30 January 2020

Chris Zacharias: “A Conspiracy to Kill IE6”

The first person to come by our desks was the PR team lead. He was a smart, dapper man who was always bubbling with energy and enthusiasm. Except this time. This time he was uncharacteristically prickly. He had come in on an otherwise normal day to find email from every major tech news publication asking why the second largest website on the planet was threatening to cut off access to nearly a fifth of its user base. Fortunately for us, the publications had already settled on a narrative that this was a major benefit to the Internet. By their call, YouTube was leading the charge towards making the web a faster, safer experience for all of its users. The entire PR team had Macs running Chrome and could not even see what we had done, let alone issue comments to the press on any of it. They were caught completely unaware. We eagerly told them everything about what we had launched and helped them craft the necessary talking points to expand on the narrative already established by the media. Satisfied that he could get back in front of the story, the PR team lead turned and warned us to never do anything like this without telling him first. He did not want to let great public relations opportunities like this slip by ever again.

Chris Zacharias

Speaking of dirty tactics used by Google to undermine Microsoft, the above article is a good example – admittedly focused on IE6, but I’m sure over time many more similar stories will surface. What’s insidious and concerning about this is how engineers simply decided to do this on their own, how the tech press then mindlessly applauded the move – see also the excited replies to the author’s tweet linking to the blog post – and the lack of corrective action inside Google, because it benefited them to hurt a competitor. This is the perfect reflection of tech giant culture: move fast and break things – no pause to consider external consequences, only personal and corporate gain – and one of the main reasons why tech monopolies need to be closely scrutinized and more heavily regulated.

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