UK Gov't - "too expensive" to upgrade from IE6

If you work for the Government or write software for government services, bad news - you're going to be stuck with IE6 for the foreseeable. A 6000-strong petition for an upgrade has been rejected with the conclusion that "To test all the web applications currently used by HMG departments can take months at significant potential cost to the taxpayer.

If you work for the Government or write software for government services, bad news - you're going to be stuck with IE6 for the foreseeable. A 6000-strong petition for an upgrade has been rejected with the conclusion that "To test all the web applications currently used by HMG departments can 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."

Which is, I fear, being economical with the truth rather than the money. It's been economical for the rest of the world to move on - and the complete unexamined acceptance that 'upgrade' means 'move to IE8' and 'Windows is the only game in town' leaves a very bad taste in the mouth. And it's a complete stopper on adopting the most important new technologies: how on earth can you move into the cloud if you don't have decent Javascript support, for starters? And let's not talk about HTML 5, or I'll start to cry.

It should be obvious that this is an unsupportable position, in so many ways. I suspect the real reason that 'to test all the web applications' would be too expensive isn't because of the testing, it's because so many Government apps will break on newer browsers because they were badly written in the first place - or had to have the suck built in, to work with IE6 as mandated. Upgrading browsers would reveal all that and mean, gosh darn it, that lots of bad software would have to be made better.

There are other implications to sticking to IE6. If it's too expensive now to upgrade, why will it get any cheaper if we wait longer? What is the timetable for upgrading? Or is the government's official IT policy to stick with IE6 for decades to come? At what point will it become more expensive to maintain this digital working museum -- IE6 is nine years old -- than to move on?

It's not like the old days, when it was feasible (if distasteful) to keep your old mainframe Cobol code running for decades. Everything about IT these days is interconnected, and everything is part of the exponential growth in data creation and consumption which is driving online services. You can't be part of that if you've preserved your primary interface in amber. And if you're a government spending public money on new services and software, you are abdicating your responsibility to use that money to promote your own industry and skills in the process. What good it is to anyone to know how to support IE6? How do you take those skills and apply them elsewhere?

But this is what happens if you don't stay sufficiently open. Don't say you weren't warned.

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