Microsoft says IE6 nearly dead, but UK gov still loves it

The long, slow death of Internet Explorer 6 is nearing its end, with Microsoft citing its last faint coughs in the more developed regions of the world, excluding the UK, where the government is refusing to upgrade, probably because it’s a bit on the conservative side.

In a report by Microsoft on Internet Explorer’s usage share in August it was revealed that IE6’s share “is now at its lowest point ever,” dropping to five percent or lower in most developed regions.

In the US Internet Explorer 6’s share was down to 5.3 percent, while Europe was below the 5 percent mark, with probably most of that figure taken up by Cameron’s ancient IT departments.

Total usage was down 0.87 percent to 16.99 percent worldwide, with most of that in developing or emerging markets. In more developed regions the blame for still using IE6 was placed on “enterprises with substantial application dependencies that take time to migrate.” 

Clearly security will only be a priority to these companies, and the UK government, when the vulnerabilities of IE6 actually cost them considerably more in repairs and downtime than an upgrade would.

Ryan Gavin, Senior Director of Internet Explorer Business and Marketing at Microsoft, reminded everyone of how dreadful Internet Explorer 6 is and how much Microsoft is begging users to upgrade

He said: “One of our main missions is to get people off IE6 as fast as humanly possible.” It should be humanly possible to get everyone in the world to spend the five or ten minutes to upgrade to a newer browser, but it’s probably more accurate to say “as fast as humans can be bothered,” which is a much slower measurement of time.

“While IE6 was a great browser for its time, we all need the web to move forward,” Gavin continued. “First, this is good for developers who we want to be able to write the same markup across their sites. It’s good for consumers who should have the protections afforded by a modern browser. Finally, it’s good for the web, particularly as we look ahead to IE9 and begin to see what’s possible.”

Tell that to the UK government, which believes there is “no evidence” that a newer browser is more secure than IE6, despite all security experts and Microsoft itself saying otherwise.

The government is refusing to upgrade, saying it will cost too much. Surely the safety and security of government data, which often includes private information on citizens and happens to be lost quite often, is worth enhancing. But not, apparently, if it costs a few pennies.

TechEye spoke to Harry Chichester at the Party Chairman’s Office of the Conservative Party, who told us: “The Conservative Party has no direct control over the IT of individual government departments.” He directed us to contact those departments, but when we did so we were promised a comment and none was provided. We reckon while it may not have direct control it wields a certain influence.

Let’s face it though – there’s not much they can say without it sounding like the UK government is more backward with technology than a remote village in the Himalayas using cardboard loo roll tubes attached with string as a means of communication (which is technically safer and probably more effective than IE6).

The whole IE6 situation is an embarassment for Microsoft and an even bigger embarrassment for the UK, so clearly they are too busy putting concealer on their red faces to offer any kind of genuine explanation for still using it.

TechEye had a chat with a Microsoft spokesperson about the problem and we were told: “Microsoft has consistently recommended that consumers upgrade to the latest version of our browser. Internet Explorer 8 offers improvements in speed, security and reliability as well as new features designed for the way people use the web.  

“While we recommend Internet Explorer 8 to all customers, we understand we have a number of corporate customers for whom broad deployment of new technologies across their desktops requires more planning. For more information on organizations using Internet Explorer 6 please see this blog post.”