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I attended the Web 2.0 Expo session where representatives from the major browser providers (sans Safari) talked about the future of browsers.

One popular topic was the IE6 problem; i.e., how do we get users off IE6 onto a more modern browser with more capabilities?

Douglas Crockford of Yahoo! had the soundbite quote of the panel: “The problem is that web developers are doing a good job supporting these bastards.” (I’m paraphrasing.)

He (and pretty much the rest of the panel) put the onus of getting users to upgrade on the web developers. Web developers need to force users to upgrade by serving error pages driving them to upgrade before they can use the site. He even suggested that the web developers of major sites agree to do it all on the same day to mitigate the business damage of doing it.

Unfortunately, to me, all this smacks of “we know what’s best for you, so do what we want”. In his suggestion of a simultaneous launch of IE6 blocks, Doug is really just admitting that the natural reaction of users would be to go to another site.

Similarly, isn’t the fact that users are still on IE6 stem from the fact that the browser fundamentally does what the users, the web developers of the sites they visit, and (in corporate settings) their IT managers want? It may be an old browser with limitations but it has enough capabilities and work arounds that the modern web delivers some great experiences on it.

The onus is on the web developers to solve the IE6 problem, but not to decide to block IE6. The onus is on web developers to come up with the killer app/experience that compels them to upgrade that can’t be implemented in IE6. Until that happens, we’ll have to wait through the slow progress of upgrades we curretly have.

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