Jan 26, 2010

zombie_thumb_90If your company is considering an upgrade to Windows 7, you’re probably already considering the obstacles in the migration path. A big one is your worries about application compatibility. Whatever the advantages of Microsoft’s new OS — and they are many — there’s no way to make the move if your applications won’t work right.

As a result, your “Migration To-Do List” probably includes “Make sure our vendors can assure us that our third-party applications work perfectly in Windows 7″ and “Test relentlessly to ensure that the custom apps we’ve built require no code changes.” (In the latter case, you should be ready to test that they’ll run with the new default security settings in Windows 7, but that’s another discussion.)

However, I want to ensure that you include a third item on that list: “Find out what web browsers our internal users are running.” Because Windows 7 loads Internet Explorer 8 — and far too many businesses are still running Internet Explorer 6.

If you want to get a rise out of any Web developer, just mention a need for the application to support IE6. It won’t take you long to find programmers posting comments like, “IE6 blows up the navigation, which appears as expected in IE7, FireFox, Opera, and Navigator.” Everybody knows that IE6′s notion of “standards compliance” is as dependable as a politician’s promises; yet, supporting the older browser consumes a vast amount of developer time, arcane #ifdefs and eyes of newt. Not to mention cusswords. Lots of cusswords. “The amount of CSS and JavaScript hacks we had to pull off [to work in IE6] was enough to make you scream,” one developer told me. It’s no surprise that there’s an active campaign underway to Kill IE6.

Most companies and end-users have dropped IE6, whether to move to another Microsoft browser or to a competitor such as Firefox. But as of December 2009, 10.9% of Internet users still use IE6. That statistic measures only external traffic, however, and excludes software running on Intranets. If your company has stuck with Windows XP and never adopted Windows Vista (a very common scenario), and its IT policies are stringent enough that users aren’t permitted to upgrade ANYthing without the IT department’s permission and support, then you may have a lot of users continuing to use IE6 simply because it’s on their PC. Not to mention developers who had to hard-code software to work “right” on IE6 — and now those apps may break on IE8.

The fixes may not be onerous. But if you haven’t considered the impact of a browser upgrade along with new operating system upgrade, your IT shop may be in for nasty surprises.

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COMMENTS

  • Jan 26, 2010 | bumpkinplusplus says:

    I'm still somewhat surprised that the web development community hasn't banded together in a class action against Microsoft over this. After all, MS themselves are the ones who have yet to end-of-life IE6 and don't plan to do for years to come; I've heard there's some elaborate patent and/or legal issue to blame.

    Either way, that doesn't give us (developers) back the tens of thousands we spend each year providing support for a browser that has been twice succeeded by MS themselves and is still somehow lurking.

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Esther Schindler, Julie Lerman, Richie Rump, Richie Rump, Alex Karl and others. Alex Karl said: RT @julielermanvt: RT @estherschindler: "The Zombies on Your Network: IE6, the Browser That Will Not Die" http://bit.ly/8gY6FX Brainnnssssss….. [...]

  • That would be funnier if you had spelled "compatibility" correctly. :-)

    Also, it's good that you can run an app in compatibility mode. Really, it is. But that ought to be a stopgap, a useful bandaid until the software is fixed. Otherwise… isn't upgrading to Win7 only to run apps in XP Mode like going to a Mexican restaurant and ordering a hamburger? Sure, you can do it… but why bother?

  • I haven't asked anybody at Microsoft about it, but based on the comments I heard at the first MIX conference — where they were demoing IE7 for the first time — I suspect that the company's reluctance to put a "die IE6 die" date on the calendar is less about patents than it is about, to use corporatespeak, "building customer relationships." At that IE7 demo, someone in the audience stood up and explained how their internal apps were ALL built on IE6, darnit, and Microsoft had to make IE7 work exactly the same way or their software would break!

    I think it's a larger philosophical issue about when it's appropriate to dump backward compatibility in the pursuit of innovation. I certainly don't claim to have any clue about the answer. But I dare say that if developers stop supporting IE6 (or at least spending their time to support it), some users might be motivated to change. That's how we all made the transition from IE 5 to IE6, or from one version of Netscape Navigator to another. (It's also easy for me to say since I have no legacy enterprise users to put a whoopee cushion on my chair.)

    –Esther

  • [...] that aren’t necessarily specific to Windows 7, such as the secure, “privacy mode” setting in Internet Explorer 8 [...]

  • [...] Most web developers gnash their teeth at the thought of having to support their applications under Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6 browser. IE6 isn’t standards-compliant, it’s insecure, and it does not play well with anything else on the web — especially the software you long to deploy. But a minority of companies still use IE6, to developers’ consternation. [...]

  • [...] Most web developers gnash their teeth at the thought of having to support their applications under Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6 browser. IE6 isn’t standards-compliant, it’s insecure, and it does not play well with anything else on the web — especially the software you long to deploy. But a minority of companies still use IE6, to developers’ consternation. [...]

  • [...] make sure their websites work with the ancient browser (which presents additional problems, such as keeping their companies from upgrading to newer versions of Windows). But rather than indulge in an emotional rant, in ‘Why You [...]

  • Are you sure ie6 will never die?
    I think mozilla has got the command right now and I won't personally use ie series anymore!

  • [...] the other hand, some organizations find themselves trapped by older mission-critical applications that don’t run on newer OSes. “This happens a lot with ERP installations where there was a fair [...]

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