Republished from eGov AU.
Here's some notes useful for a business case justifying an upgrade from Internet Explorer 6 to a more modern web browser that I prepared last week for a colleague at another organisation.
Please add to them in the comments if you see points I've missed.
Encourage a government Department to upgrade from Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) to an industry supported web browser.
The IE6 web browser was originally released by Microsoft in 2001.
Over the last eight years it has been updated twice, Internet Explorer 7 was released in October 2006 and Internet Explorer 8 in March 2009 (with developer previews available since March 2008).
Since 2001 the entire web browser market has changed. Netscape ceased developing Navigator (in December 2007) and new browsers entered the market including Apple's Safari in November 2003 (version 4 released June 2009), Mozilla Firefox in November 2004 (version 3.5 released June 2009) and Google Chrome in December 2008.
These entrants, and the long-standing Opera web browser, have significantly driven innovation in the market.
The IE6 browser, being two versions behind, is no longer supported by Microsoft and is in rapid decline in community usage.
Major websites and organisations are progressively ceasing support for IE6, meaning that increasing numbers of websites are not accessible using the browser. For example, Google, the top accessed website in Australian and across the world, has advised that it will no longer be supporting IE6 for its applications.
A campaign to encourage people to shift away from IE6 has been operating online for several years with significant success and has support from Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Balmer, who stated that,
Microsoft recommends end users that are browsing the web with Internet Explorer 6 to upgrade today to benefit from numerous improvements including security features and usability enhancements.
Interoperability is key to enabling developers to continue to create great user experiences on the web. Our commitment to the technical community continues with our significant investment in Internet Explorer 8.
We continue to believe in the importance of supporting the end users and encourage the technical community to work with us in securing a good transition for the users that today are using IE6.
Web standards IE6 does not adhere to web standards as defined by the WSG and as reflected within the Acid2 test.
As stated in Wikipedia's page about Acid2,
Acid2 tests aspects of HTML markup, CSS 2.1 styling, PNG images, and data URIs. The Acid2 test page will be displayed correctly in any application that follows the World Wide Web Consortium and Internet Engineering Task Force specifications for these technologies. These specifications are known as web standards because they describe how technologies used on the web are expected to function.
Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 3 and Safari 2+ all successfully pass the Acid2 test. IE6 and IE7 fail to pass the Acid2 test (as did earlier versions of other web browsers).
This test will eventually be supplanted by the Acid3 test, which is currently only passed by Safari 4, Opera 10 beta and Chrome 3.0.17.
It is not yet necessary for organisations to use Acid3 compliant web browsers as not all the test conditions within Acid3 have been passed by the W3C at this time.
Browser market shares
IE6 is currently in rapid decline, with the primary users being organisations who have not yet upgraded to more modern web browsers. Home users have predominantly upgraded to more modern web browsers.
It is estimated that Internet Explorer has between 52 and 74% web browser market share in July 2009 depending on the specific measurement site (source: Usage share of web browsers). Firefox has between 18 and 31%, Safari 2.6 - 4.1%, Chrome up to 3.1% and Opera up to 3.3%.
Internet Explorer 6 is estimated at having 15 - 25% market share globally. However in Australia this share is reportedly much lower, at around 9% (StatCounter)
Benefits of an upgrade
- Moves the organisation to a supported web browser,
- greater compatibility with web standards,
- future-proofs the organisation's web browsing for several years (as major sites cease IE6 support),
- aligns staff with citizens' use of the internet - statistics for Australian web use show that the Australian public predominantly use modern browsers,
- provides a greater level of security whilst browsing,
- supports tabbed browsing (opening multiple pages in one master window),
- allows use of modern web features within the organisation's intranet,
- there is no product cost for an upgrade from IE6 to a modern web browser.
Risks of upgrading
- Some legacy internal systems may not be fully interoperable with modern web browsers,
- security impacts will need to be investigated to ensure there is no increased risk of systems penetration,
- greater ability to access modern websites may increase internet use for work purposes - thereby increasing network load.
Risks of not upgrading
- Political risk for Minister if questions asked within parliament on reasons for use of old and unsupported technology (as is already occurring in the UK),
- organisation will continue falling further behind current web standards,
- organisation will progressively lose access to key online services as they cease IE6 support,
- greater security risks due to less security in IE6 than more recent web browsers,
- increasing difficulty in upgrading internal systems that require web browsers as modern versions of content management systems and other web-based solutions are less and less likely to support IE6,
- need to invest in optimising (dumbing down) the organisation's websites for IE6 simply to support staff,
- difficulties in meeting web standards if testing cannot be conducted on modern, web standards compliant, web browsers.