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A worthy cause: Update Your Parents' Browser Day

Dumping old browsers like IE6 will help unshackle the Web from its past. Here's a good way to spend an hour or two today.

Google's Matt Cutts urged people to upgrade their parents' browser if they're still using an old one.
Google's Matt Cutts urged people to upgrade their parents' browser if they're still using an old one. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Perhaps you have a hard time getting behind National Parfait Day or Dress Spotty Day.

Here's a worthy cause for today, though: Update Your Parents' Browser Day.

The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal came up with it as a constructive pasttime for the day after Thanksgiving, when many folks are visiting their folks at home.

If you can't persuade your parents to drop Internet Explorer 6 because YouTube will stop working, "wait until they slip into a tryptophan-induced coma and then sneak into the den," Madrigal suggests.

I'd throw protection against security vulnerabilities into the upgrade argument, too--there's a time and a place for scare tactics, and browser upgrades is one of them. And I'd also advise sticking around to make sure your parents are comfortable with any user-interface changes.

My own personal motivation is a lot more carrot than stick, though. Using old browsers sucks up Web developers' time as they struggle with compatibility issues, and it keeps them from adding useful features that can make Web sites more polished and responsive. And if you want to observe family traditions by playing the guilt card on your parents, you can say that people who use new browsers are indirectly hurt by those who use old browsers.

The event has drawn support from Microsoft and Google's influential search exec, Matt Cutts. They're preaching to the choir, though--my guess is that anybody who reads Windows and IE blogs or follows a prominent Googler on Twitter already has a newer browser. If you're a member of that choir, go bring the modern-browser gospel to your parents.

Wisely, Madrigal also recommends not switching browser brands on your parents. Of course, that means all those Windows XP users with IE will only get as far as clunky old IE8, since Microsoft chose to make Windows Vista or Windows 7 as a requirement for the speedier and more modern IE9. But even IE8 is a big step up from IE6.

Though it's now a decade old, IE6 still accounts for 7.86 percent of global browser usage, according to Net Applications' data. Even Microsoft is trying to get people to upgrade off IE6 now.

Unfortunately, , countries that don't observe Thanksgiving. Fortunately, filial piety holds that it's always a good idea to take care of your parents.

One of the big reasons IE6 remains popular is that it's used in corporations that are reluctant to switch for reasons such as internal Web site compatibility or IT staff constraints.

Cajoling your parents may be hard, but getting corporate computer support staffs to budge is a lot harder. Nevertheless, I have a suggested addition to Madrigal's idea.

When any of you still saddled with IE6 gets back to work on Monday, observe Beg Your CIO to Upgrade the Company's Browser Day.