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UK.gov sticks to IE 6 cos it's more 'cost effective', innit

Stunned web developers die a little inside

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Computers in Whitehall will largely continue to run Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6, which will make web coders spit out their cheese‘n’pickle sarnies this lunchtime.

“It is not straightforward for HMG departments to upgrade IE versions on their systems. Upgrading these systems to IE 8 can be a very large operation, taking weeks to test and roll out to all users.”

That’s according to the government’s response to a petition submitted to Downing Street in February that opposed UK.gov’s continued endorsement of Microsoft’s IE 6.

“To test all the web applications currently used by HMG departments can take months at significant potential cost to the taxpayer. It is therefore more cost effective in many cases to continue to use IE6 and rely on other measures, such as firewalls and malware scanning software, to further protect public sector internet users,” it said.

The petition itself was sent to Number 10 earlier this year asking then Prime Minister Gordon Brown to follow German and French governments' decisions to ditch IE 6.

Brown’s administration was unmoved by security concerns about the crinkly old browser, however.

It claimed at the time that its system, along with regular Microsoft updates, meant it was robust enough against the kind of attack that claimed over 30 corporate firms at the end of last year.

Google was perhaps the most high-profile victim of those attacks. It has since turned its back on supporting the old MS browser in its web apps.

At the same time, Microsoft too has been trying to shepherd users away from IE 6 and Windows XP - the operating system that refuses to die - in favour of its more recent software efforts.

But the ConDem government is singing from the same hymnbook as Number 10’s previous incumbents.

Freetards on the interwebs are in uproar about the decision, and the El Reg mailbox is overflowing with comments from outraged coders.

"Apparently the IT team in Whitehall has yet to realise you could quite easily use IE6 for IE6 only sites, and receive the protection of a more modern browser such as IE8, FF and Chrome for everything else," Reg reader Mark told us.

"As a senior web application developer, the mention of the positive word 'standards' in a document about IE6 makes me die a little on the inside -- 'Public sector organisations are free to identify software that supports their business needs as long as it adheres to appropriate standards' -- I'm not sure which standards they mean... but certainly not the HTML ones."

Alas, Internet Explorer 6 is here to stay to keep the wheels of central government turning in this big fat society of ours, people. ®

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