How Internet Explorer 6 Died: Ex-Google Engineer Reveals Secrets

Almost a decade ago, in July 2009, YouTube displayed a banner exclusively for Internet Explorer 6 users.

The banner notified them that Microsoft’s browser would be phasing out very soon and that they should switch to another browser.

It appeared on all Microsoft browser YouTube pages.

At the time, Internet Explorer 6 was used by 18 percent of all people on YouTube.

Yet, the aging Microsoft browser frustrated many, including a group of YouTube engineers who thought of a plan to kill off Internet Explorer 6.

Former YouTube and Google engineer, Chris Zacharias, revealed their method: “The plan was very simple. We would put a small banner above the video player that would only show up for Internet Explorer 6 users.”

As they made and implemented the banner, the team knew that most YouTube employees wouldn’t see the banner, as they weren’t using Internet Explorer 6.

Google had bought YouTube a few years before the banner, and YouTube hadn’t totally adapted to all of Google’s rules and infrastructure.

As such, the engineers created a special set of permissions called “OldTuber” so they could bypass Google’s code enforcement policies to make direct changes to the YouTube database with limited code reviews.

Those with OldTuber permissions, including Zacharias, could place the banners with very little oversight from upper management.

As Zacharias notes, “We saw an opportunity in front of us to permanently cripple Internet Explorer 6 that we might never get again.”

Other Google properties, such as Google Docs, also used the banner to help end Internet Explorer 6.

When YouTube management realized what had happened, they “begrudgingly arrived at the conclusion that the ends had justified the means.”

By April 2012, Internet Explorer 6 usage was below one percent in the US.

Eric Silver

Eric Silver

Eric Silver is a veteran technology blogger and startup enthusiast that's been covering the global technology scene since the most advanced phones were still folding in half.