back to article MoD sticks with 'most decrepit browser in the world'

Members of the armed forces will carry on using Microsoft's outdated Internet Explorer 6 browser, contravening the government's own advice on internet security. According to parliamentary written answers received by Labour MP Tom Watson, the majority of departments still require staff to use IE6. Most have plans to upgrade to …

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Megaphone

So 20th Century

So the good old MOD is sticking to IE6?

Perhaps they would also be happy providing our Armed Forses with sailing ships, Sopwith Camels and the good old Lee Enfield .303?

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Stop

If the application works

Leave it alone. They don't need bells and whistles. We are cash strapped and I don't want to pay more tax just so someone can retest a working application on an internal network with no general internet access just so they can use tabs, when it will be proved the application doesn't work in tabs anyay so it will be disabled, or worse still pay to upgrade that too. Leave then on 6 until there is a business need.

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Thumb Down

Who cares?

IE6 is not the problem when searching on the web in the MoD. The content filtering system and the blocking programs cause most of the hassle. Staff in the MoD are not able to use any online maps like google maps, they cannot type queries into wikipedia and in some cases the system blocks access to other government websites! It makes looking things up rather tricky at times.

If they left IE6 alone and just patched it or implemented standard decent security rather than using expensive and pointless programs IE6 is fine for basic use.

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Thumb Up

I agree with anonymous coward

After all, I would much rather the MoD used a browser with more holes than a sieve so that hackers can easily get any data they want, than let some of my taxes go to make them more up to date, more user friendly, more efficient.

And while we are at it, I don't see any point on why they need to spend money researching these fancy new tanks / planes / guns, bring back the musket.

Much love

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Megaphone

So does the NHS

That's all

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Oxymoron?

"a secure desktop computing service ... currently uses Internet Explorer 6"

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight

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Bronze badge

@ Anonymous Coward

There already is a business need, a few of them actually. No matter what you are doing in a web browser, IE6 is slower at opening pages than other newer browsers, even in just a plain HTML environment. An upgrade would increase productivity by users not having to wait for pages to be rendered. Other newer browsers are also more stable and recover from crashes in a far more graceful way, so in the event of a crash less time is lost getting back to what you were doing or by not crashing in the first place.

In relation to your statement that something may not work with tabs, that is rubbish as what goes on inside a tab is no different to what goes on inside a browser window without a tab, anything that works without tabs will work with tabs. Tabs do increase productivity if you learn to use them effectively.

These are all the issues so far and we havnt even gotten around to security yet, you state that it doesnt matter as the applications used in the web browser are hosted on an intranet, what you forget however is that pretty much every office in the country has access to the internet as well as their own internal intranet. If malicious code gets downloaded through the use of IE6 while the user is browsing the web away from the intranet, that computer is compromised in all ways, so when they do start using their own intranet the data could be monitored and sent back over the internet.

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Grenade

@DI Wyman

the Lee Enfield .303 rifle was (and still is) one of the most accurate rifles ever mass produced and used in the services. It's only down side being the need to practice to be a good shot unlike the point and spray of methods of modern weaponry.

Funnily enough if you think still using IE6 is bad, I have a mate who is on secondment to NATO and they have just been told to upgrade all the PC's to Vista....

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@AC 13:52

"If the application works leave it alone" IE6 does not work to today's web standards and is riddled with security holes. Even M$ admit it is not fit for purpose and recommend upgrade on security grounds. You would think that the department concerned with the defence and security of this country would take notice of such considerations when choosing software.

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business need

Mr Woolas mentions business need as do some posters on here...

So, although MS are in the business of creating a need for their product, even they would not have developed TWO further versions without any kind of need.

Anyone who does not think there is a business need does not understand what a business need is! What you are referring to is an IT need and IT don't need the extra hassle.

- just another example of ivory tower IT depts, failing to enable business and rather stiffle it instead.

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FAIL

Speaking as a DII/JPA user ...

Aaaaanything would be better and faster than the current setup. Going from my home machine using Firefox to a DII terminal using IE6 makes me want to break things.

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Joke

Cash strapped

Another cost-saving measure from a cash strapped government.

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Linux

Meanwhile in the USA...

Quote "The Department of Defense is enthusiastic about open source software and is increasingly confident that it delivers tangible advantages on the front lines."

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Stop

Will Any Worthwhile Sites Work in IE6 in 2011?

I work for a web design and development company. Effective the day IE8 was released we ceased designing for IE6. That is, we no longer test our sites in IE6. Our contracts state that the client's site will be tested and guaranteed to work in the two most recent major versions of IE (IE7 and IE8) and the most recent major version of Firefox and Safari (3.x and 4, respectively). We crank out a LOT of sites and with no longer having to design for IE6 I can almost guarantee that many of them don't look right or function well in IE6 anymore. My friends at other web shops are doing the same thing. So, those douches staying with IE6 are going to discover that a growing percentage of the web won't work in their browsers. Waiting until 2011 to upgrade from IE6 may not be feasable.

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WTF?

I can't believe people are justifying the use of IE6 in the 21st fking century. If there were a resulting security breach because of this you would be the first to bleat and shout about it.

If you think upgrading to a new browser is a waste of your taxes with everything else that's going on in this country, you need to remove your head from your arse.

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Unhappy

@AC 14:42

I feel your pain.

Quite often I find myself attempting to middle-click on a link at work, only to be relentlessly disappointed when it doesn't work.

It's actually my whole job in microcosm: attempt to do something a sensible modern way, discover there's no budget/provision for that, cry, do something a stupidly long-winded way because that's how defence does things. Repeat for 30 years.

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Black Helicopters

If there were any corners left, I'm sure someone would cut them

As an MOD civil servant, I'm sure that if the Treasury thought it would be politically acceptable to still issue troops with the Brown Bess, they bloody well would.

The forces ask for what they want; the civil servants try to translate that into the minimum of what they need, with an engineering view of what's possible, and a project management view of what can be procured for a reasonable cost, in a reasonable timeframe. I accept that we very often don't get it right, because although we're speaking almost the same language, we don't always understand the military perfectly. Having come up with an endorsed requirement that has been approved by the military, and such engineers and scientists are left on a shoestring budget, the government then vetoes it and buys something crap from Westlands/BAE/the Clyde shipyards anyway.

This, of course, is topped off by a series of utterly useless Secretaries of State, culminating in the current abomination, Comrade Bob. Bob Ainsworth was an active Marxist in his early political years, supporting the IRA against British troops. This man quite patently does not have the military's best interests at heart.

AC - no prizes for guessing why.

Helicopter, because it raises morale even to see pictures of them. Gods know there aren't enough of the real thing to go around.

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W

"The Identity and Passport Service is due to move to IE7 in mid-2010."

Nice.

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FAIL

@ Will Any Worthwhile Sites Work in IE6 in 2011?

"Effective the day IE8 was released we ceased designing for IE6. That is, we no longer test our sites in IE6. Our contracts state that the client's site will be tested and guaranteed to work in the two most recent major versions of IE (IE7 and IE8)"

Let us know the company name, so we don't accidentally ask you to pitch. Not testing sites in IE6 the day IE8 came out is a great reason not to use you. IE6 currently makes up about 15% of the user market, whereas Safari is about 3%.

I don't want to employ anyone who tests for 3% of users and deliberately neglects 15%.

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Silver badge

SNAFU but IT just aint good enough anymore.

"Another cost-saving measure from a cash strapped government." .... By Charlie Barnes Posted Thursday 23rd July 2009 14:46 GMT

Charlie,

That's nothing to worry about. All you have to do is get in touch with the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Mr Bernanke, who is into authorising half a trillion dollar transactions [ that's $500,000,000,000] and not having any idea as to who actually received it ....... you couldn't make it up, could you, although as we are now all starting to realise, that is exactly what the bozos are doing and have been doing all along ....... http://cryptogon.com/?p=10047

And you will find that the UK bailout is equally as dodgy.

And whenever you get some suited halfwit telling you that there has been Progress, you can ask them whether that is Col (ret) John Boyd's type of Progress .... Confusion at a Higher Level?

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Stop

@MrWeeble

No its not an oxymoron. An Oxymoron consists of two otherwise contradictory words -silent noise, dark light etc. Your sentence, if anything is Oxy Semantic.

WRT the article, when you consider that the departments internet access consists largely of a walled garden, IE6 doesn't pose all that much of a risk. Everything is passed through various systems, all Java, Flash and Javascript is scrubbed out, so the attack vector is limited.

IE6 works (just about), and some apps do depend on it, so given the cost involved in rolling it out (anyone who says its free doesn't recognise that things need testing) why bother until it absolutely needs to be done.

The biggest security risk on any network is its users, so it doesn't really matter too much what browser is used if users themselves are a risk. I'd prefer firefox, but to be honest it's not exactly my chief concern in my day to day work.

As for things running faster in other browsers, that may be so, but I'd rather see development work happen to increase the bandwidth we have available. More than that I'd rather see the department saving money on things like IE in order to provide and maintain equipment for the troops.

Anyone who is genuinely concerned about what browser is used clearly lacks a clear perspective on what else the money could be used for. As long as the security of the network is maintained, it's something I'm willing to put up with

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Anonymous Coward

Once again bullshit prevails...

"Oh noes, they have IE6.. that's really insecure"

Yes, because the MoD have no upstream filtering what so ever on their systems...

It was IE5 until a couple of years ago... IE6 is progress!

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Anonymous Coward

To Tom C and others

IE6 is a bug riddle heap of crap, I agree. What I was trying to point out was we should not rush to judgement in a knee-jerk response about upgrading the browser "because it is IE6" when it may be just being used on isolated subnets or even on a local machine with no network access at all, and with no risk of anyone being hacked/suvbverted as the network is isolated.

They may not all be connected to the internet where it would certainly be an issue. In fact I'd have more of an issue if our secret things were accessible from the internet or form a machine connected to the internet at all, never mind the browser version being used.

Just think before you act. If there is a security risk then by all means upgrade, but it is not ALWAYS necessary, depending on whether there is external access.

As for the business case - if there is no security risk and there is no planned business case to save .2s on a page load then leave it alone. Lots of things *could* be done better at a cost, but the benefit does not always justify that cost.

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Anonymous Coward

Seriously...

... the MoD use t'interwebs? Bloody didn't when I was there (briefly) 4 years ago. Browser use restricted to a 3270 emulator (I kid you not) and no external email access, except on one machine which was allowed a pipex.com email account. (but only to be used by supervisor level or above, viruses, oh noes!) The state of the art collaboration tool was an excel spreadsheet on a shared drive, too.

Can't speak for all of it obviously, but this one section was the most laughable, incompetent, behind the times organisation I've ever worked in. (And I've worked for BT)

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Browser compatibility

I suppose the big problems are the intranet tools which depend on IE6 features.

Shouldn't these things be defined in terms of HTML standards?

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Government Website Problems

If it's anything like DWP, they're probably being made to continue using it as a punishment for building MS-specific websites that don't work with other browsers and operating systems. Once they get it right they can use a proper browser.

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Don't knock the .303

I'm still picking bullets from WWI out of my Butts

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Linux

Also in the USA...

Sitting proudly in the Most Read articles section of this very page:

"US State Dept. workers beg Clinton for Firefox"

'Nuff said.

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Grenade

No need for updates here ..

Worked as outside contractor as IT support at one of their sites and they where still using NT4 back end (Domains) in 2004.

Alot of their workstations where still old with upto 512mb of ram (woohoo uber system) and they still where using a large number of CRT monitors.

This was only 5 years ago so sticking with IE6 is no great surprise.

They may have moved upto Server 2000 by now .. only 9 years old :)

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Badgers

They should stick with what works

It appears no one out there actually runs a large corp network. If you had any idea of the reasons IE is better then other browsers for IT admins to administer you would hopefully shut you pieholes. Group policy for one allows you to lock IE down to prevent holes that come from the possible weak initial setup. IE6 is fine as long as you are NOT a local admin on the PC and have proper AV. If you implement file security policy in AD as well you can prevent that vast majority of holes without spending large amounts to move to a newer browser. Yeh IE6 is not the best for web standards but its as fast as IE7 and can be faster at some content!

As for designers that cant be arse to put the IE6 css tweaks in, get a real job where your not lazy.

When you have 1000's of clients you cant risk running crappy FF (which has had more holes then IE in the last year btw) or the rest.

This is another example of a fool MP getting involved when he should just shut the feck up since he has NO idea how the MoD run their network or any other department. Trust the people that work there for not upgrading, they usually have a very good reason.

God now if I could find his email address to tell him to STFU....

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Megaphone

@SlackerUK

"the Lee Enfield .303 rifle was (and still is) one of the most accurate rifles ever mass produced and used in the services. It's only down side being the need to practice to be a good shot unlike the point and spray of methods of modern weaponry."

And some bloke called Smith used to make the finest longswords in the Christian kingdom, their only downside being you had to have quick hands and the balls to get up close to someone before you killed them, unlike the "lie in a ditch and kill people from a mile away" methods of World War 1.

I can see your point, but arguing which method of killing someone you've never met is most skilled/honourable/moral is a bit like a "Which Cancer Is The Best" competition. Or Aliens Vs Predator: Whoever Wins, We Lose.

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IT Angle

Sounds familiar

I'm in a smallish government directorate and we still use Word and Excel 97 along with the splendid IE6 and Acrobat Reader 6 as standard. (A long-promised corporate desktop is supposed to address the matter but we're still waiting).

The result is an inability to read or use some web pages and documents in the office that we have generated ourselves. The IT dept are generously turning a blind eye to downloads of up to date readers or Firefox but in the main it's a finger wagging if you get caught. Ludicrous.

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WTF?

Yep, just be glad you don't work in the least funded department

Like Probation. We're on IE6 and there are no plans to upgrade that I'm aware of. Dammit, we have to suffer Lotus Notes too (memo? memo?! It's a fracking email, not a memo!). Jack Straw actually came to us and told us "to get used to doing more for less" from now on.

From now on??

There doesn't seem to be anyone in the know when it comes to IT procurement within the government - we just have to make do with the cheapest approximation available. And yes, this means it takes longer than it should to find things out and do our jobs, in effect wasting your, and my, taxes far more than the cost of an upgrade might.

/and while I'm on it, bloody websense/wise whatever it is; well that is just a tragedy. The UK has become a very embarrassing place to live and work these days. Arrrrgharble.

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Boffin

What's IE6?

What's IE6, is it like Safari, Firefox and other stuff?

M$ abandoned me and my Mac years ago, but I recall a rather clunky, slow browser, something like netscape(!) Are these military types using stuff like that?

wowza.

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Coffee/keyboard

MoD & IE6

The MoD have no plans to move from IE6 as they've spent donkeys hardening the current image for DII/F (the current iteration of DII) whose machines won't ever see a public network. They'll either be desktops on the Restricted or Secret networks, these are alomst entirely physically seperate networks with no web access.

Having firsthand knowledge of the landscape I can say there's not much to worry about, even if one of these systems were to see the light o' tinterwebs it's operator would be summarily fired......from a cannon, into the sun. That said, the MoD are the exception and it's revolting to think there's so much trough diving going on that there's no cash left for the techie's overtime to do a browser upgrade!!

Oh, and "debenefits"? How about we'll upgrade once we've met the cost of teaching Mailk decent fcuking English??

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FAIL

hmm

Strapped for cash but still prefer to give M$ loads of dosh for an insecure pile of crap?

Secure Microsoft thats the oxymoron

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WTF?

welcome to the Internet

I don't understand such a retarded attitude. The nature of the Internet is incremental software improvements. To enshrine differently in policy is simply pig-ignorant.

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Grenade

The lack of understanding is suprising for the IT crowd

IE6 + Million pound Java and .net based apps restricted via Group policy, which are only supported on IE6 or you have to pay another Million to the developers to upgrade later IE7 or worse between versions of Java, and pay again to whatever browser is the sole reason IE6 has not gone bye bye in many .gov areas.

When the Application(s) is that bespoke you can't afford to change the platform too regularly it becomes a logistical nightmare with Zero Downtime systems. In hind sight is a wonderful thing, but if Firefox was the browser of choice at the time, it would be still on a early version too.

The problem is how do you extricate yourself from a such a mess........Without costing the tax payer millions.......I have my own opinion 2 browsers and sadly thats too much for customer services to deal with with customers who can't work out why the "hard disk" doesn't switch on.

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@AC

"Let us know the company name, so we don't accidentally ask you to pitch. Not testing sites in IE6 the day IE8 came out is a great reason not to use you. IE6 currently makes up about 15% of the user market, whereas Safari is about 3%."

"I don't want to employ anyone who tests for 3% of users and deliberately neglects 15%"

As this article and many others like it prove, that 15% you're so adamant about is essentially megacorp and government users. The IE6 stats are being skewed by a bunch of short-sighted low-budget IT morons that programmed one intranet site after another to only work in IE6 (that's what happens when you the corporate intranet over to a bunch of system analysts and legacy coders to design and build). Now they're stuck with IE6 instead of IE7/IE8 because upgrading would break their intranets. So, that 15% isn't a market share that any web design firm could give two shits about. Obviously, if that 15% was the type to approach web design firms regularly for eye-catching web design using the latest web tech, then they wouldn't be in that 15% anyway. Why should a web design firm worry about losing the business of the 15% who, based upon they're stubborn use of IE6, are the 15% LEAST likely to ever patronize them or any web firm. If that 15% represented typical home users then web design firms might care. Instead, it represents dinosaur behemoth user groups that probably aren't allowed to surf anywhere but their own IE6 intranets and a few white-listed client/vendor sites.

That 15% will upgrade when their biggest client/customer designs a new extranet that doesn't work right under IE6. Well, that, or when the CEO uses IE8 at home, gets to work, and wants to know where the hell his tabs are. Also, we're probably only a few years away from companies hiring entry-level employees who have never used a browser that wasn't tabbed.

Finally, IE6 will be driven out of the market by the concerted and systematic, though not officially announced or organized, failure of web design firms to "tweak" their code to work right under IE6.

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Gates Horns

I had a friend worked in local government IT

They used XP "Secure Edition" which I had never heard of. The end effect was that they got the latest updates months after release because they had to be tested with that OS.

To the guy saying FF has had more exploits found than IE recently, its not the number of exploits, its how fast they are fixed. FF fixes exploits far quicker than MS.

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Boffin

Len Enfield .303

Sea Cadet Corps units all over the country still use drill purpose Lee Enfield .303 riles for their rifle drill. They are due to be replaced with Parade Purpose SA80's some time in the near future - apparently.

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Go

The answer is in this page

http://support.microsoft.com/gp/lifean35

"On July 13, 2010, Extended Support for Windows 2000 Professional will end."

In other words, they have zero excuses except incompetent software developers for not switching to IE7 after that date.

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Unhappy

Our SAP CRM doesn't work in IE7 or IE8

So we are stuck with IE 6, at least until we upgrade :(

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The developers of IE6 should be put on trial for war crimes

IE6 is the biggest turd of any major software product to come out since Microsoft Bob.

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Go

No bells and whistles in the real corporate world

The most common comment on here is Windows 7 ? bah - don't need it, XP just works.

Following the same logic .....

IE6 - Yes.

Fully patched - Yes.

Custom (badly written) web apps internally - Yes

Number of hacks - zero ... thanks to that incredibly expensive firewall, active content blocker (what's flash/activeX?), etc

Business case for upgrading to IE7/8/Firefox .... there is none.

Speaking as an employee who is stuck with IE6 - yeah I miss firefox ... miss the tabs etc - can I justify a corporate upgrade at this point in time - with all the testing costs, rollout etc in the middle of a recession and people losing their jobs all around me to protect the profit margin.

I think we'll stick with XP thank you, it just works!

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Stop

Any Glimmer of Hope?

Please tell me that - at the very least - the UK Government is mandating all future internal browser-accessed software systems comply with Web standards are are therefore browser-agnostic.

Such a policy should make sense from a business/accountancy perspective since it increases the freedom that a given department has in terms of installed browsers and will be cheaper in the long-term because the systems will be compatible with modern software for significantly longer.

Or do the terms "sense" and "long-term" not feature in the minds of government staff...?

Oh, and with respect to IE6-compatibiltiy, doesn't IE8 have an IE6 mode? Similarly, FireFox has IE6Tab (or whatever it's called). Ergo, no excuse to remain with IE6.

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Anonymous Coward

Cost Cost and more Cost... Why Bother

Sorry, IE6 = Quirks mode presentation layer and new browsers have standards based presentation layers. IEx is very easy to lock down. it ain't so easy to lock down other browsers and mitigate risks from the hostile Internet so little chance of choosing other browsers as alteratives to IEx. Remember the browser is route one from the Internet. Govt Depts have a duty to protect your data. Lastly, adoption of web based technologies, i.e.Java, etc has meant that many internal govt systems may/will cost £xMs to upgrade before Depts are in a position to upgrade. So sadly the world moves on and Govt is stuffed (again) by companies that sold them the answer without advising of the future risks/issues. Govt needs to save money at the mo and the upgrade of IE6 can wait. There are better things to spend the money on IMHO. Carry on MOD.

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Anonymous Coward

Oh right.

"Slower at opening pages." - It really matters on a machine that executes 560 thousand million instructions a second.

Tables work. And why not. 99.9999% of webpages can be described with tables.

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WTF?

@Dan Herd

Zero excuses? You clearly haven't read the other comments from people who work in IT and with large organisations.

I'd love to be in the position of not giving a shit about "only" 15% of the market, but I have to work with what I have, and as others have said, running large organisations is not like running a pc or 2 at home. When you have 130,000 desktops and hundreds of different applications, many bespoke, all tested fully against IE6 and working happily (if more slowly), that *may* or may not work with IE7/8 and you think about the potential cost of retesting, getting the developers in, and disruption to business, it becomes clear that the zero excuses argument doesn't wash. Except for home users and some small offices with few pcs and standard applications.

The real issue is that MS did not support the standards with IE6 and 7 and as usual went their own sweet way to try and lock people in. The browsers are not even compatible with each other FFS.

Just because you can download firefox or IE8 and it works on google doesn't mean that you can roll it out to corporate users. Imagine your company can't pay the workers because the payroll program doesn't work with the new browser and you didn't test it. How long would you last?

Then think of the cost of testing hundreds of applications and moving them to the next proprietary browser from MS knowing you'll have to do it all again when the fanbois cheer in the next release with slightly different standards in 18 months and rubbish the last one as if it was all your fault.

Get into the real world for ffs.

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FAIL

@AC 19:18

What a twat! Making assumptions that all IE 6 users are 'Govt and Megacorp' so your wonderous webdev firm wouldn't give a monkey's about them and no web firm will give 2 shits about them.

guess what? Any decent web firm WILL give a damn about 15%. You may (or may not) be right about the origins of the IE 6 browsers, but the users may well be representing temselves (or their company/department) as a buyer. We get around 15% of our web traffic from IE 6 and we get about 15% of our sales from users on IE 6. Any web developer who told me that my site would not support IE 6 would be told where to go.

Go to the back of the class. Idiot.

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