Technologies

Internet Explorer former Google employee told about trying to YouTube «kill» 6 in 2009 year

The developers conspired against an outdated browser secretly from the authorities.

In 2009, YouTube began displaying a banner to Internet Explorer 6 users warning them to stop supporting their browser. As it turned out, the fight against the outdated technology was started not by Google, but by several YouTube developers secretly from the manual. This was told in his blog a former Google employee Chris Zacharias (Google Zacharias).

According to the developer, YouTube engineers were disappointed in the need to support an outdated browser and decided to “take revenge” on it. By that time, IE6 users accounted for 18% of total traffic.

We began to collectively fantasize about how to get revenge on IE6. The plan was very simple. We wanted to place a small banner above the video player, which would only be shown to users of Internet Explorer 6.Chris Zachariasformer Google and YouTube employee

The developers have implemented a banner on the pages of the site, knowing that the majority of YouTube employees will not notice it, because they use intermediate versions of the service. As Zakarias noted, at that time video hosting was not tightly integrated into the infrastructure and policies of Google, because only a few years had passed since its purchase.

The YouTube developers have created a special set of permissions called OldTuber. With them, they could make changes directly to YouTube, with a minimum of checks and bypassing Google policy. Thanks to OldTuber, Zacharias and several other employees who had rights were able to inject a banner without serious supervision from the authorities.

We saw the opportunity to permanently cripple IE6, which we may never get.Chris Zachariasformer Google and YouTube employee

The banner first appeared on YouTube in 2009 and immediately attracted media attention. According to Zakarias, the first person who came to the developers was the head of the PR division. He could not explain to reporters why YouTube suddenly began threatening to stop supporting IE6 when the browser was still popular.

We gladly told them [the PR department] about everything that we launched and helped them develop the necessary points of discussion in order to expand the agenda set by the publications.
Chris Zachariasformer Google and YouTube employee

After that, two Google lawyers also turned to the developers, who also wanted to know why YouTube posted a banner. As explained by Zacharias, the warning was demanded to “immediately remove” because Google was developing Chrome. According to lawyers, European regulators could regard the banner as a violation of antitrust laws.

Then the developers customized the banner to randomly display other browsers, including the new version of Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera. For lawyers held a demonstration, after which they left “without additional concerns.”


The final version of the banner on the termination of support for IE6 on YouTube in 2009. Screenshot of Chris Zacharias

Soon, a banner about ending support for IE6 appeared in other Google products: for example, it was implemented by the Google Docs team. As it turned out, one of the developers of the service accidentally stumbled upon a warning on YouTube when I tested the browser. He addressed the authorities with an explanation why the team should do the same.

According to Zacharias, the banner display resulted in a massive decrease in IE6 traffic. Within a month, YouTube began to log in half the users of an outdated browser, and its global traffic was reduced by 10%. At the same time, the share of other browsers in statistics increased by the corresponding figures.

When management found out what had happened, it was too late to do something and the authorities “reluctantly concluded that the end justifies the means.” Ultimately, the YouTube development team reached its goal in 2012, when IE6’s share fell below one percent in the United States. Then even Microsoft celebrated the“death” of the browser.


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