Browser wars could improve productivity, but the enterprise still loves IE6

Browser wars could improve productivity, but the enterprise still loves IE6

Summary: This news may come as a shocker to the tech savvy folks in the house, but 60 percent of companies use Internet Explorer 6 as their default browser, according to Forrester Research. Meanwhile, your IT department spends a decent amount of time erecting barriers to prevent browser upgrades.

TOPICS: Browser

This news may come as a shocker to the tech savvy folks in the house, but 60 percent of companies use Internet Explorer 6 as their default browser, according to Forrester Research. Meanwhile, your IT department spends a decent amount of time erecting barriers to prevent browser upgrades. Bottom line: Companies need a browser policy or they will risk productivity losses. 

Welcome to the wonderful world of enterprise browser adoption. While the tech press spends a lot of time talking about Web 2.0 and even 3.0 Corporate America is on Web 0.5. 

To be sure there are good reasons for the enterprise reticence on browsers---they're a security risk. However, too few IT departments have a browser policy and they sure don't think through potential productivity gains with advancements such as tabs, faster processing and JavaScript engines and better search features. 

Forrester analyst Sheri McLeish says in a research report:

As more and more companies look to SaaS (software-as-a-service) solutions and the Web delivers richer media, firms need to rethink their browser choices in concert with the Web-based apps they deploy. Today, the overwhelming majority of enterprises support Internet Explorer — remarkably, 60 percent of enterprises are still on IE6.

I've witnessed the love affair with IE6 up close. I got a new work laptop a few months ago and IE6 was the default. I forgot what that browser looked like---partially because I use Firefox, but also because I had IE7 (now IE8) before. Luckily, the upgrade didn't kill me. 

Also see: How about an IT Prospective on this? Here you go.

Forrester's market share stats illustrate how enterprises are sleeping through the browser wars:

  • IE is the corporate browser of choice with 78 percent of enterprises using it as a default;
  • IE 6 has 60 percent of the enterprise market with IE 7 clocking in at 39 percent;
  • Firefox has 18.2 percent of the enterprise market;
  • Chrome has 2 percent;
  • Safari has 1.4 percent.

The problem: Information workers live in browsers all day. And companies are giving them the equivalent of a Yugo. 

Why? Companies are worried about custom apps that may fail on new browsers and security and compliance. In addition, companies limit the ability to upgrade. Seventy percent of companies restrict browser choice and Web content. Forrester notes that "IT control trumps technology populism."

Ultimately, this IT control may be short sighted, argues McLeish. 

Even if enterprises lag behind in browser upgrades, leading consumer-facing Web sites take advantage of browser capabilities that enhance rendering speed, better support rich Internet applications (RIAs), and offer new privacy and security capabilities. From an information worker perspective, these benefits are only part of the picture. Features like tabs, add-ons, quick copying, improved search and navigation, and better post-crash recovery provide tangible productivity benefits for most information workers. Address bars that double as search save time, and available add-ons feature a wide range of functionality such as better remembering of passwords and saving pages to view later without creating permanent bookmarks.

The other issue: Employees use multiple browsers depending on various applications. We've become agnostic about browsers so limiting them is the equivalent of removing a key wrench from the toolbox. 

McLeish's main point is that enterprises need a browser strategy. Luckily she cooked up this handy crib sheet to get you started:

Topic: Browser

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  • Browser wars could improve productivity, but the enterprise still loves IE6

    I upgraded to IE8 and my productivity has increased due to tabs, accelerators, and webslices. Everything on the corporate intranet works fine and haven't had any issues with it. I use Firefox for my internet web browsing.
    Loverock Davidson
    • Whah?... Loverock uses a non-MS product for browsing?

      Be careful or you'll lose your MS shill paycheck.
    • L.D., *Why* . . .

      . . . do you use Firefox for your internet web browsing?
      • Because...

        ...he <i>tried</i> to use IE.
  • SaaS will never fly

    Let's face it, for small to medium sized businesses SaaS will work and be of value. But what large, heavily secured organization (like a government department) will trust SaaS as a solution? I would think not many.

    As for the browser: given the locked down nature of these kinds of security-heavy organizations, the browser is the least used tool. Perhaps for internatl intranets there is some use, but many places I have worked have locked Users out of all but the most rudimentary Internet functions (no downloading, caching occurs on a secure drive not the workstation, etc.).

  • RE: IT control may be short sighted

    I think it only fair to make note of the difference between cooperate IT and Local site IT. I highly doubt that most(not all) local IT groups are sticking with IE6 for any other reason than Cooperate IT has not approved them to be using anything else. I also wager that most local IT and cooperate IT are using IE7/8 or Firefox on their work PC. And finally there is also the fact that some/lots of client deliverd application will only work in IE6 so those version have to be installed on the "common worker" workstations.

    So what I'm trying to say is that there are several reasons besides those listed in the article, that so many use IE6. And that though 60% still use IE6, local IT would love to move to something much more current but are held back by either client requirements or cooperate IT dragging their a** on fully testing a more current browser.
    • You may be missing a point.

      I have read that some companies have business web sites that only support IE six or some such. Seems stupid but it would drive away anyone that didn't have IE six and since these sites are for inhouse use that might be the idea.

      Our school had a guest approved by the higher ups that had some sort of software on his machine that let him get through our firewall and to his business site and do a download even though our IT guy thought he had it locked down. Please note that is the only place he could go and communicate with the company web site is the only thing he could do. This was a dedicated business machine. I don't think it mattered if he had a normal browser or not. They did not want him using this machine to surf the web. I suspect everything was encripted going and coming. What are the odds you are going to catch a virius doing this? Slim to none I'd think.

  • Freakin WAHHH .. how about an IT Prospective on this.. huh? Here you go.

    We JUST.. i mean last month... upgraded to IE 7.

    Here are my reasons for waiting:
    1. Compatibility: We use many websites run by various state, local and private agencies. Each has its own security scheme with logins, java, etc. Beyond those, we have internal applications that also use asp and javascript that need to be compatible with IE7. In december we confirmed that the last site we were waiting on finally became IE7 compatible.

    2. We have a security policy and standard setup that works with IE6. We know its effective at stopping most problems and giving the users access to the areas they need to get their work done. Testing an IE7 policy is not at the top of our list of priorities when we have to ensure the daily operation of a heatlh network.

    3. Other browsers dont have an active directory control policy. ( because of that we forbid via policy both written and AD their installation )

    4. If problems arrise, that affects productivity. If we see a decline in productivity, we see a decline in revenue. This must be avoided at all turns.

    Just a comment on this also.. did you see MS's email about IE8 being ready for testing? It said... if your website is not compatible... you need to fix it or you can insert them line of code. I cannot put end users through that.
    • Totally agree...

      Exactly the same process we are going through, though they haven't approved IE7 yet, they are testing it.

      I think it's something about the Address bar that people hate :) That's why I use IEPro and the Quero toolbar, if I HAVE to use IE.
    • Have only yourself to blame. Maybe stick to W3C standards next time. [nt]

      • Nobody in business cares about W3C.

        Sleeper Service
        • Re: Nobody in business cares about W3C.

          which is unfortunate, because they should care since it saves both time and money. Any good web developer worth their salt will tell you that following standards is a good thing.
        • Hmmm, a correllation ?

          Lack of W3C concern in business and a crumbling
          economy. Anyone have the statistics on this?
        • What a flipping surprise

        • Nobody in business cares about W3C?

          That's why enterprise is stuck in an IE6 world. They bought the Microsoft story, hook, line and sinker.

          FYI, Microsoft has seen the error in it's ways. IE8 is much more compatible with (now) universally accepted standards. Exchange 2010 will work from a browser, any browser.

          Sleeper, you better wake up and get with the program.
          • W3C released after IE6

            Easy to throw that out there but W3C is and will be an evolving standard as it should be. Through luck or timing many of the other browsers had smaller legacy users to carry and or they were released after the IE6 1999 release date. Instead of reworking IE6 MS produced IE7 and IE8 which are closer to the evolving standard. Remember much of the standard didn't become the standard we think of until 2004.
      • Which Standards?

        So.... To which standards are you referring? Are you referring to W3C HTML 4.01, published in 1999 when Web 2.0 was a twinkle in someone's eye, or are you referring to some OTHER standard? Maybe XHTML 2.0 which is NOT YET A STANDARD, and therefore adherence is impossible.

        Or maybe you mean AJAX and JAVA, neither of which are W3C standards?

        In any regard, an enterprise, dependent on enterprise software vendors for ERP, CRM, SCM, etc.. can't just "up and decide" what standards they support. The ISVs must have time to vet new browser standards before they can give their customers (the enterprise customers in question) the green light. Otherwise, they will be in contractual default of software support obligations. Until the standard is vetted, the ISVs cover themselves (and rightly so) by requiring the previous browser version.

        When "common use" (or common interpretation of a standard) dictates functionality, it is incredibly arrogant for one software vendor (Microsoft) to up and change the method of that usage.
        • The ever evolving standards of a vibrant technology

          HTML is now evolving to version 5, adding support for rich media content and local data storage. And it won't break HTML version 1 content. Some tags have been depreciated, but for a good reason. Either they didn't work well, or something better has been discovered. Can you say, CSS?

          Enterprise is in the best position to drive standards. They vote with their payments for products and services. If a vendor says their solution only works with IE6, it's time to find a different vendor. Enterprise has made bad decisions.

          802.11n is not yet a standard, but that hasn't hurt much. Partially because part of the standard is to support the previous standards, 802.11a, b and g. Microsoft shot themselves in the foot because IE7 was not compatible with IE6, IE8 is not compatible with IE6, and IE8 is only compatible with IE7 if you jump through some hoops.

          Standards are good. Standards insure compatibility, both forwards and backwards. Standards provide a level playing field. Standards promote interoperability.
        • There were two options, the incompatible one was chosen.

          There were two options, the incompatible one was chosen.

          There are numerous cross platform technologies at vendors' disposal;
          implementations that will work with all the web browser out there.

          Instead, it was decided to go with ActiveX or Microsoft's bastardization of
          Java that doesn't work on anything except Windows and Internet

          They were sold on vendor lockin, now people have to deal with it. I have
          zero sympathy and you have zero excuses.
    • Add Adobe to that mess

      ....AND, oh by the way....

      Almost DAILY updates to Adobe crapware means less focus on keeping the browser current.

      Many business applications now require Acrobat or Flash (or both), and the GREAT AND MIGHTY ADOBE does not bother to ask anyone when it's convenient for a new release. They JUST DO IT.

      You then get initial calls from the help desk about how some vendor or customer website requires a new version of the Flash plugin, or customers are sending you PDF files that you can't open.

      So the question becomes: Focus on revenue-affecting software updates from Adobe and other bloatware monsters, or focus on Microsoft's revenue-driven ploy to proprietize half the internet (oops, I mean, IEL8).