UK Citizens Petition For Government IE6 Upgrade

By Craig Buckler
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IE petitionGovernments are often slow to adapt to technology (and, when they do, the results can be an expensive disaster). Last year, I reported that the majority of UK Government departments are still using IE6. Although some intend to roll out IE7 (why?) by the end of 2010, others are steadfastly locked into Microsoft’s aging browser and have no plans to upgrade.

The issue is intensified for creative and development companies building software for Government clients. They must continue to provide and support IE6 solutions when most of the IT industry has moved on. Application development is held back and IE6’s longevity continues unabated!

UK citizens can now do something about the problem. An online petition at the website is demanding that all Government departments upgrade Internet Explorer 6.0 at the earliest opportunity. At the time of writing, almost 6,000 signatures have been collected even though the petition has only just begun to attract publicity.

The UK Government E-Petitions allow British citizens to collect online signatures for any cause of their choice. There are almost 5,000 petitions currently running and many have been a success. For example, in September 2009, Gordon Brown was persuaded to apologize on behalf of the British Government for Alan Turing’s treatment after World War II.

Will the IE6 petition be a success and force UK Government departments to upgrade? I suspect many thousands of web users and workers will sign before the February 1, 2011 deadline but, unfortunately, that date is almost a year away. By then, several offices will have switched to IE7 and those that haven’t can simply announce a 3-year upgrade plan (to coincide with Microsoft dropping IE6 support in 2014).

But, hey — it all helps. Any campaign which persuades the masses to look beyond IE6 is a good thing. I’ve signed … will you?

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  • josebb


    Anything if it helps bringing IE6 closer to its demise. ;-)

  • I think it’s great that UK citizens are rising up against IE6. Unfortunately, the petition says, “You must be a British citizen or resident to sign the petition.” I’m an American citizen and resident so I can’t sign. But I would if I could.

    Google is also giving up on IE6. But Google will do it more decisively than the UK government, thank goodness.

    I don’t want to politicize this post too much, but this is yet another example of how inefficient government can be. A majority of UK governmental departments still using IE6? It’s not a positive reflection on the efficiency of government. IE6 is stone-age technology at this point. To be fair, I’m sure we could find governmental entities in the States that still use IE6.

  • Mahzian

    It’s the same story here in Australia unfortunately. I work for a medical college and when the government medical forces that be contracted us for web work we had to support IE6 because that’s what all their computers had installed via their IT policy… It’s like living in the dark ages -_-

  • Michael

    What chance does an anti-IE6 petition have when one with over 70,000 signatories calling for the (unelected numpty of a) Prime Minister to resign is just brushed off?

  • This is indeed a good news and people are now aware of technology upgrade. It is very important to be up to date. There is vast difference between the IE6 and IE8 but still one can use IE7 to relax a bit. We at akshar technologies constantly try to improve the differences between browsers.

  • momos

    Same thing in Belgium.

  • Okay — if application development is being held back by IE6, why don’t you list for me 3 things that web applications might like to do but which are impossible in IE6 ..?

  • Gordon Brown

    It’s all to do with money. The more upgrades they do the more money the third party companies make, which is why they reluctant to always do the best thing. Fact.

  • @brothercake
    I’m with you. IE6 will do almost anything you want with a little effort. It’s not as bad as many people make out and developers often blame the browser when they could “fix” their (perfectly valid standards-based) code.

    However, IE6 development has become tiresome and the browser really shouldn’t be around 9 years after it’s birth and two versions on. As for thing’s it won’t do, er, how about…

    install alongside other version of IE (for testing)
    offer decent development and debugging tools
    provide reliable CSS2.1 support
    SVG support (nor does IE7 or IE8)
    proper XHTML support
    24-bit PNG support (without JS/CSS filtering fixes)
    shorten development time

  • Come on Craig – those are details, not features. What I’m challenging you to come up with is some unacheivable end-results, not implementation minutae.

  • @brothercake
    Well that’s not really fair, is it! Any feature can be downgraded to work anywhere – IE6, IE2, Lynx, potato print, whatever.

    OK, it can’t make toast or buy me a pint. That do?

  • The big deal is trying to keep up with the standards AND support IE6. For a lot of projects you end up redoing at least half of the project for IE6.

    This problem becomes compounded when you are working for a government agency. They say “we only use IE6”, so lazier developers would make it ONLY work on IE6. This causes a problem because then you wind up not being able to upgrade from IE6.

    And that is where a lot of the problems we have with getting rid of IE6 stem from.

  • [quote]What chance does an anti-IE6 petition have when one with over 70,000 signatories calling for the (unelected numpty of a) Prime Minister to resign is just brushed off?

    That’s 70,000 out of a little over 61 million people. That’s about a tenth of a percent of the population. Close elections have more than 40% of the population against the new prime minister/president.

    If there were 40 million signatories, I bet he’d be out on the street right now.

  • @craig – my point exactly! Nobody would happier than me to see the back of IE6, but let’s not kid ourselves that getting rid of it benefits users, or the internet as a whole – its for our ease and convenience, and no other reason.

  • @samanime – you’re missing one detail, which is that not everyone votes. If 60% vote against the PM, that’s 60% of the people who voted, not 60% of the population. Only around 50% of the population voted at the last general election, so the real figure would be 30% of the population.

    And you can’t blame voter apathy for that. Personally, I don’t see the point in voting when you have no way of knowing what they’re going to do after they get in. You may as well make a random choice for all the good you can consciously do.

    Now in Australi the situation is slightly better, because you can consciously vote for “none of the above” – you can make a deliberate choice that you don’t want any of them to win. In Britain we have no such choice, so the only way to register a protest vote is to deliberately spoil your ballot.

    Anyway …

  • My question is: Why would they upgrade to IE7 and not IE8? And by the time this actually happens, IE9 might be out.

  • Clintonio

    I think this is where the government refuses to upgrade on the notion that older tested technology is more secure or stable than newer tech. A very outdated style of thought.