A recent petition, which called for the UK Government to move away from IE6, has received a dismissive response.
The petition, which gathered over 6000 signatures, referred to moves by French and German governments to encourage their citizens to move away from the antiquated browser, amidst fears of security vulnerabilities.
It also described a vicious cycle whereby government departments continue to tolerate IE6 because most sites still work on it, whilst many companies continue to design for the browser because most government departments use it.
It concluded by calling for that cycle to be broken, and asking that innovation and security be given their proper place.
“A very large operation…”
But the response to the petition, released today, may be seen by some as a little dismissive:
Complex software will always have vulnerabilities and motivated adversaries will always work to discover and take advantage of them.
It refers to policies of “regular software patching and updating” to “help defend against the latest threats”, and states that:
It is for individual departments to make the decision on how best to manage the risk based on this clear guidance.
Finally, it concludes:
It is not straightforward for HMG departments to upgrade IE versions on their systems. Upgrading these systems to IE8 can be a very large operation […] 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.
This will be a disappointing response for many, not least those of us who remain at the mercy of the nine year old browser. Naturally, we were under no illusion that a more sympathetic response would somehow have signalled an immediate end to IE6. Indeed, most of us appreciate that, due to the hundreds of legacy systems still in existence and built with IE6 in mind, the browser is likely to be around for some time yet. Nevertheless, the official seal of approval from central Government to the principles of the petition would have been a major step forward.
Whilst the point about legacy systems is a valid one, the counter-argument is that many of us have a new set of critical systems that we are increasingly using to do our jobs, many of which have actively withdrawn support for IE6. I’m talking about the likes of YouTube and Google Apps – crucial tools for many of us working in digital communications.
Another recent example saw our local bus company updating their website. Due to a number of serious problems with its design, IE6 users (among others) found themselves unable to access the site. Again, this was a vital tool for some staff and many had to arrange for alternative browsers (such as FireFox) to be installed as a workaround.
And whilst installing an alternative browser would seem like the obvious solution, the locked-down nature of most work terminals means that this process is rarely simple, and often comes at a price.
See more reactions to the response from Dan Frydman, who launched the petition.