Well, in case you live in a hole somewhere, the next three weeks are shaping up to be huge.  In less than two weeks, God-fearing Americans will celebrate the day-before-Lent (Fat Tuesday) by more or less determining the identities of the Democratic and Repulican presidential nominees.  In another week and two days, lovers across the world will commemorate their passions with cheap chocolates and over-priced floral arrangements.  

Yet few realize that an even more momentous event will occur between these big days.  But this event will be truly earth-shaking, and it will hit February 12th.

No, it's not the most recent Jack Van Impe prediction for the return of Christ, and it is not the release date of what is going to be the incredibly awesome sequel to Batman Begins, The Dark Knight.  

Nope.  February 12th is none other than the death of Internet Explorer 6.

Okay, that was a bit dramatic, and not entirely accurate.  Despite fervent prayers in support of IE6's digicide, IE 6 has proven, historically, to be more difficult to kill than it is to design a website for (and that's saying something!).  Rather, February 12th marks the date when Internet Explorer 7–IE 6's better (but still not great) replacement–will be pushed through automatic Windows updates to millions of unsuspecting internet users.

Why, you may ask, was this not happening well before now?  Well, the answer is as ridiculous as the software behind it.  Before February 12, a download of IE7 required authentication of one's copy of Windows.  That's right–you had to prove you had paid for an overpriced operating system in order to get a subpar internet browser. However, prompted by "security concerns" (which, incidentally, have been known about for years now…) with IE6, Microsoft has, in its overwhelming beneficence, decided to make IE7 a part of automatic Windows updates without the need for an OS authentication.

From a web design standpoint, this is huge.  Currently, about 30% of internet traffic occurs through the blinders of IE 6.  This means that well over 70% of one's coding has to be directed to deal with all of IE6's foibles, simply because IE6 sucks and people do not know that there is something that isn't terrible to use for browsing the internet (like Firefox ).  With IE7 being rolled into auto updates, however, those people who do not know better will become a backhanded blessing.  After all, if they restart their computer more than once a month (and since they're using Windows, there's a pretty good chance they're going to be doing this ALOT), Windows will finally do something right and automatically upgrade their browser to IE7.  

Of course, there is a downside.  Because of how terrible IE6 is, a TON of IE6 specific code is out there and many companies have–for whatever innane reason–committed themselves in the long-term to IE6's nuerosis.  So if they were to auto upgrade to IE7, all of their IE6-specific code would break and they would have to upgrade it to something in conformance with accepted web standards (yes, a crazy suggestion, I know!).  Therefore, Microsoft has provided instructions on how auto upgrades to IE7 can be disabled to enable these companies to continue in their terrible ways of code.

Personally, I think that if Microsoft is truly concerned about security, they should force out IE7 in the auto updates without the ability for bypassing.  For the companies whose code will inevitably break, it is their own fault.  Non-standards coding–regardless of whether or not it is one's own fault–needs to be eliminated from the web.  If a bunch of code breaks in the pursuit of standards, so much the better.  While I understand the desires of these companies to not have to redo a bunch of code, they must realize that they cannot continue supporting IE6 exclusively in perpetuity.  It is simply unrealistic, and the sooner they come to grips with this reality, the sooner they will be able to truly utilize the web for all it is capable of delivering.

So anyway, I propose that Februrary 12th be recognized as a world holiday.  I shall christen it "Return to Sanity Day", and I would like to see everyone get the day off so that they can, of course, browse the internet in a standards-compliant browser. (plug:  Get Firefox)