Forget Shopping, Friday Is Update Your Parents' Browser Day!

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Thanksgiving is coming up, that time when families gather together to share food, extend gratitude, and marvel at how Dad still uses Internet Explorer 6. No, seriously, Dad, how can you be using a browser developed during the Clinton administration? That was like 10 presidents ago.

This year, though, do something different. Don't just explain to Grandpa or Mom or your father-in-law that there is a whole world of secure web browsing out there. No, take a firm stand. Tell them they won't be able to watch funny fishing videos on YouTube with IE6 anymore. Usually, by this point, most parents are begging for help and you can extract excellent perquisites for your labor. That big bedroom your little sister got for some reason? Now's the time to finally occupy it. While you're at it, you will probably fix (or set up) the wifi, which you can helpfully explain is like Internet particles floating in the air.
 
So that's how it may go in happy families, where you're a good kid and your parents trust you. However, stuff happens, and you may find that your parents won't brook even the slightest change to their Internetting. In that case, wait until they slip into a tryptophan-induced coma and then sneak into the den.

If a parent catches you, don't tell them that you're changing their web browser. Say instead that you're checking for viruses or installing new drivers or that you're "freeing up space on their hard drive," which parents always seem to worry about. (And though you're lying, if they do have viruses or are running out of hard drive space or need new drivers for some reason, be a good boy and do that stuff, too.)

A little advice on the browser change. Don't switch brands on them. No putting Chrome instead of Firefox or Internet Explorer. Keep it simple. Make sure to be on hand the first time they open up the browser to accept responsibility for the change on behalf of "The Cloud," which you will testify has started changing people's software without asking. When they ask you what The Cloud is, shake your head, and stare off into the distance. Then point to the nearest telephone (which will probably be rotary dial) and whisper, "Can't talk about it." Then loudly declare, "Those were the best sweet potatoes Uncle Ronnie ever made, don't you think, Dad?"

In any case, you see where I'm going with this. No more excuses! These browsers must be upgraded. Do it for the web developers. Do it for the designers. Do it for your parents. On Friday, November 25, every old web browser must go.

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Image: Wave Break Media/Shutterstock.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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