A former Google engineer has revealed that a group of Google engineers plotted to kill Microsoft’s internet explorer 6 on its YouTube platform almost 10 years ago. It was a message which appeared on all YouTube pages at a time when IE6 users represented around 18 percent of all YouTube traffic. Google bought YouTube in $1.65 billion in 2006. They become frustrated by supporting the aging browser a group of YouTube engineers had hatched a plan to kill Internet Explorer 6.
“We began collectively fantasizing about how we could exact our revenge on IE6,” reveals Chris Zacharias, a former Google engineer and YouTube engineer. “The plan was very simple. We would put a small banner above the video player that would only show up for IE6 users.”
A group of engineers implemented on this banner, they know that most YouTube employees were using the company’s staging environment will not see it. YouTube engineer has also set up special permission called OldYoutuber, so can bypass Google’s code enforcement policies and make changes directly to the YouTube codebase with limited code reviews. Zacharias and some other engineers granted permission to OldTuber, and allow them to put banners in place with little eyesight.
“We saw an opportunity in front of us to permanently cripple IE6 that we might never get again,” said Zacharias.
In July 2009, the banner appeared and the press coverage agreed that Google wants to kill off Internet Explorer 6 support on YouTube.
“The first person to come by our desks was the PR team lead,” explains Zacharias “We eagerly told them [PR] everything about what we had launched and helped them craft the necessary talking points to expand on the narrative already established by the media.”
Two Google lawyers also wanted to know why YouTube had the banner in place, the lawyers were also troubled about the fact that Chrome was being promoted first as an alternative browser, promoting fears about EU regulators looking for anti-competitive behavior. But it turns out YouTube engineers programmed the banner to randomly display browser like FireFox, Internet Explorer 8 and Opera.
“One of their engineers testing in IE6 had noticed the YouTube banner pretty shortly after it went live and immediately took it to their manager as evidence as to why they should do the same,” explains Zacharias. Google internal chatter centered on the Docs team adding the IE6 banner, so the original YouTube engineering team “somehow bypassed detection as the originators of the IE6 banner inside of Google.”
The banner spread to other Google properties and the Google Docs team added a similar message warning about IE6 support.