Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Government Internet Explorer Software United Kingdom Upgrades IT

Who Is Still Using IE6? the UK Government 141

strawberryshakes writes "The death knell for IE6 was sounded a couple of years ago, but seems like some people just can't let go. Many UK government departments are still using IE6, which is so old — 11 years old to be exact — it can't cope with social media — which the government is trying to get its staff to use more to engage with citizens."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Who Is Still Using IE6? the UK Government

Comments Filter:
  • by Linsaran ( 728833 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @12:35PM (#40029263) Homepage
    Good to see the US government isn't the only ones.
    • Can add large sectors of the Canadian government to the list as well.
    • I've been to some large company HQs like Tesco and VW and even large offices for IBM, all still stuck to IE6.

      Brand new Tesco by me all their tills, stock control, e-mail, quite literally everything is done within IE6.

      Their software requires IE6 and they are not likely to change soon.

      • A lot of retailers are stuck on IE6...I think it has to do with the industry's absolute hatred of ever actually spending money on internal improvements until it's become a ridiculous liability.

        I know from personal experience that CompUSA used IE6 before they crashed and burned, and Home Depot ran a lot of shit through it as well. At least at CompUSA the workstations weren't restricted from running other browser software, although we'd get bitched at about it from time to time when people would bypass the b

        • What I don't get is why MSFT doesn't just make it beyond simple to switch by offering an Intranet only IE 6 in a box. Something like a mini VM that ONLY works on the Intranet and ONLY to sites the IT guy has pre-programmed into the IE6 in a box. Because we all know its them damned IE 6 ActiveX Intranet sites that keep businesses on IE 6 and good luck getting them to spend the amount of cash it would take to replace it with an HTML 5 app.

          Now i apologize if MSFT has an offering like that but I haven't seen

          • It's quite surprising that unlike say MS Office, IE can't run different versions side-by-side. That causes people to use IE 6 for legacy apps, and Firefox for everything else.

            • Well you can with win 7 Pro, by using IE 6 in XP Mode and using IE 9 for everything else which is why i don't understand why they don't do something similar with JUST IE 6 instead of needing the full blown VM. It really shouldn't be difficult to put just IE 6 and just enough of the Windows underpinnings to support IE 6 in a VM based on an .exe that could be pushed with Group Policy.

              Hell I was making single app Windows back in the late 90s and early 00s for HTPCs by simply stripping out everything that was

            • It's not surprising; it's intentional. Most of IE6 is implemented in various DLLs that are in \windows\system32\, with very little in the actual iexplore.exe file. That's the IE/Windows integration that the anti-trust trial was (partly) about.
              Side by side versions would result in conflicting DLLs being installed in system32, which would break things, similar to what happens if you replace some files on an XP SP2 machine with SP3 versions.

        • My company (a rather large multinational) requires IE for a number of internal apps. Even the Intranet site won't render properly on Firefox. Yet the outward customer facing website refuses to even try and load on IE6.

          Last year they actually officially released firefox (3.6) through internal software distribution channels, for general web browsing, and because new web apps (like new Oracle version) don't work on IE6. We also had problems when Firefox blocked Java. And of course days after sanctioning Firefo

        • Home Depot may be using IE6, but the point of sale terminals at Rona (Canadian big box home improvement store, very similar to Home Depot) are still running Windows 2000.
          To upgrade from IE6, they'd have to upgrade their entire OS.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Their customer support reps use it. Apparently they have an ActiveX widget that only works on ie6. Sucks to develop other web apps for their use.

      Shouldn't name them, but if u are reading this please upgrade.

    • And add NZ Governement Departments.

      One of our issues stopping a company wide upgrade is other software that has dependancies on IE6 that just aren't stable with 8.

      We have the same issue with upgrading office from beyond 2003 (so thankfully our IS department is yet to get the screams of "I hate this ribbon")

  • by wilfie ( 622159 ) <willm.averyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday May 17, 2012 @12:40PM (#40029343) Homepage
    The "Social media guidance" document on which this is based is an interesting read: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/resource-library/social-media-guidance [cabinetoffice.gov.uk]
  • Let go? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 17, 2012 @12:43PM (#40029367)

    It's not about "letting go" - I'm sure it's about the cost of upgrading thousands (tens of thousands?) of systems. Not just the licensing of the software, but also the cost of execution and management of the upgrade, and then the upgrade of all the applications, training on new versions, rewriting an ass ton of security and management policies, and years of churn getting the kinks out of thousands of systems, and the loss of productivity while switching over, and... (I'm sure with a couple more minutes thought I could come up with five other angles of cost).

    The summary makes it seem like they're holding on for sentiment, and that they're shooting themselves in the foot by sticking with tried and true software. The summary hasn't given any voice to the enormity of the task (it's not a simple "derr, click the upgrade button stupid"), nor the idea that this is government money which can and arguably should be used in more critical areas of life.

    Are slashdot editors really this shortsighted?

    • One could still think that the time would have come to suck it up and pay the cost for a bigger upgrade, just to not be using ancient systems forever.
    • Re:Let go? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Wulfrunner ( 1213776 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @12:59PM (#40029603)

      I recognize you! You work for the [insert government here] ITS department down the hall from my office. You and your just adequate, barely competent colleagues are the reason I'm stuck with a brand new, yet somehow still limping, T520 that takes four minutes to start. You are the reason I can't "exceed the level of my cluster". You are the barrier to innovation. The attitude you just espoused is the reason our monolithic organization is stuck in the stone age. How is it that you guys can take five years and one billion dollars to develop an application that is buggy, user un-friendly, doesn't do the job it's supposed to, and cripples the department it's supposed to be helping by eating their entire IT budget. You and your colleagues have never heard of Brooks' law, are complacent, risk averse, and unimaginative. I hate you.

      • Re:Let go? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:24PM (#40030021)

        Don't go blaming the IT departments so quickly. Blame the contractors, and those who purchase said contracts. While I can certainly point fingers at some terrible in-house public sector IT departments, they're not all bad, not by a long shot.

        I'm posting AC for business confidentiality reasons: my company provides web software (business stuff, not the main site) for the UK National Institute of Health Research [nihr.ac.uk]. They're our first (and only) public sector client. I had to liaise quite a lot with the previous supplier, with regards to migrating data out of the old system. I simply could not believe how awful it was. It seemed to be designed from the ground up to require maximum maintenance, and apparently there were 5 staff members at the contractor who worked full time on supporting the business logic. Not on updates or new features, just on keeping it working.

        When we were negotiating the contact with them, they wanted a clause that said if we failed to provide them with any software at all, they got 50% of their money back. That shocked us. Just how bad is the public sector IT culture that they felt they'd only be entitled to half their money back if they got nothing for it?

        The previous suppliers told us they wouldn't be able to provide the data extracts we required until several months after the go-live date, so we then entered into a big wrangle to let us get a copy of their database and do it ourselves. This was a wrangle because they wanted to protect the "trade secrets" or "intellectual property" of the data model itself. Which was awful btw; I ended up with a 35-page print out of it sellotaped together on the wall, manually drawing in lines where all the foreign keys ought to have been.

        We got the migration done to the client's satisfaction in the end, but this wouldn't have been possible without a bunch of IT guys at NIHR's end who were pretty damn competant, and very willing to get stuck in. I can't say as much for the contractor's guys, though. We ended up with a TUPE [out-law.com] case against us, with them arguing that we had a legal obligation to hire them on, even though we were providing a completely different system (i.e. one that worked).

        Anyway, that's a bit of a rant. In conclusion, if IT seem like they're a wee bit shit, then they might be, or alternatively, they might be having to deal with a lot of shit from elsewhere.

        • Yes you've got a valid point -- procurement in government is just as broken as the overall IT infrastructure. On the other hand, if someone isn't willing to raise a stink and put their job on the line to prevent a disaster of that nature, they don't deserve to call themselves a public servant. The "lowest bidder" is not the same thing as the "best value", and you have to be willing to fight for what's right.

          • One of the difficulties is that priorities in government sector procurement are often biased in favour of the senior management and doing what is seen to be good politically, rather than usability or manageability.

            The difficulty with the govt tender process is that some vendors are unfamiliar with it and don't give the best answers to the questions asked in the initial tender documents.

            E.g. I've just been involved with the procurement of a PACS system (digital X-ray archive), and a lot of the vendors simply

        • IE 6 was a great bet to make in 2003.

          If you read Hall of Fame stories on slashdot there is one called what keeps you on Windows? IE 6 and how great a browser it is was a top response. Compared to Netscape IE 6 was years ahead with this new thing called CSS.

          There was no Firefox, Safari, or Chrome back then. People were betting on standards and it was easily assumed that the MS box model and VBscript would be used today just like people view Windows. Shamefully, after reading about how great IE 6 was on slash

    • by Xest ( 935314 )

      The British army is one of the culprits, I know this because we've developed software for them and still have to support IE6 to this day. They have plans to do away with it but they just get put back further and further.

      The problem is how, in a time of budget cuts, can you possibly justify upgrading every computer in the army to IE6 vs. making sure your soldiers fighting in Afghanistan have body armour, helicopters to avoid IEDs and so forth?

      It's just not a priority. The threat of cyber attack causing any a

    • Are slashdot editors really this shortsighted?

      "Posted by timothy"

      'nuff said.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      IE9 is a critical security upgrade for IE6 users. Even with anti-virus software bring the machine to its knees a user running IE6 is basically screwed. It is almost always less hassle to upgrade to IE9 then it is to deal with all the IE6 related infections.

      I have seen IT departments refuse to skip security patches for fear of the updates breaking stuff, and they get away with by blaming the users for getting infected.

  • by jholyhead ( 2505574 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @12:43PM (#40029379)
    I'm a web developer for an organisation that builds web based software that is primarily used by UK local government departments.

    IE6 is my nemesis.

    A lot of these local authorities are slowly starting to upgrade to Win7 platforms (just in time for Win8), but just like a chain being only as strong as it's weakest link, we have to ensure we are developing for the slowest common denominator.

    From the dozens of conversations I've had with Council IT teams around the country, it isn't a lack of will or of motivation or of education, but of a real (and partially justified) fear that if they upgrade to Win7, some essential legacy web based application that works flawlessly in IE6 and XP, will fall over when introduced to IE8. This has happened at various places around the country and has cost Councils a pile of money to fix the issue or to replace those legacy systems. In the post recession cost-cutting world, no one wants to be the guy who lands their employer with a huge bill. I expect we wont see the stragglers taking up the challenge until austerity is done and dusted.

    And there you have it. I managed to make this all the coalition government's fault. My work here is done.
    • It's a simple choice really. They can upgrade and modernize the systems or they can go back to pen and paper. Just take away Parliament's salary for a month and that would pay for the upgrades.
    • From the dozens of conversations I've had with Council IT teams around the country, it isn't a lack of will or of motivation or of education, but of a real (and partially justified) fear that if they upgrade to Win7, some essential legacy web based application that works flawlessly in IE6 and XP, will fall over when introduced to IE8. This has happened at various places around the country and has cost Councils a pile of money to fix the issue or to replace those legacy systems.

      GOOD! Those same groups didn't want to listen when we told them that writing to a single browser with it's non-standard quirks and single-platform pathogen vector of a plugin architecture was a bad idea. I'm going to use this as a warning to my clients: "you don't want to write this to run on IE-only. Remember what happened with IE6 and how much it cost to fix that boondoggle?"

    • A lot of these local authorities are slowly starting to upgrade to Win7 platforms (just in time for Win8), but just like a chain being only as strong as it's weakest link, we have to ensure we are developing for the slowest common denominator.

      I see this point of view a lot with web developers and when fully realized, it means that you're stuck writing markup and scripts that are a decade behind current standards.

      I argue the reverse. Write for current browsers but provide support for older browsers.
      • Are you crazy?

        IE 6 is not just a decade old. Its DOM is different, its box model is different, the way it wraps text when a box is full is different, its javascript is different, and I could go on and on.

        I am learning IE 6 now and let me tell you I can't make a site look as good. Sure I can get a butt ugly basic site with no floating css or shadows or any graphical animations in CSS 3 and use hacks like CSSPIE which slow IE 6 down to glacial speeds. This does not count the bugs.

        I see the bean counters view

        • Inconsistency is one thing all browsers share and if you are a developer worth your salt, you learn to innovate around them instead of blaming the technology. And yes, if the bean counters use ie6, you support ie6.

          Like I said, by using conditionals to produce extra markup and load css sheets, support isn't that difficult. I also recommend you learn the try/catch block in javascript which is present in IE6.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            While you are making separate CSS and doing regression testing, I am making twice the amount of websites doing things that would require flash on your browser, using text shadows, smooth rounded corners, and AJAX that your browser can't handle which works on any modern browser. It will blow yours away.

            Please stop supporting old browsers. You are working for free and endangering the security of your workplace and internet and putting external costs onto yourself by giving up your free time after 5pm and the

            • Please, mr coward - I'm the guy who reads the specs. I'm the guy who pays close attention to stuff as they are developed so my users to get experience new standards as they are implemented. I'm also the guy who builds his sites to gracefully degrade so people with older browsers can still read the content because at the end of the day, that's WHAT USERS WANT TO DO.

              Sure, my sites take longer to create but they work in real world conditions whereas yours probably flops like a dead fish the moment a user ex

      • About 1/2 of our users use IE6 either because their IT team don't allow them to use anything else or because the users don't know anything else exists. 50% of your user base is that much of a big deal.
    • Same here bro! High five to that. Working CSS in IE6 is a real nightmare. I have to split my hairs to find out the most cumbersome CSS hacks for the site to work in IE6. Support for IE6 should be really stopped. The amount of effort we developers spend to make it work in IE6 is much more than if the users were forced to move out of IE6. True story.
    • I laugh every time I hear someone say something like, "we can't upgrade because, despite all the warnings over the years about bad development practices, we coded our web infrastructure on non-standard misfeatures/bugs of a single browser and version, and now those misfeatures/bugs are fixed in subsequent versions in this browser. If we had designed around actual standards, we would have been fine, but that was just a little bit harder than sacrificing the future."

      It's nice to see stupidity justly rewarded

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      We have a load of older apps we use for software development and electronics that only works on XP, meaning we have to keep XP machines around just for that. Old hardware that doesn't work on Windows 7, buggy software that even XP Mode can't fix... It's a pain but the only option is to replace all that stuff at great expense.

  • In Germany most IE6 users also come from government institutions... I guess that with the general laziness of IT admins, we shouldn't be surprised that the ones working for the government are the laziest :)

    • by Shadow99_1 ( 86250 ) <theshadow99NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:02PM (#40029655)

      As a IT admin, I can attest we are not all lazy. It more often then not is a matter of pulling upper levels of the business kicking and screaming into modern times by spending some money to make sure things still work. They would often rather spend tons of money maintaining old OSes on modern hardware then make sure old software they feel is critical actually gets fixed to work on modern OSes.

      It's even crazier when they then want some ancient IE6 based web app to miraculously work on their shiny new Ipads and don't understand that they simply won't work. I have had a a CEO complain that we need to put IE6 on his Ipad because he needs to run X web app that was made 15 years ago and only works in IE6. He refused to accept that an Ipad will not run IE6, to the point where he even cursed at us and demanded we install Win XP on his Ipad to 'make it work'.

      Most of us IT admins know that we have to get this stuff working and get them off of systems often setup before we were even hired. Getting large businesses and governments to do such things though is at times futile.

      • If I were Balmer I would port IE 6 for the enteprise version of Windows 8 to give it a competitive advantage in corporate America as well as include the usual modern IE 10.

        Without the tie in with ancient compatibility why buy a Windows 8 mobile device or phone? IPhones already have this functionality and once these ancient web apps are upgraded they will work on your top man's IPAD. Then what? No more Microsoft needed.

        Worse they are porting Office to the IPAD which is another mistake.

      • It's the same where I work. It isn't the IT people who are holding up upgrades, it is the workforce. People scream if you make the slightest change to what they use. We still use XP, and had to fight tooth and nail to get them upgraded to IE 7 and Office 2007. I don't know what will happen if we ever try to deploy Windows 8. It's not all of them, but enough to hold up the process.
      • It isn't just technology that managers seem to be incompetent with. My dad works in a hospital as one of the techs who fix and maintain the machines and the managers he has had are just as worthless. He has had ones who never bother to keep up to date on status reports and complain about how far behind they are on PMs but the report the manager was looking at was 2 weeks old. One complained that they needed to cut costs since their department wasn't showing a profit and asked the question "Do we really need
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The NSA still uses IE7 internally. Seriously, the NSA. These are the guys who are supposed to be on top of the information world.

    To be fair, the standard system image also includes Firefox 10 (that's new as of just a few weeks ago, it was 3.6 prior to that), but most of the people I have to work with use IE7 anyway.

  • Meh -- Sort of (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @12:53PM (#40029517) Journal

    We still use IE6 in certain instances where I work (U.S. Gov't). It isn't part of a standard install, it is a published Citrix app and really only used for specific applications that require it. Our standard install is IE8 and Firefox 3.6.28.

    The problem isn't the cost of upgrading workstations. It is there are a couple of critical web-interface apps that require it and are an expensive bitch to upgrade. Older versions of Oracle Financials for one.

    • It isn't part of a standard install, it is a published Citrix app and really only used for specific applications that require it.

      I know hindsight is 20/20, but I'm assuming modern RFPs require that the system be build so NOT to require a specific version of a specific browser? :)

      • Its more profitable to target just one browser.

        Since IE is now released on an annual basis it would mean more forced upgrades for customers who want to be secure. It is a great benefit to have the app not work and check the version number on startup or during a connect.

        Whats the point if the customer pays for it and never upgrades again? You go out of business.

      • by chill ( 34294 )

        Yes and no. We actively avoid it, but sometimes they sneak in.

        For example, I still see occasional things bought that require a specific version of Java to work. "Sun JRE 5.1.2 - 5.2.4 only" type of stuff.

        From an end-user perspective, proprietary is evil. There is a potential for you to get left hanging so we really try and avoid it.

    • Not sure why these things are called "Web App" when it's really an "IE APP".

      Hopefully (probably not) this will leave a bad enough taste in people's mouths NOT to create applications that only run on one vendor's browser and even worse one vendor's browser at a specific version.

  • by nuckfuts ( 690967 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:07PM (#40029735)

    Obviously sticking with IE6 is misguided, but I've seen the opposite side. I've worked in IT for 20+ years, and I've never seen any organization as cavalier about software upgrade costs as my provincial and federal governments. Entire departments would be upgraded to the latest version of Microsoft Office as soon as it came out. It had nothing to do with product features, or whether the previous version was sufficient for their needs. (And I'm not talking about file format changes, which caused a legitimate need for upgrading). The cost to taxpayers for unnecessary software upgrades must be be significant.

    • Governments often do not purchase software licenses from Microsoft through the same retail channels as businesses or home users, instead they usually have negotiated licensing agreement that entitles them to the latest version of certain CALs and common software suites under a specified annual cost. There isn't necessarily a cost for the upgrade, especially for products like Microsoft Office.

      Here in Alberta, our provincial government has a licensing agreement for K-12 education that includes Office. However

      • Yes, Microsoft licensing can include "software assurance", which entitles the buyer to upgrades as they become available, but such licences do cost more up front. In addition, this doesn't cover the manpower costs of installing the new versions on every computer, and the productivity loss when nearly every government worker at a computer is suddenly wondering "where the hell has my Print button gone?".
  • by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:10PM (#40029801)

    The culprit here isn't the desktops, it's the general, rock bottom, dire state of "enterprise" software.

    Truth be told, shrink wrap software is way better put together than the overpriced, utter shite corporate web apps that many government and big corporate users are forced to endure. They are usually written by inexperienced or bored 9-to-5 developers, and get bit-rotten and unmaintainable fast and thus are sheer hell to work on or upgrade.

    As a bored corporate drone myself, I feel the pain. I endure IE6 for using our business apps, and use Chrome for everything else.

When you are working hard, get up and retch every so often.