Now here's an oddity, forwarded by a Friend of the Diary. First Direct circulates a warning to its customers saying that if they're running Windows 9X and a pre-6.0 version of Internet Explorer, they have to download an update soon. Microsoft is going to pull IE 6 downloads from its Web site, says the bank, for older versions of Windows -- and if you don't have it, you won't be able to use the online banking service after a planned security upgrade in the near future. When told of this, Microsoft snorts. Nonsense, it says. There are no plans, etc. But how to match this with the reports that the product manager for Internet Explorer has said the stand-alone version may well be abandoned, presumably to tie upgrades of the browser into upgrades of the whole operating system? And why did First Direct circulate this warning if it wasn't true? The bank's not saying; not at the moment. But whatever Microsoft finally decides, the fact remains that if it wanted to it could pull support for any version of IE whenever it liked. It's not like the old days when you could happily go on using Word Perfect 4.2 forever for the terribly unfashionable reason that it did exactly what you wanted. Now, the chances are that your old browser has a whole mess of security issues that really need patching if you don't want the snorting bulls of cyberspace to come lolloping over and force you into the dung. It would be an act of pure paranoia to think that to some extent, the chronic issue of insecure code works in Microsoft's favour, forcing users to keep in the company's good books if they want to stay safe. That would be positing a Mafiosi operation, a protection racket of the most malevolent mien. It is also trite to point out that open-source software is immune to this particular problem. It's not so trite and arguably more sensible than neurotic to note that companies which require you to keep using the latest Microsoft browser for their services are doing nobody -- except Redmond -- any favours. If you're a customer of such a company -- or indeed people like the Inland Revenue -- let then know how you feel. Click here to see more of Rupert's diaries.