on IE6, three-year-olds are already trading your credit card numbers in kindergarten. You idiot.)

I’ve heard all the objections to upgrades before:

  • Our intranet application only works in IE6—So use IE6 for your shitty intranet application. Install a real browser (Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Safari, whatever) for the internet.
  • Our IT people won’t let us use anything else—Looking out the window is boring. When management can’t waste their time surfing videos of ice-skating chimps, this will change pretty fast.
  • We’re using Windows 2000—Firefox.
  • What’s a browser?—Ask your grandson.

When it comes down to it, if people have to upgrade, they will. We don’t sell leaded petrol any more, either. But we have to make them have to upgrade.

Can we do it? As idealistic developers with chips on our shoulders, do we have the cojones? Can we face the opprobrium and kick IE6 overboard into the watery grave it so richly deserves?

Aux armes, amis !