Microsoft Australia is currently driving a campaign where using Internet Explorer 6 is compared to drinking 9 year old milk. The by far biggest share of IE6 still used is in large enterprises. There are certainly many reasons why this is the case but in my opinion most of those reasons in one or another way are a direct result of specific circumstance which is
That Enterprises as well as small and medium businesses for the largest part do not have a browser strategy.
At least none that is independent from their client OS strategy. And the reason why most companies do not have an independent strategy is because Internet Explorer was shipped with Windows since Windows 98 with Internet Explorer 4 which is more than 12 years ago which again is centuries in IT terms. In addition, the importance of the browser as a productivity tool increased during those years with exponential rise over the last 5 or 6 years. Because of those circumstances many companies probably didn’t feel the urge to implement such an independent strategy. But because of not treating the browser as an independent part of the operating system most companies are still relying on Internet Explorer 6 which is already nine years old. In those 9 years however there were three different evolutionary streams. The first to name is the trend to implement more and more business applications as web applications which led to a huge amount of web applications within companies. And those were often optimized for the currently used browser (IE6). The second stream was the evolution of web technologies and web standards. The third stream was the growing number of attacks through web sites and also the growing numbers of attacking techniques including social engineering attacks. All three streams were heavily influenced and driven by the growing popularity and the rise of the web. So if you take this into account you could say that with the increase of the duration of usage of a specific browser version the ability to adapt and migrate decreases. This correlation is shown in the diagram below.
Critics now may say that this is all the fault of Microsoft because Microsoft is shipping IE together with Windows and Microsoft shipped IE6 flawed and forced the creation of web applications that introduced dependencies to those flaws. However those are reasons to from owns own complacency and indifference about treating the browser as an important productivity tool which needs to be treated like other mission critical applications or technologies in an enterprise. If Companies would have spent the browser the attention it deserved then there would have been plenty of opportunity to avoid the current situation because even Microsoft released two new browser versions which introduced great improvements in many browser relevant areas like security, standards, productivity features and performance compared to IE6. Those were released as stand-alone installers as well as part of Windows Vista or Windows 7. My theory is that they were simply neglected by enterprises because of a lacking independent browser strategy and omission. Although it seems like it I don’t want to scare anyone here because to be honest I think that the picture one my draw from the above would be way to negative because the ability to migrate will never be impossible and the efforts related to migration may be less than one would expect. I will elaborate about what I mean by that further down in this post.
Bottom line however is that the trends outlined above are some indicators that the browser is one of the most important tools in today's enterprise application landscape. This is not only my personal opinion but is also expressed by many respectable institutions and individuals. Forrester analyst Sheri McLeish for example said:
“Enterprises need to think about the browser as a productivity tool, not as a transparent application. They need to look at browsers more strategically.”
Another example is a citation of Andy Armagost, Birmingham Gas & Oil who said:
“The browser is one of the most important pieces of software we have right now”
And last but not least with ongoing increase of web applications, web services and especially now slowly starting move to cloud based services, the browser may become the single most important piece of software in the future. Which is a hypothesis that is also backed by Sheri McLeish:
“That IE6 is by far the most widely used browser among enterprises reflects most IT departments’ lack of interest in browsers. However, this laissez-faire approach toward browsers wouldn’t last long, he said. “The rise of software-as-a-service [SaaS] will force enterprises to at least come up with a browser strategy for their workforce”
With that all said it becomes obvious that - the time to act is now – it is time to do essentially two things:
I did not number these two tasks on purpose as they are probably almost equally important and because it is recommended to start doing both in parallel. As for the migration part still many companies, even those that may already have some kind of browser strategy discussion, are still in fear about the efforts and try to avoid the migration part. So I will try to give some, hopefully helpful, information on how one can get started, what else, apart from the above are the benefits of migration and about some determining factors relevant in the migration context.
What should happen with input type="checkbox" is relatively well defined. However, with script, you can take the type="text" attribute, and change its value dynamically, while the user is editing the control, so that it is type="checkbox." This is not a common thing to do, and the HTML 4 and DOM2 HTML specs are completely silent on what should happen when this case is hit.
The result is that different browsers do different things; IE will throw an exception, if I recall correctly, while Firefox will change the text field to a checkbox” There are other indications and statements that are quite a bit reserved to pay to much attention to those tests which I will spare here. For those interested just check out this or that. To sum it up I want to point out that I don’t say that tests such as Acid 3 are generally a bad thing but I think that just striving for the goal to pass a certain test and even optimize a product just to hit that target is a non goal and doesn’t help the web community in deciding which are the real important attributes are to solve the compatibility questions.
A lot of text now simply to explain why I think that companies should
So hopefully I created some awareness and the thoughts I tried to express about this, certainly very complex, topic was understandable, a bit helpful and created a sense of urgency to ACT NOW then I reached my goal for this post. And finally the answer to the question if enterprises need an independent browser strategy is definitely “YES”.
As always feel free to comment and start a discussion.