Just When You Thought IE6 Would Die…

IE6 won't die!Although major web sites such as YouTube are dropping support for IE6, as Alex has pointed out, progress is far more sedate within large corporations and public authorities. Here are two further alarming examples…

Orange

Our first case study is Orange — a major telecoms and Internet Service Provider. According to a technician working in one of the UK’s call centers, up to a quarter of personnel had switched to Firefox primarily to take advantage of tabbed browsing and improved performance. However, a leaked internal email revealed that the company has banned Firefox in favor of IE6. Staff have also been threatened with a £250 fine if they experience PC problems following the installation of any unauthorized software:

Under no circumstances should Firefox be downloaded. Downloading any application from the internet is against Orange policy. There is NO support for Firefox in the operational environment. Orange Web applications are all designed to run on IE6 and therefore there is a likelihood that functionality will be impaired on Firefox.

Orange’s primary reasons are corporate PC stability and security. IE6 is automatically updated as part of the company’s patching process whereas Firefox and other browsers are not. That is an important factor, but is a patched 8-year-old browser really more stable and secure than a more modern version?

UK Ministry of Defence (MoD)

The majority of UK Government departments still force staff to use IE6 but most have plans to adopt IE7 by 2010 (better late than never, I suppose). The exception is the MoD. Although they have more stringent security concerns than other departments, it has not prevented them rolling out a “secure” IE6-based Information Infrastructure Program to 300,000 users worldwide.

MP Tom Watson expressed his disappointment:

Many civil servants use web browsers as a tool of their trade. They’re as important as pens and paper. So to force them to use the most decrepit browser in the world is a rare form of workplace cruelty that should be stopped.

The Government Get Safe Online initiative advises companies to upgrade from IE6, so permanent secretaries should practice what they preach. Why civil servants should not be given the choice to use Firefox or Chrome or Safari is beyond me. UK web workers deserve better.

You may consider these organizations to be luddites, backward, or uninformed. Unfortunately, they employ thousands of people who may be customers for your goods and services. Should those users be disregarded because they continue to use IE6 though no fault of their own?

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  • Anonymous

    There’s plenty of system solution providers like Cap Gemini and Oracle *still* delivering IE6 only products too

  • http://www.daniel-groves.co.uk dgroves

    This is just not right…

    I don’t believe that it is possible to secure IE6 anymore, it is way to old. All web-workers should be given the choice.

  • iammikek

    i’m the sure the reason the MOD are keen to still run IE6 is that they’ve only just finished upgrading from IE4 (yes i have been there)

  • jonrawlins

    Not a good time in my opinion, something that’s going to have to be watched closely. It would seem the government needs to start upgrading the vast majority of these organisations for security reason’s and to make life as a designer that little bit less stressful.

    Thanks for the great point Sitepoint.

    Jon Rawlins

  • rimmer333

    Still sure, that when the site is done right, there’s no major imparity or functionality loss when viewing in IE6. There might be some glitches, there might be not so rich design, but things should generally work OK. Anyway, sadly there’no chance yet to strike the bad out browser from checklist.

  • http://nicholasorr.com SoreGums

    Yes.

    Why should I have to make your life easier/simpler purely because you “don’t want to” move to a modern browser. Someone is going to have to spend money might as well be you. Get with the program all ready :)

    Anyway, why you surfing the net at work? Get back to work :P
    (the presence of :P means I’m kidding…)

    When you get home you can look at all the wonderful websites that have forsaken IE6 to graveyard. If you’re at work 24/7 I think there may be larger issues at hand…

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    @dgroves
    I agree. Focusing efforts on one browser defeats many of the advantages offered by web-based applications. You might as well implement a desktop-based solution.

    @SoreGums
    You’re forgetting that Orange and the MoD employ people who buy goods and services on behalf of their organizations. It’s not just that employees are slacking off browsing online holiday brochures.

    If those companies want your services, they will visit your site using IE6. Banning them might give you a self-satisfied smugness, but it won’t feed your kids!

  • http://www.primalskill.com feketegy

    I believe that was the only reason why Microsoft didn’t dropped IE6 in Windows XP SP2.

    Lot’s of enterprise applications are primarily based on IE6 and Microsoft simply can’t disappoint these corporations…

  • Chevalric

    I’ve recently looked at browser stats for the website I work for (the largest online media store in the Netherlands). 10% of our users are on IE6, and the bulk of those (about 80%) visit the site during working hours (so most likely from the office).

    The Netherlands is a bit odd when it comes to browser usage as it is, because IE is still stronger here than in most other European countries. I’m pretty sure that there are plenty of companies and government departments that still use IE6 as their main web browser, with no intention of giving up on that bad habit.
    Especially since there are no work-related sites that require an upgrade. Youtube and Facebook making a stand is nice, but it won’t convince IT managers to upgrade IE6 to a more modern and more secure browser.

    And so the suffering continues…

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    @Chevalric

    The Netherlands is a bit odd when it comes to browser usage as it is, because IE is still stronger here than in most other European countries.

    Is it? IE6 accounts for larger proportions in the US and UK – typically 15-20%.

  • AndrewCooper

    This is a complete shambles! First the U.S Government State Departments and now we’ve got the UK Government Departments staying with IE6 for some silly reason? I honestly can’t believe that the MoD have only recently upgraded from IE4 to IE6 either. Seriously. That can’t be right.

    The MoD is pretty much responsible for the UK citizens safety and they are using 8+ year old technology? The average home computer user is probably safer in their home than at the MoD HQ if they’re running old systems like IE6 and Windows 2000 / XP.

    Nevermind environmentally friendly, carbon emissions, EU policies and the bloody recession! Get something done about our country’s security and safety first and get IE8 or better yet, Firefox 3.5!

    -Yet again, head in hands-

    Andrew Cooper

  • lemonhead

    orange may not be allowed to use anything except IE6 internally but all websites are set up to be compatible with IE, Firefox, safari, chrome and opera

  • James Robertson

    I am confused.

    Orange Web applications are all designed to run on IE6 and therefore there is a likelihood that functionality will be impaired on Firefox

    If a website works fine in IE6, then why might it not work in modern browsers? CSS and Javascript support have got better, not worse, so why might functionality be impaired?

    I’m a newbie web developer, so forgive me if I’m missing something obvious.

  • lifeforms

    System integrators and IT departments have not been paying enough attention to lifecycle management.

    Anyone who delivers solutions which they call “finished” without a concrete plan for periodic maintenance, is lying to their clients. New browsers are not the only concern; what about security issues?

    ALL internet-connected applications simply have to deal with the reality of a changing client landscape. This process must be taken into consideration from the start of the project until its decommission.

  • http://www.deanclatworthy.com Dean C

    There’s plenty of system solution providers like Cap Gemini and Oracle *still* delivering IE6 only products too

    Cap Gemini’s clients require support far below IE6. When you’re dealing with websites such as the inland revenue’s online tax payment system, you simply can’t afford to not support a large array of legacy browsers. They have legal requirements to support legacy browsers in line with the government’s policy on making the website’s functionality available to everyone.

  • jack

    “You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.” – Thomas Sowell.

    “Any change is resisted because bureaucrats have a vested interest in the chaos in which they exist.” – Richard Nixon.

  • http://www.sankesolutions.co.uk hotnuts21

    I work on a UK based site aimed at the heritage sector within the UK. We have visitors from around the world, and we get a LOT of traffic. Over 17% of that traffic is still IE6, and thats just too high to ignore. So all our work is still done with IE6 in mind.

    Interestingly IE8 overtook IE6 this month for the first time, and the amount of people using IE6 has halved on avg since January this year.

    The other interesting thing is when the usage is highest. Going back over 12 months, the graph goes up and down in a very regular pattern. Noticing that IE6 usage goes up significantly mon – fri, and drops off at least half on Saturday and Sundays. Back in January it was 3-4 times higher during the week!

  • Michael K

    Aww! Again, little Opera is forgotten. I really am starting to feel sorry for it.

    Actually the really amazing thing is that Chrome has gained more popularity than Opera, and it’s only been out less than a year.

    On that topic, IE6 is about a hundred. I’ll bet the heads of these companies have old-man fetish.

  • krdr

    Nice, MoD just made open call to the hackers of the world. As I’m informed, FF also have (semi)automatic updates. For me, or a sys admin, would be better if I know update is applied and what the update.

    On other side, if they stick to IE6 ’cause of apps that works only with IE6, they should change the software. That software is prone to the bugs. IE6-only software, for me, is made by lazy developers. That’s why I left my former bank. They used IE6 only app, that relies on activeX controls.

    If I’m forced to use IE6, just to access IE6 only app, there’s problem with that app. Qyuestion that arise is why those apps aren’t automatically update to non-IE6-only apps.

  • http://www.deanclatworthy.com Dean C

    Nice, MoD just made open call to the hackers of the world. As I’m informed, FF also have (semi)automatic updates. For me, or a sys admin, would be better if I know update is applied and what the update.

    It’s not that simple. Users of systems on most enterprise networks lack the permissions to run executables and especially install/update software. The point is that system administrators have procedures in place to remotely deploy software and update it in the form of windows update across all machines. However, switching from that to something different can be a monumental, costly task. That’s why it’s taking so long. You get exactly the same issue with new operating systems, but nobody seems to be up in arms about that :)

    Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the end for IE6 as much as the last person but more effort from the community needs to be undertaken (voluntarily too, may I add) to go into businesses, schools, universities and educate them on the risks of running legacy software in general, not just IE6. And, more importantly, they need to provide a justifiable use-case in to why these system administrators should bother migrating. Need I point out that FF, Safari & Opera have all had their fair share of critical vulnerabilities. The only reason IE6 comes off worse is because it’s what the majority of people use, hence it’s targeted more often.

    Instead of whining about IE7/IE8 uptake and having to support legacy browsers, how about the community coming together to provide tools, education and support to businesses and organisations who are stuck in this situation.

  • Dean

    It surprises me that so many people with comments seem to overlook bespoke applications developed for use within a Browser. I work at a company which builds bespoke apps for this very market. Though we don’t build for IE6, I see that IE6 doesn’t necessarily have any security implications if the app is only used internally.
    This could well be reason why companies like the MoD haven’t upgraded; because with the upgrade could introduce extra costs associated with re-writing existing bespoke applications, designed specifically for IE6 or lower. Additionally, if the users only need to use internal apps while in the workplace, why bother upgrading something which doesn’t need it?
    I work as a web developer and I find no real hassle with making a site usable in IE6. There are some CSS limitations, of course, as well as other limits, but for the most part a site can work almost identically well in IE6 as it does in IE8. I understand dropping support for IE6 for some sites that require a lot more effort to keep the site looking correct in IE6 as well as the other browsers, though for internal applications, I can understand not upgrading.

    I just wanted to raise this point as I feel it had been overlooked within the debate.

  • Stevie D

    @James Roberston:

    If a website works fine in IE6, then why might it not work in modern browsers? CSS and Javascript support have got better, not worse, so why might functionality be impaired?

    IE6 doesn’t always interpret code (be it HTML, CSS or Javascript) correctly. Sometimes that means that things that should work don’t, but other times it means that things that shouldn’t work do. A lot of old websites and web applications were built around this dodgy code that only worked in IE6, and which doesn’t work in standards-compliant browsers such as Firefox, Opera, Safari and IE7/8.

  • sbrowett

    @James Robertson
    The problem is that because IE6 does so much wrong, there are a generation of website and web apps which have purposefully built badly in order to work in IE6. Standards-compliant browsers are exactly that – they handle well-written code well, but fall short of being able to fix non-compliant code.

    I think that one of the appealing factor for using IE6 is that the browser is so in-flexible. Take Firefox for example – all it would take is a rougue plug-in etc and you’re opening up a huge can of worms. In some cases I guess IE6′s consumer weaknesses are a corporate strength.

  • http://www.rwtconsultants.com israelisassi

    The phrase “better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t” comes to mind.

    Anytime you introduce something new to any environment you have to not just add or update it, you have to train your IT people, users, test everything that comes into contact with it, make sure if you ever have to access anything from legacy apps/systems that it still can be done. IT staff and computer users in general have a lot more things to be concerned with on a daily basis than browsers, as well they should.

    This gets very difficult and very expensive really fast. Browsers are just one minuscule part of a much, much larger and complex system. Where you focus your efforts can have a huge impact on your success, however you define success.

    Just because something new, something different, or “the latest and greatest” is available doesn’t necessarily render everything before obsolete. My 13 year old car still does everything I need it to do, my 5 year old digital camera still does everything I need it to do, my 3 year old cell phone still does everything I need it to do…

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    @James Robertson

    If a website works fine in IE6, then why might it not work in modern browsers?

    The problem is that IE was the only browser with any significant market share between 1998 and 2003 (if not longer). IE implemented non-standard methods and technologies. To be fair to MS, many IE developments occurred before the W3C got around to standardizing HTML and CSS, but MS didn’t exactly rush to upgrade the browser.

    A legacy application tested on IE6 might break in more modern browsers: the CSS box model is different (in quirks mode), ActiveX is supported, JavaScript objects can differ, etc. Many web applications written at that time have not been updated. Is it easiest to spend money on upgrading/testing those apps or just keep everyone on IE6?

  • Anonymous

    Our last month saw 36% IE6 usage (only 1% lower than IE7). Most of our visitors are UK public sector organisations, a few will still be using Windows 2000. Some orgs will only update once they have to. Unless you’re running a non-work site (many employers will block youtube access), you’re stuck with IE6 for a while.

  • http://leonpaternoster.com/blog leonpaternoster

    Our last month saw 36% IE6 usage (only 1% lower than IE7). Most of our visitors are UK public sector organisations, a few will still be using Windows 2000. Some orgs will only update once they have to. Unless you’re running a non-work site (many employers will block youtube access), you’re stuck with IE6 for a while.

  • SpacePhoenix

    Given the fact that we are in a recession, some organisations might not be able to justify the cost of upgrading all their computers to run IE7 or IE8.

  • TerribleTony

    As long as the users are restricted users, let them eat IE6. But I can guarantee the admins are still using Firefox or Chrome or Safari or whatever.

  • James Robertson

    Thank you very much Stevie D. sbrowett and Craig Buckler for explaining, much appreciated.

  • paul.shirley

    It seems to me that most of the comments here are directly or indirectly arriving at the same conclusion – IE6 isn’t going to go away any time soon because of the cost/effort/risk/whatever involved for (mainly) corporations in updating to IE7/8 or upgrading to a new browser.
    We have to face the fact that a lot of visitors and consumers are “crippled”, through no fault of their own, by being forced to use IE6.
    This is certainly what I personally have resigned myself to accept and, in my humble opinion, it is better to put the time and effort in to providing access to a site than to complaining about the situation.
    This might sound a bit harsh, and this is by no means intended to offend or upset anyone, but if you were building a shop, would you include a ramp for disabled access, or would you complain that your customers couldn’t walk and/or prevent them from entering?
    By not catering for (currently) such a large portion of IE6 visitors, sites are, therefore, turning away a large portion of potential customers.
    On the flip side of this debate, I am often surprised by how many sites I visit that, still, work ONLY in IE!
    On a more constructive note, we as designers and developers need better tools for testing our sites across the multitude of operating systems and browsers that are currently available.
    I would greatly appreciate any feedback and comments on this last point at my blog – IE6 is dead? Long live IE6! :(

  • Tim

    [they should upgrade] … to make life as a designer that little bit less stressful.

    He he, I love it. A company focused on national security should upgrade the thousands of computers they have, change their IT policies, etc just to make designers live less stressful :) If they are that draconian about which browser is used, they probably have a no Internet usage policy while you are on the job as well.

    Your browser isn’t the first and last line of defense on any computer or network. Certainly not at the MoD. Virus scanners, firewalls, IDS, IPS should all be in force there

  • http://edgedirector.com/ plumsauce

    IE6 is [b]not[/b] inherently more insecure than other browsers.

    It is a case of figuring out all the settings. In institutional settings, the systems are locked down and carry a particular configuration. This is why they want to stick with it.

    The fact that some designers prefer to do testing with some other browser and then are surprised when it does not work in IE is not really a browser implementation problem. It is an attitudinal problem originating with the designer who somehow thinks he is more au courant because he uses the flavour of the day. News flash: firefox is horribly mangled imitation of Netscape, but the fanbois don’t like to talk about it. The pretender-prince-to-be has no clothes.

    [quote]
    As long as the users are restricted users, let them eat IE6. But I can guarantee the admins are still using Firefox or Chrome or Safari or whatever.
    [/quote]

    I’d like to collect on that guarantee please.

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    @plumsauce

    News flash: firefox is horribly mangled imitation of Netscape, but the fanbois don’t like to talk about it.

    Probably because you’re incorrect! Netscape open-sourced their browser and put Mozilla in charge of development. Mozilla took one look at the code and rewrote the rendering engine (Gecko) from scratch. That took several years. Netscape 6 and 7 used Gecko as a base, but the browser was bloated, buggy and never became popular. Netscape 8 and 9 were modelled on Firefox and also offered IE’s trident engine. The browser died in 2007.

    The Mozilla Suite also used Gecko, but the project was abandoned in favor of separate Firefox and Thunderbird applications when they became popular.

  • 1

    I think that corporate staff have to be ignored because they use IE6 only for their work. Who will go to buy something in his workday? It just doesn’t worth to develop something ugly for IE6 when you can do that times faster and better looking in modern browsers. The time when IE6 was the latest version of IE is gone so for those who want something better from the web – upgrade your browser!

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    @1 Says
    As mentioned above, some people are employed as purchasers. Orange buys all sorts of goods: PCs, cables, software, desks, stationery, drinks coolers, etc, etc. The people procuring those items probably use IE6.

    Would Dell want to lose an order for 100 PCs because an Orange employee couldn’t access their website? Like it or not, there are still many IE6 users. Taking the higher moral ground may lower your profits.

  • http://www.mediamarche.com/ Floost

    Very interesting and amusing subject. I read with great pleasure.

  • Jonathan

    I work as a web developer, and it annoys me to no end that we have to support IE6 on our sites, as the clients who pay us all use IE6 (yet their user base is mainly IE7/8 or firefox).

    My mate has a personal blog, and he has catered his code to detect IE6 users, display a red error message telling them to upgrade before finally redirecting them back to google, lol.

    For the longest time i couldnt understand why floppy discs wouldnt die off, even after Zip, CD-R and DVD-R were invented, wasn’t until USB sticks came along did it finally die. Problem is IE6 came with XP. Guess we just gonna have to wait to all the Windows XP PC’s die, and people buy new machines. At least XP can no longer be bought mainstream, but annoyingly still available on new Netbooks.

    It will be intrested to see what happens in Europe with Windows 7 been sold without a browser.

  • SpacePhoenix

    I work as a web developer, and it annoys me to no end that we have to support IE6 on our sites, as the clients who pay us all use IE6 (yet their user base is mainly IE7/8 or firefox).

    My mate has a personal blog, and he has catered his code to detect IE6 users, display a red error message telling them to upgrade before finally redirecting them back to google, lol.

    For the longest time i couldnt understand why floppy discs wouldnt die off, even after Zip, CD-R and DVD-R were invented, wasn’t until USB sticks came along did it finally die. Problem is IE6 came with XP. Guess we just gonna have to wait to all the Windows XP PC’s die, and people buy new machines. At least XP can no longer be bought mainstream, but annoyingly still available on new Netbooks.

    It will be intrested to see what happens in Europe with Windows 7 been sold without a browser.

    You can still buy new machines with XP installed

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    It will be intrested to see what happens in Europe with Windows 7 been sold without a browser.

    It’s not happening now! See http://www.sitepoint.com/blogs/2009/08/04/microsoft-windows-browser-ballot/