MP asks UK.gov: Why are you still using IE6?
It's insecure, it's flaky... it's government IT policy
Tom Watson MP has spent the last few days asking government departments when they intend to upgrade their web browsers from IE6. Yes, that's Internet Explorer 6.
Hats off to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport which expects to complete its move to IE7 by the end of August. Less brilliantly, the Department of Children, Families and Schools plans to move from IE6 in 2010/2011. The Department of Health has no plans to upgrade - indeed it has yet to decide which browser to move to or when any such upgrade might happen.
Watson told the Reg: "I've asked the questions because I feel sorry for the thousands of civil servants using the Austin Allegro of web browsers when they can have newer, faster alternatives. I want government CIOs to pull their fingers out."
Given the amount of research civil servants are now doing online, as well as using their browsers on intranets, it seems a bit ridiculous that they don't use an up-to-date browser.
IE6 peaked with a 71.2 per cent market share in November 2003 when it was up against Netscape 7 and Mozilla. It has declined since then and now has 14.9 per cent share - full figures here.
A similar row has broken out in the US with the US State Department begging Hillary Clinton to be allowed to use Firefox instead.
And let's not forget it isn't just governments that can't be bothered to give their staff decent browsers - Orange UK recently threatened staff in one of its call centres with a £250 fine if they were caught with Firefox on their machines. ®
only IE6 or IE7 works with a lot of sites
My friend and i tried "unsuccessfully to upgrade to IE8 from IE7" and lo and behold .. all our banking related sites stopped working .. the IT guys at the banks said - we had to use only IE6 or IE7 .. sorry no support for IE8.. this seems to be a problem with a lot of websites - esp those where you need to get your work done - eg. Government web sites, Banking sites etc.. they seem to just dislike any other browser except IE6 or 7. These include banking majors like HSBC, Standard Chartered etc just to name a few ..
of course as Gordon rightly points out .. coding practices, then prevailing MS policy regarding IE and the general apathy and ignorance of the mass public to knowledge regarding safety / security measures when using the Internet or a browser .. all lead to being stuck with an older version of the browser... hopefully Windows 7 will not enforce IE8 as the default and will allow people to "downgrade" to IE6 or IE7 .. otherwise it will be an useless OS for people whose work programs / intranets etc work only with those archaic unsafe browsers.. It'll be interesting to see how MS tackles a problem they were also partly responsible for creating in the first place ..
The Problem is Not Microsoft
The problem is in the big applications that government departments run to support their business; Oracle HR for example, runs fine on IE6 in one version; want a newer browser just so that a few websites load a bit faster and support more bells and web 2.0 whistles - good luck with that business case when you have to include the cost of migrating to a newer version of Oracle HR or Financials. Or what about all those call centres in government using Siebel 7, where lots of the functions just do not work on browsers later that IE6?
So the only advantage is that when the OS upgrades\changes the app will need to be tested? Surly when the OS changes there will be a new browser? Doesn't that require the same testing?
If this is that much of a worry you can write your application in a language like Java, which will provide you with your platform independence, and eliminate most of the downsides vs a web browser. (Apart from the performance.)
And before you start slagging people off stop to think for a second, you actually dont know who I am, nor where I work. I can assure you that you are incorrect in your assumption.
The whole point of web services is because they are being delivered to the general public and you have no idea what platform they will land on, so the browser is restricted on what it can do. The enterprise does not have these sorts of problems. (Generally anyway, if they do then the web is the way forward.)
As for deployment, you know you dont need to have a bod walking around with a floppy any more, right? This is a good use for the web, have a deployment page, one click and its installing. Upgrading? That's not hard, look at any app out there for an example of self updating. (And its trivial to implement, if you really wanted to it can be done in a batch file, though I'd rather have it in code.)
Ill admit for large companies with lots of small offices all over the place which do not have a fast network infrastructure browser based apps would be the way forward, so maybe thats where you work, however all the experience I have is in the financial industry where there is no bandwidth issues to worry about.
Talk about missing the point!
IE6 is crap, I think everyone outside of Microsoft can agree on that, but really, IE7 and IE8 are no better. If you are going to encourage an upgrade then offer FF3 or Safari4, and keep IE6 behind for the kind of crap that won't run on real browsers.
If you let malware get past your perimeter security then IE versus FF / Safari really isn't a big issue.
"Creating a client app ties you even closer to an OS. "
Anthony, the thing is that the whole "web" thing is supposed to be done according to published standards.
Where orgs get into trouble is when they create web client apps that DONT conform to published standards. If they had have done what they should have from day one then these orgs would not be in the pickle they are in now.
So, before you go accusing others of "slagging off things they know nothing about" perhaps you should obtain just a couple of clues for your own use?