Government attacked for sticking with IE6

The Government’s refusal to upgrade from Internet Explorer 6 has been lambasted by the developer who started the petition against the nine-year-old browser.

Government attacked for sticking with IE6

The petition calling for the Government to upgrade IE for the sake of security and developers’ sanity was signed by more than 6,200, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the potential costs.

The Government said departments are free to choose whichever browser they like, but claimed that upgrading is expensive even when the software is free.

It’s disappointing to say the least that they’re not even going to look at the ways to upgrade

“It is not straightforward for [Government] departments to upgrade IE versions on their systems,” the Government response said, adding that testing and rolling out IE8 would take weeks, while ensuring apps were compatible would take “months at significant potential cost to the taxpayer”.

“It is therefore more cost effective in many cases to continue to use IE6 and rely on other measures, such as firewalls and malware scanning software, to further protect public sector internet users,” it added.


Web developer Dan Frydman, who started the petition, told PC Pro that he understands the financial challenges, but added: “It’s disappointing to say the least that they’re not even going to look at the ways to upgrade.”

“Are we looking at a situation where they will get to 2014 and say ‘Oh, Microsoft, please hang on, we’ve not done anything with this’?” he said, noting Microsoft’s own kill date for the browser.

“Microsoft has committed to getting people off IE6 because it doesn’t want to have to continue supporting it when they have a big client, and of course the British Government is a massive client,” he noted. “To have that kind of security risk out there is a big headache.”

The Government claimed in its response that fully-patched IE6 is only as secure as modern browsers. “There is no evidence that upgrading away from the latest fully patched versions of Internet Explorer to other browsers will make users more secure,” the Government response claimed.

Compatibility concerns

Aside from security, Frydman said that modern browsers better support new applications such as Google Apps and the cloud, “which IE6 isn’t really very good at doing”. Such tools could help the Government’s cost-cutting drive, Frydman noted.

Frydman said he was initially ready to give up the battle to kill IE6, but feedback from other developers has encouraged him to keep at it. “Something still needs to be done,” he said. “There is something that can be done, it’s just figuring out what the next step is.” He’s currently taking suggestions on the Dan Frydman blog.

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