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back to article MP asks UK.gov: Why are you still using IE6?

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. Responses ranged from departments which are in the process of upgrading like the Department of Justice and Foreign Office to the MoD, which has no intention of doing so …

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Why a long protracted roll out?

Send the update to every computer on the domain on Tuesday evening, everyone will have IE8 by Wednesday morning.

It's hardly rocket science is it.

What's all this about intranets not working? They more than likely work fine on new browsers, people are just too stubborn to change.

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Same here

I work for a univeristy - we're still stuck on IE6. They finally allowed Firefox last year and it hasn't been updated since it was first allowed so its one of the version 2 builds.

Most staff in the university are stuck with IE6 by default. Thankfully, I'm one of the few outside of the main computing dept which has full admin access on their PC. So, I have the latest Firefox - although not installed IE7 or 8..........

I'd wish they'd upgrade though - I'm getting fed up of having to create webpages that still work in IE6.........

Oh well, luckily I'll be leaving sometime next year anyway... maybe they'll have updated to IE7 by then.....

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FAIL

not just uk gov

I'm with a local authority. Last year I asked if there were any plans afoot to upgrade to IE7, and the response I recieved was, there are no plans.

I'm sure there's a best practice reason - they always churn out one of those when they want to fight a logical and sensible decision.

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IE6....

Least the local council of Sandwell which Tom comes under has finaly upgraded (Depends hwo you look at it) to IE7.....

Shame all came with Vista builds...

But on a plus note the softgrid client working well keeping users out of trouble

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Unhappy

We're on IE 7!

Anon because of work, but we're on IE 7. We're still on Win XP, mind you, and we haven't had Service Pack 3 installed because it's 'still being tested'.

When I recently requested my department bought in some specialist software, I was pointed to an open-source 'equivalent'. When I suggested I install it and see if it was any good, I was told (by the same person) that I wouldn't be allowed to install it on the office system.

So the fact that a lot of our government is running old stuff isn't actually a surprise. Things move slowly and oddly here.

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WTF?

Trust Us!

And the government expect us to trust them with our personal data? lol What a joke when they won't even take the time to use up to date and secure applications.

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FAIL

IE7? *slow clap*

They moved from one out-of-date browser to a second out-of-date browser (and one that is not even standards compliant). Well done, yes indeed, very well done there.

Morons.

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Anonymous Coward

Nope

Grrrr. It's not a £250 fine - private companies have no power in law to issue fines.

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Anonymous Coward

Not only the government

I'm in a 'IT company' and we are on ie6 (and office 2003).

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Government Websites

It's probably because of all the MS-specific stuff you find on government websites. If you're an unemployed Linux/Mac user then you can't access the Jobseeker stuff on-line because it only supports IE/Windows. They're apparently updating it to work with other systems but I've yet to ask why they didn't put in standards-compliant stuff in the first place.

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Gates Horns

tell me about it

As a government employee who builds a lot of intranet pages and rolls out other companies web front ends (apparantly they are all the rage donchaknow) i cant tell you how bizarre it is that every other IT system is on a more up to date release than the main client tool used by everyone. It is 8 years old...there are 2 new versions. Luckily our virus checking software is not treated the same way.

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Is that a 'Wiki' source I see

I wouldn't put much faith in those statistics on web browser use that you link to, as the site itself says:

"W3Schools is a website for people with an interest for web technologies. These people are more interested in using alternative browsers than the average user. The average user tends to use Internet Explorer, since it comes preinstalled with Windows. Most do not seek out other browsers.

These facts indicate that the browser figures above are not 100% realistic. Other web sites have statistics showing that Internet Explorer is used by at least 80% of the users.

Anyway, our data, collected from W3Schools' log-files, over a five year period, clearly shows the long and medium-term trends."

Hmm,

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Gates Halo

Newer browsers may be better for surfing the web...

But many government IT systems I've had experience of are still tied into shoddily written intranet systems that downright refuse to work properly in any browser that isn't an old version of Internet Explorer laden with ActiveX. Some of them provide a limited subset of features for users of Netscape Navigator(!)

If you want to use Firefox or any Webkit-based browser you're out of luck as the apps in question are often coded to reject outright any browser other than the versions of IE they were designed for.

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Stop

W2K

the OS is at fault here sadly, lots of people still use W2K as their main O/S. So no ie7 for them!

It's too expensive to upgrade to Vista just to get a newer browser.

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Surprised they've made the move to IE6

The place I worked at three years ago (a press agency with a name very similar to a large consultancy firm), sold data feeds to various government offices, including Downing Street. Many of their computers were still running IE5, but they were locked down extremely well, with a massive amount of fire walling. Many people had two computers, one on a network that wasn't physically connected to the Internet, and a more general purpose one that allowed the browsing of whitelisted websites. For the feeds with web frontends, all we did was make sure they didn't rely on JavaScript at all, which was easy seeing as we had bucket loads of content and didn't have to add Web 2.0 fluff just to appeal to customers. The CSS was still a bit tricky to get right across all the major browsers - the approach was a typical one of: build it for Firefox, add workarounds for IE6, and then do the same for IE5.

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Never

Doing a bit of digging here at a government quago it would seem that IE6 is going to be replaced early 2010 due a change of supplier.

I could only guess, if it were not for a new supplier of IT systems, we would have had IE6 for at least another 2 years.

Got to love the government

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The DCFS

If they're bothering to upgrade, why aren't they upgrading to IE8??? Just making another rod for their backs, surely?

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Grenade

Yup.

Agree with all the above. As a local gov IT person, I first put Firefox on my system because of the security issues I was aware of at the time with IE6. That was nearly five years ago. Now, with such ploys as Government Connect bearing down on us, we are still stuck on IE6 and, more laughably, we are being threatened for using anything else, including IE7 onwards or Firefox, to the point where we are being told of possible implications if we don't get rid of it.

I can sympathise with the folk at Orange for once!

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Grenade

pah

having worked previously in the local government outsourcing sector, we used to "try" to flog a customer relationship and call logging database supposedly based on web standards that would run on any browser to local council call centers. it only ran on ie 6 properly and was scrapped internally for sage as everyone hated it that much.

when buying from the lowest bider what can you expect but software that was developed with every conceivable corner cut.

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FAIL

Remember...

...as well as systems that we have, some of us have live with systems specified by other suppliers (who can't code to save their lives, or deliver items so late the rest of us just shake our heads)... or it breaks the application people are using.

Remember, it takes time to test. And the bad news is that testing time is one of the few resources some of us don't have.

Broken application or a Broken browser? I know which I'd unhappily choose.

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Anonymous Coward

The truth is simple

A web based application, probably a core business app (I know I'm posting as AC, but I'm still wary of mentioning specifics) , is specced, tendered for and then, several years after the spec, it is delivered. If there are delays in the implementation of this project (and in my personal and current experience, there are long delays) then the application platform *must* be out of date by some years in order for the application to run and the project to be implemented. You have to hold the desktop back.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 12.28

<quote>What's all this about intranets not working? They more than likely work fine on new browsers, people are just too stubborn to change.</quote>

You don't know much about companies do you? more than likely is not good enough! Everything must be tested thouroughly and signed off to say that it will work 100% or it doesn't get rolled out.

in our company A glitch in some of our browser based apps would mean a complete inability to function, workflow systems, customer records, applications etc. every single one of these must be fully tested on the new browser to ensure that it works. Which they won't as they were specifically built for IE5.5, and tweaked for 6.

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FAIL

IEEEE - WTF! Why windows?

So, all our poll tax goes down the microsoft drain via the local authorities, and they still wont protect public data correctly by using a better web browser? What are they doing online anyway? Our local council claims to have invested a big chunk of money into having all records held in a database - and assuming that the onus should be on efficiency and security I fail to see why they are even using windows!

Perhaps we're not supposed to consider how money they would save by dumping windows?

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No surprise that the MoD hasn't upgraded

Weren't they planning to install a hardened version of 2000 on those new destroyers which El Reg dubbed Windows for Warships?

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Big Brother

Firefox with IETab

First of all, I work in a company that has also IE6 as 'standard' - oh the irony...

Anyway, even on a locked down machine, you can install Firefox as it doesn't touch the registry at all. Once you've got that, install an Add-on called IETab, and use that one to load the badly written IE-only websites you no doubt have to work with (I know I have!)

You can make a list of the websites (domains) you want to always open in IETab, so for those internal websites - with which they 'check' which browser you're using anyway - will happily load in IE6 automatically while you can use normal Firefox for everything else.

We have an internal intranet-site which is IE-only, so that one thinks everything is ok as it loads in a Firefox-tab using the IE-engine. Problem solved.

Best of luck.

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@Greg J Preece

"why aren't they upgrading to IE8"

You're not thinking like a civil servant:

"Why do it once when you can do it twice for twice the price"

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Anonymous Coward

@Greg J Preece

Because "supplier X" who ships a critical LOB app will only support it on IE7 not IE8, we get that sort of issue all the time round here. It doesn't even matter if it technically "works" on IE8 at that point, if the supplier won't support it then neither can we.

That said, we still have one intranet app which warns you that you may need to upgrade your browser every time anyone tries to use it. Primarily because it is specifically checking that you are runnng Netscape Navigator 4.7. Thankfully it's rarely used and so unimportant that the offical advice is just "ignore that message".

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Linux

@Number6

Can you give more details regarding what doesn't work? I'm compiling a list

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Office 2000

Our local county council has this EMail footer - "Note: We are a Microsoft Office site. Our base version is Office 2000. Please make sure that files you send can be read in this format."

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Anonymous Coward

Not unusual round here

Where we can, we install IE8. However we have a pretty old Finance package called Agresso which only works with IE6 so these users are still stuck there. I suppose we could upgrade Agresso but it works and the upgrade is £50k so why bother.

Also still on Office 2003 with XP but our hardware is nowhere near Vista or Office 2007 capable. Now waiting for Windows 7 so we can bypass the abortion known as Vista once the credit crunch is long gone.

So 5 more years with XP then....

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RW
Pint

Keep the fancy stuff on the servers

Sometimes I yearn for the days of Netscape 1.22 when HTML was simple enough to write by hand, Javascript didn't exist, nor frames, nor CSS, nor Java, nor ActiveX. And there were no popups. Admittedly, fancy layout had to be managed by abusing the tables feature, but then is "fancy layout" mission critical?

Yet even in those halcyon, far-off times, online commerce was a reality and honestly, very little we do today couldn't be done then. Or so it seems. A golden age in retrospect.

I'm not at all sure we've really progressed, except for online video via Flash.

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WTF?

@AC 13:51

"Perhaps we're not supposed to consider how money they would save by dumping windows?"

In short the answer is none, you'd actually end up spending more money in the short to medium term because training costs would wipe out any savings you were thinking of making and most Councils are under resourced as it is so there'd be even more costs getting any legacy apps to work on something other than windows, those costs would always be spent mostly on consultants again because of the resource issue.

Those that actually 'work' in public sector usually fight long and hard to get stuff done, while the rest just doss around acruing flexi time.

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Gates Halo

Firefox stats over rated

I run a website used by government agencies (yes, IE6) and also accessed directly by the public. This month IE7 is taking 35% of hits and IE8 22% - presumably because Microsoft are nagging Windows users at home to upgrade. IE6 takes 17%.

Firefox 3 is only on 15%. Sadly Opera only gets 0.5% of hits. I think this reflects reality more than stats from w3schools.com as theirs is a site for techies, not for Mr & Mrs Average.

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Anonymous Coward

Unlucky...

Our office uses the newset version of everything, all upgraded just over the last few months. Still using windows XP however, but that is 'cause we don't want to use Vista, and as XP support wil be getting cut off in 2010/11 (according to our overlord consultant) then we wil be switching to windows 7 in about a years time, once it's had time to settle.

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The problem is Microsoft...

...and this is exactly the EU anti-trust complaint. This remains a hangover from when they were pushing IE6 onto all the machines and agressively monopolising the browser market. Companies then design in-house solutions and they write the spec saying "it must run on..." (what do we have? IE6 - let's write that in) "...IE6". The system is developed (over a long period, no doubt) and deployed. Except all the specs say "requires IE6" because the developers were told that was the only platform it needed to work on and the company is forever stranded on that version because it's tied to the OS and they don't want to pay the supplier to modify the code for the new version. The solution is simple - always insist on open standards when specifying a system. Microsoft are themselves the creator of their own destiny with companies wanting to stay on XP - at least IE6 runs on it, whereas apps only compatible with IE6 can't run properly on anything later! With any luck people will realise that IE isn't a stable platform and get their apps redeveloped properly, but don't count on it people.

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HMRC

Whilst they're at it they should probably fix the HMRC site so that it displays in browsers other than IE.

To see what I mean go here http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/online/index.htm and follow any of the links to customs.hmrc.gov.uk they look fine in all versions of IE but the CSS is missing in any other browser I've tried.

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@Mark Legosz

I work in NHS IT.

You have it spot on.

(Unfortunately that's about all I can say as a non-AC)

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Go

How many people work in the public sector?

About half of them.

Also, regarding "Firefox stats overrated" - the page at w3schools says exactly that beneath the figures.

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Grenade

@AC: Trust Us!

> What a joke when they won't even take the time to use up to date and secure applications.

It's not that we haven't got lots of time, course we have. Loads of time. It's not like we're running health services or military operations or anything... We just don't have lots of YOUR money to bung to expensive outsourced IS "partners" to upgrade tens of thousands of desktops. If you would like to volunteer more of your money for this noble purpose, please make cheques payable to HM Treasury and post to the Rt Hon Alastair Darling MP PC, 11 Downing St.

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Grenade

As someone who writes webapps...

...I absolutely loathe and detest IE6 (and IE7, if I'm honest). Unfortunately, we have no choice to support it because almost all of out client base (banks) are still using it. The users would get a much better experience if they could run our software on a modern browser, but it seems that even asking about the possibility of upgrading isn't allowed for them.

And in reply to the comment:

"Because "supplier X" who ships a critical LOB app will only support it on IE7 not IE8, we get that sort of issue all the time round here"

We're caught between a rock and a hard place - we simply can't use non IE6 features as our clients would refuse to install it.

Next G20, I'm tempted to walk round with a banner saying "Ban IE"...

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Grenade

@Gordon Jahn

Writing web apps that *don't* use proprietary Microsoft technologies is made extremely hard by the various appalling kludges necessary to do anything complex in versions of IE.

And don't get me started on Microsoft's attitude to javascript performance

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@HMRC

Works fine here in Opera 9.63 (I know, I know, 9.64 is the latest - I'm in the middle of updating the GPO to roll that out).

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Linux

I hate it but understand it

I hate IE6, it's horrible and thankfully at home we're an all Debian shop, so no nasty Microsoft applications to worry about however at work we're an XP/IE6 shop.

For historically reasons I have local admin rights at work and have been allowed to install Firefox and almost never use IE at all. Even the IT department mostly use Firefox at home or work. Company policy is very adamant that it's officially IE6 or nothing for most users though...

We do not have a lot of intranet applications but those that we have look like they were designed by a dog and coded by a cat. They are utter crap but they sort of work with IE6 and it is impossible for us to move off to something more modern and stable such as IE8 or Firefox.

The irony is that as new web applications are introduced they are forced to support the IE6 company standard not anything vaguely modern. It's getting harder not easier to upgrade! I bet it's the same for so many companies, lots of expensive and poorly written applications with crappy web interfaces and very slow upgrade cycles.

On a personal level, my servers gets about 10 times as many IE6 visits as IE7, which in turn gets about 10 times as many visits as IE8. So though I've seen lots of people claim that IE8 has replaced IE7 which in turn replaced IE6, I'm not convinced. At least the Firefox, Opera and Konqeror visitors are mostly on the latest versions, those browsers do seem to be always up to date. I don't know about Safari or Chrome no one seem to visit with them.

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At my company, IE is banned

At my company, IE is banned Employees can use Firefox or Opera - whatever major version they like, but with the latest updates as they come in. IE is simply too unsafe, and can't be updated without intrusive and potentially dangerous updates to the whole system.

I can't understand why an organisation would be so obsessive about sticking to IE. Any IT staff that claims they can't support users with mixes of browsers should be out of a job. Any PHB that makes claims about "training costs" should be out of a job too - IE users can learn to use Firefox within seconds.

Some organisations have legacy IE-specific internal web services designed by half-wits who don't understand the concept of "standard". It's safe enough to let people use IE (whatever version) for that sort of thing - just as long as they stick to a real browser for other sites.

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FAIL

haha!

Apart from rubbish performance, dire UI, and painfull development\support (involving a random mix of technologies), this is another good reason why internal systems should not be web based.

How many companies actually have a thin client computers where the use of web browsers actually makes sense over a 'traditional' application? What possible advantage is there? Great, have this massive thin based accounting system which ties you to a browser and will probably be in use way past the browser going 'out of support' and thus a massive security risk. I dont understand. I honestly dont. Sure, do it if you dont know what platform your applciation will be delivered to, but your a company, Ill wager all the machines are windows!

Maybe I've missed something...

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Gates Horns

too lazy, too busy or too brittle?

There are three possibilities as to why I(dio)T Departments don't deploy a more modern browser.

The first is that they are too lazy to do it.

The second is that perhaps they are way too busy putting out Windows spot-fires.

The most likely reason, however, is that Windows is so brittle, they dare not mess with the SOE (standard operating environment) for fear of breaking all sorts of things.

When our office upgraded to XP from Win2K, plus whatever version of Office that went with that and all sorts of back end stuff, files in user accounts became corrupted or simply vanished into thin air. When staff attempted to retrieve their documents from backups, they too became corrupted or did the vanishing act.

You should have seen all the staff jumping up and down like frogs on a hot plate. I endeared myself to management by laughing my head off, saying it served them right for trusting Microsoft with their data.

Whoops!

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Firefox is generally not an option

I'm a big fan of Firefox. It is a far better browser than IE. I find it amazing IE6 users don't get their browsers updated to IE8 (or even IE7).

The thing is for most clued up organisation who use MS, using FF is not an option. IE can be easily be updated by a central server using Windows Server Update Services. This gives organisation a certain amount of control with patches. Firefox I'm afraid lacks behind here.

Those still on IE6 who haven't updated to IE8 probably need to sack their IT managers for being clueless, or more likely their directors for stopping them upgrade. Whilst IE8 is pretty bad compared to firefox it suits most users (unlike IE6).

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Megaphone

IE is too unsafe.

> IE is simply too unsafe, and can't be updated without intrusive and potentially dangerous updates to the whole system.

Sorry this is total BS (from a happy Firefox user). All browsers are unsafe, whether they are up to date or not. If you are not updating your OS with security updates because you deem this "unsafe" then you are in a paradox. You should be sacked for having such non realistic perceptions :).

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FAIL

Petard, HOIST!

Microsoft sure cam make me chuckle sometimes. After spending the better part of two decades trying to vendor lock their client base they now discover that they've done such a good job of it that they've manage to lock all their clients in to a legacy OS and their customers can't even migrate on to Microsofts own latest versions.

LOL!

Sooner or later these numpties will *have* to upgrade to something newer. In the long run it might in fact be easier to migrate to FF with IETAB.

As for that AC who is banging on that ol' "training costs" drum, how much will it cost to retrain windows staffers to move from XP and Office2K3 to W7 with Office 2010?

Oh that's right, their both Microsoft so training is not required.

Right.

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