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Javascript guru calls for webwide IE6 boycott

'In China,' says MS, 'it's still a great browser'

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Web 2.0 Expo Douglas Crockford - the man who "discovered" JSON and a senior Javascript architect at Yahoo! - has called on all major websites to simultaneously force the world's IE6 users to download a browser that isn't nearly nine years old.

"My proposal for solving the IE6 problem? It has to be solved by the major website developers. One day, all of us [should] redirect to a page that says 'please load one of these five or six free browsers, and then come back,'" Crockford said during a panel discussion of the web browser future at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, California.

"We all have to do it on the same day. Otherwise, we'll be afraid we'll be sending IE6 users to a competitor, and we'll never get them back."

Crockford even has a day in mind. He says this mass redirection should happen exactly 30 days after all five of the major browsers have implemented ECMAScript 5, the latest Javascript standard. "On that day," he said dramatically, "IE6 dies."

Predictably, this was met with a wave of trade-show applause. But Mozilla's Brendan Eich - the man who invented Javascript - was quick to point out that IE6 is so prevalent in part because so many companies still require it for custom applications. "A lot of the IE6 drag in enterprises is due to ActiveX and even browser customizations that were done in applications," Eich said.

This is true. And even if it weren't, Opera standards man Charles McCathieNevile questions whether Crockford's idea would work with consumers. So many people are still using IE6, he told The Reg, because they're not the sort of people who can wrap their heads around the installation of a new browser.

Naturally, Microsoft's response to Crockford's grand plan was to downplay the IE6 problem. Net Applications shows that IE6 still controls 17.58 per cent of the market, which is more than Apple Safari, Google Chrome, and Opera combined. And in China, it still accounts for half of all browsers. But Redmond IE evangelist Giorgio Sardo wants you to know that in some countries, IE6 isn't all that prevalent, and he argues that in countries where it is prevalent, this may be because it's "still a great browser".

"IE6 was a great browser," he said. "And for many users in China, for example, it's still a great browser. It can still achieve what users need it to do."

Crockford made the point that China is still married to IE6 in large part because so many people are running unlicensed versions of Windows, and he called on Redmond to allow the upcoming HTML5-friendly Internet Explorer 9 on any version of the OS - unlicensed or not. Sardo said that Microsoft is already allowing IE8 on unlicensed copies of Windows XP. But then Google man Alex Russell asked - in pointed fashion - why IE9 won't run on Windows XP.

Sardo said that Microsoft prefers to develop its new browser solely on Windows Vista and Windows 7 for reasons of performance. "IE9 is a modern browser. We are doing all HTML5 on hardware [acceleration]," he said.

"In order to achieve this, we need a modern operating system. With Windows Vista and Windows 7, we can use APIs that aren't available with XP."

Russell pointed out that Google, Mozilla, and Opera are all providing hardware acceleration on Windows XP, and he tried to explain that Microsoft's HTML5 strategy is leaving countless users behind.

"The question becomes: 'Do we have a plan?'" Russell said. "Do we have a way out of this, a way to give developers the choice to use HTML5 features across the board?"

Sardo's answer was that, um, users can always adopt IE9.

That brings us back to the fact that IE9 won't run on anything other than Windows Vista and Windows 7. But Sardo had an answer for this as well. "The other solution is to upgrade your operating system," he said.

We're still not quite sure if this was a joke. But just in case it wasn't, Opera's McCathieNevile pointed out that the world is loaded with PCs that can't run Windows 7.

Whatever Douglas Crockford is planning, IE6 is a long way from death. ®

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