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August 2, 2010

UK government thinks IE6 will have to do

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by Darren Allan

Government departments will continue to use an outdated version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer for browsing the web.

That’s because the cost of upgrading from IE6 would be too much of a burden on the taxpayer, the government has said in response to a recent petition.

The petition, which was to “Encourage government departments to upgrade away from Internet Explorer 6”, was concerned about the security flaws which are well known and associated with the past-its-sell-by-date browser. 6200 people signed the petition.

Its author points out that many businesses aren’t upgrading due to cost issues, but the government should be leading the way and setting an example, and following in the footsteps of the French and German authorities.

The government responded to the petition by stating: “There is no evidence that upgrading away from the latest fully patched versions of Internet Explorer to other browsers will make users more secure. Regular software patching and updating will help defend against the latest threats.”

Hmm… The government goes on to describe an upgrade to IE8 as a “very large operation”, which would take weeks to test and roll-out, at “significant potential cost to the taxpayer”.

It concludes that continuing to rely on IE6, backed up with other measures such as anti-malware software and firewalls, is the most cost effective approach. Which is true enough, but is it the most sensible one?

Story link: UK government thinks IE6 will have to do

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  1. I don’t think they have really factored in the potential costs of NOT ditching IE6.

    Creating and maintaining websites to cater for IE6 bugs is a big drain on web developers, and adds to their costs.

    Time spent maintaining and being distracted by antimalware also has a cost, not including any security breaches, loss of data and remediation costs.

    “very large operation” - distributing pendrives by carrier pigeon? What could break by upgrading to IE8?

    I suspect the majority of departments have already upgraded because MS already pushed the option through windows update.

    I admit it would be quite a large amount of work to audit each machine and ensure and remove any trace of IE6, but the sooner the better.

    IE6 stifled the progress of the Net for years. Time to die.

    Comment by Andy Lee Robinson — August 2, 2010 @ 2:52 pm

  2. I despair at our country’s future investment in technology. It’s clear that ‘the government’ doesn’t understand the technology they’re dealing with.

    They claim IE6 is “the latest fully patched versions of Internet Explorer”. Someone needs to break the news to them that IE6 is neither the latest browser, or fully patched.

    It is narrow minded decisions like this, where they can make a quick saving, that holds back future technology. It costs more in the long run.

    Comment by Dan — August 2, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

  3. As a web developer,
    Making a website work the same in IE6 is the biggest time waster of any project.
    And personally I cant wait till its not being used at all.

    Comment by Scott Rampley — August 2, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

  4. Considering IE8 is free why the cost? Makes no sense at all

    Comment by Phil Begley — August 2, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

  5. Where does the cost come from? Run Windows update and install the free download!

    Comment by Hus — August 2, 2010 @ 4:00 pm

  6. What complete donkeys. I would install it them for free if they want

    Comment by Shadow — August 2, 2010 @ 4:48 pm

  7. The cost doesn’t come directly from installing the upgrade but in software and internal pages.

    Much of it will indeed be fine but considering it is the govt it DOES all have to be thoroughly checked and/or updated and what not.

    I work in a school and we just manged to upgrade to IE7. Yes, 7. The problem is too much stuff relies on programs that break under IE8 (due largely to it working properly ironically) such as dyslexia screeners and testing software.

    Yes it sucks, but until ALL of these programs work seemlessly we cant simlply roll out IE8 and be done with it. These programs are crucial and having them not work could even cause a failure in an offstead inspection.

    Now imagine this on the collosal scale of the govt systems and you can start to understand the costs involved.

    Comment by james smith — August 2, 2010 @ 11:28 pm

  8. The costs are in staff time. Windows Update is routinely disabled in large organisations because they run hundreds (if not thousands) of custom written applications - all of which require regression testing against any updates in case they break. IT departments typically don’t have capacity to test more than one or two apps a week, let alone the interactions between apps.

    It’s easy to say “They won’t break if they are written properly” but life aint like that, and organisations have to deal with the situation as they find it. Many apps may have been written years ago by people who no longer work there.

    In the case of IE6, there may well be huge Intranets that have been written years ago to work specifically with IE6 (including all its funny little ways) and the costs of re-writing them could run to hundreds of thousands.

    Remember also that many older Intranets use ActiveX, which means they cannot use alternative browsers. Can this be fixed? Sure: at a cost.

    Worse still - there’s no way of KNOWING (and that’s your boss asking for 100% certain, career-risking, certainty) whether the whole Intranet will work unless EVERY page is tested in all possible ways. Potentially WEEKS of work - all on overtime rates because they don’t have spare staff sitting around.

    The cost to an organisation of a key application breaking can be enormous, in lost productivity, missed deadlines, and IT staff overtime. So an IT Director faced with a HUGE risk like that will prefer to let sleeping dogs lie.

    Comment by cverrier — August 3, 2010 @ 8:23 am

  9. Scenario:

    You tell your boss that upgrading to IE8 is a good thing to do.

    He says ‘OK’, but the project involves 10,000 PC’s across the organisation and it has to work on EVERY SINGLE one of them (or what’s the point?)

    If you go ahead and anything vital breaks, you lose your job (or, possibly worse, you spend every evening and weekend between now and Christmas fixing it).

    You choose….

    Comment by cverrier — August 3, 2010 @ 8:27 am

  10. What an idiotic position - let’s be done and use Firefox!!

    Comment by Brian Turner — August 3, 2010 @ 10:55 am

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