Microsoft has jumped on the ditch-IE6 bandwagon with IE6Countdown.com, following in the footsteps of such campaigns as Browse Happy, End 6, and Save the Developers.

Of course, since it’s a Microsoft-sponsored campaign, it’s only promoting upgrades, rather than promoting an upgrade-or-switch message.

Static HTML points out why you might want to put your effort into some other campaign instead. Because IE6 Countdown is only an upgrade campaign, and IE6 users are all on Windows XP or below (Vista ships with IE7), they can only ever upgrade as far as IE8. Given the huge gap between IE8 and IE9 in terms of standards support, HTML5, CSS3, and so forth, IE8 will soon become the new millstone around the web’s neck.

So instead of plugging IE, consider plugging your own favorite browser, be it Firefox, Chrome or Opera. Or perhaps plug another switch campaign. After all, there are quite a few alternative web browsers out there!

It’s not a huge surprise, with all the major web browsers adding their own bookmark sync services, but Xmarks (formerly Foxmarks) is shutting down in January.

I figure I’ll just use Firefox Sync, Chrome sync, Opera Link, etc. to share bookmarks between the desktop and laptop, but what I really liked Xmarks for was its ability to sync different browsers together. I’m always switching between Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Safari (and occasionally IE when I’m on a Windows box) and it’s nice to have them all on the same set of bookmarks.

I guess it’s back to periodically exporting from my main browser and importing in the secondary ones, unless I find a tool or find the time to read up on the bookmarks formats and write one.

Update: Xmarks lives!

Apparently there are websites out there that are redirecting Internet Explorer users to the Alternative Browser Alliance. This is, IMHO, both counter-productive and counter to the open spirit of the web.

For all the same reasons that you shouldn’t block visitors using Firefox, Safari, Chrome or Opera, or anything else unless there’s an actual, genuine technical reason (and unless you’re doing serious multimedia that has no fallback option, there is rarely a genuine technical reason), you shouldn’t be blocking visitors using Internet Explorer…

Because you’re not going to change them. You’re just going to make them angry.

They arrived at your site looking for something. Slapping them in the face and sending them off to another site is not going to get them to change their behavior and come back. It’s just going to make them look somewhere else for someone offering the same thing who won’t make them jump through hoops.

Case Study

Last week I received a message through the Alternative Browser Alliance’s contact form asking, “What does this have to do with cpanel?” I wanted to reply, “Nothing, why do you ask?”…but the person who asked the question hadn’t left an email address, just the name “King Kong.”

(Tip: If you want an answer to a question, give people a way to contact you!)

So I checked the server logs and saw that he(?) had arrived on the Why Alternative Browsers? page and had left no referrer. Great, another dead end.

I was ready to write it off as spam, but then I decided to search the logs for cpanel, and found several hits referred by a cpanel tutorial. I visited the page and didn’t see any links to my site, but when I looked at the source, I spotted this script:

if(navigator.userAgent.indexOf("MSIE")!= -1)
{
   window.location = "http://www.alternativebrowseralliance.com/why.html";
}

Wow. They just redirected all IE users with no explanation — not even pointing out that they were being shunted off to another website! Imagine opening the front door of a computer repair shop and walking inside to find a political activist’s office instead!

Presumably “King Kong” had searched for cpanel, followed a link to this tutorial, and found himself looking at a page about alternative web browsers. No wonder he didn’t leave a contact address. He didn’t want an answer. He was angry and blowing off steam — at me, for something that someone else did.

And did badly, I might add: Three of the five visits I could actually identify in the logs claimed to be Opera Mini, not Internet Explorer. I don’t recall whether Opera Mini can masquerade as another browser (the current Android version doesn’t offer the option, but this claimed to be an older Java version), but the desktop version certainly can. Older versions of Opera used to deliberately identify themselves as IE (with a tag adding that, no, actually it’s Opera), and would have been caught by this script!

The User-Agent isn’t a reliable indicator. It was never intended to be. If you must single out Internet Explorer for some reason, use conditional comments. That’s what they’re designed for.

If what you want to do is block IE visitors, though, think about what you’re really accomplishing. And please, don’t just silently shove the “problem” visitors onto someone else.