IE6update is a script you can add to your web site that will detect if the user is running IE6 and recommend that they upgrade.
The intent is clear: get people off IE6 (a flawed and outdated browser) and onto a more modern browser. Their web experience will improve and the lives of developers will be made easier.
I understand the intent, but the shameful way it’s been executed is so wrong it almost beggars belief.
Who will benefit from upgrading?
There are mainly two types of user still running IE6: Staff in large companies where upgrades are managed centrally by the IT department, and home users who are using older computers with earlier versions of Windows, and who think that the big blue ‘E’ on their desktop actually is the internet.
You can’t influence anybody in group one using a script like this, and if anything, you’re causing more problems. Users seeing the upgrade message will either try the upgrade themselves (which won’t work) or they will put in a call to IT support. It’s going to be no fun for IT departments to tell hundreds of staff to ignore it, and they will curse you for it.
Group two are likely to be home users who aren’t web savvy and who don’t care about upgrades. They don’t know that they’re missing out on anything and if your site works for them (and it should), why do they need to? If they see the IE6update warning and read it, the heavy handed language is likely to scare them off, rather than get to them upgrade.
The problems with IE6update
Regardless of who you think you are ‘helping’ with this script, the way it’s been designed is deeply flawed:
- It’s dishonest and claims authority where there is none
- It’s misleading
- It’s alarmist
- It’s designed to help developers, not users
It’s dishonest and claims authority where there is none
Internet Explorer uses an information bar at the top of the browser to inform the user of things like a possible security risk, or information about installing a plugin:
The fake information bar generated by IE6update looks like this. Spot the difference!
The IE6update bar has been deliberately made to look like an official Microsoft feature. That’s not only dishonest, it suggests an authority that it can’t possibly claim. Furthermore, in this security conscious age where everyone is worried about phishing, malware and the like, faking an operating system prompt is disturbingly misguided.
The guys responsible for the IE6update claim that since Microsoft is “evil”, they feel justified in being “evil” too. That’s not a justification; did you not learn that two wrongs don’t make a right?
The text on the fake Information Bar reads
“Internet Explorer is missing updates required to view this site. Click here to update…”
This is patently false and is using underhand language to ask the user to make a decision based on a lie. The user is not required to install an update to view the site (unless you’re using other underhand and selfish techniques to block IE6 entirely.) Any well built site will still work in IE6, even if it looks or behaves differently than in a modern browser.
The IE Information Bar is often used to draw attention to suspected security issues with nefarious websites. Users are becoming familiar with it and often associate the info bar with something “bad.” Using IE6update could be causing alarm to users, instead of actually helping them, and we all know that scaring your users is never a good thing.
It’s designed to help developers, not users
My previous post looked at why developers should still support IE6. The intent was to show how developers must stop trying to make their own lives easier and instead focus on their users.
IE6update pays lip service to helping users, but it’s really only designed to ease the ‘burden’ on developers of catering for IE6. Following the Twitter search for #ie6update reveals many alarming comments (names removed to protect the guilty!)
#ie6update is a great solution to the IE6 problem. Please every web developer use this!
#ie6update is another attempt to kill the oldfashioned way to view websites. i hope it will work
The only things that would make #ie6update better would be if (a) it offered users no choice and (b) smacked their IT managers in the face.
Highly reccomended to all web developers who hate IE6 users
Phrases like “hate IE6 users” frankly make me ashamed to be seen in the same light as these developers. At least there are a few people with opposing views:
IDK if you are doing something good or something bad. It is never a good idea to fool users into thinking you are their OS like
so does #ie6update ignore windows 2000 users who can’t upgrade to IE7? Horrible nagware don’t do it…
whereas i agree with the sentiment of #ie6update i do think spoofing a browser plugin dialogue is both unethical & potentially actionable
The people who think #ie6update is a good idea have obviously never worked in IT support.
Use your power wisely
As a developer, you’re in a position of power. That power should be used wisely: Don’t run roughshod over your users, however strongly you feel that you might be helping them.
The web isn’t your digital playground, it’s a place where everyone should be able to participate and enjoy it on an equal footing. If you take the elitist view that IE6 users are somehow beneath you, that they are to be hated, and that their mere presence is ruining your cushy developer life, then I think you need to re-examine why you are developing for the web in the first place.
At the risk of repeating myself, it’s not about what’s best for you, it’s about what’s best for your users.