Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Enterprise use of Internet Explorer 6 revisited

On January 1, I shared an item on Google+ that discussed the internal social media tools at Motorola, a company where I was employed from 2000 to 2009.

I added comments to that item to provide further information, including this comment:

RSS (mentioned in the study) was a special challenge at the time. Back in the 2007-2009 timeframe (and even today), I used Google Reader to manage my RSS feeds. However, this didn't work for RSS feeds behind the firewall. I could have used IE7 to manage my in-house feeds, except for one minor little detail - at the time, IE7 was not supported on company computers.

Yes. At that time, the official web browser within Motorola was everyone's favorite whipping boy, Internet Explorer 6.

As I noted in the comment, I wrote a rant about this (without mentioning my employer) back in August 2008. I wasn't ranting about the fact that my employer used IE6. I want ranting about the sites that castigated me every time I visited them using IE6.

Gosh, that's so easy, I'll go ahead and do it right now.

Um...there's one condition.

Are you willing to pay my salary?

Because, you see, the computer that I'm using now isn't mine. My computer at home is not using IE6, but that's a computer that I control. When I'm at lunch, however, I'm using a computer that I don't own - and if I insist on updating this computer, I might have a little minor problem with my future employment.

So after I pack up my things and am escorted off the premises, I can go home and play with a non-IE6 web browser all I want - well, that is, until I have to cancel the Internet access, sell the computer, and move my family to Tent City.

You see, there are a lot of people who write about tech who are blind to the issues facing large companies. Some writers are in the position where they are able to install any web browser, application, or operating system that they like. Therefore, anyone who isn't using the cool web browser, application, or operating system of the week is automatically, in the words of High Saint Steve Jobs, a bozo.

These writers forget that enterprise users don't have the same freedom to change things on their computers. Take my Motorola example. I'll let you in on a litle secret - I was exaggerating slightly in my 2008 post. I had the complete freedom to install Firefox on my Motorola computer - and don't tell Motorola IT, but I did. (I think the statute of limitations has expired on that one.) And I probably could have installed IE7 if I had wanted to, but I didn't want to deal with the hassles that could have occurred if IE7 was incompatible with some internal Motorola application.

I knew an IT professional at the time, and he didn't characterize Motorola's IT policies as evidence of the fascist regime. He characterized Motorola's IT policies as "the wild west." In the computers that HE managed, people couldn't go off and install unauthorized web browsers, or unauthorized applications - they were completely locked down.

But that was 2008. Now it's 2012, and The Next Web republished a Microsoft announcement:

In a blog post today, the [Internet Explorer] team announced that usage of the browser has dipped under 1% in the US, following similar usage patterns in Austria, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway.

Now I have no knowledge about what has happened within Motorola Solutions' IT organization since March 2009, but I would assume that some other browser is now authorized for use within Motorola Solutions. (Incidentally, I wouldn't be surprised if it takes a year or more for Chrome to be authorized for use within Motorola Mobility. These things take time.)

Yet even Drew's post ignores a basic fact:

Clearly, even Microsoft can laugh at how long the browser hung on, showing that Windows users are afraid to update pretty much anything that they’re used to using.

The implication from this statement is that IE6 users were home users who just never bothered to update the browser on their home computers. I'd be willing to bet, however, that the majority of IE6 users over the last few years were enterprise users. Think about it - Internet Explorer 7 was released in October 2006, so any home computer purchased in the last five years wouldn't have IE6 on it. I'm sure the holdovers were the corporate folks, who managed authorized lists of applications that employees would download from internal servers.

Paul Mah noted that in early 2010, Internet Explorer 6 usage was high during weekdays, and dipped down on weekends. (Source Chitika.) Clearly the people hanging on to IE6 were in the enterprise, not at home.

And even as late as 2010, there were people in favor of IE6 use. In an October 2010 comment to Paul Mah's post, Jason Kozdra observed:

Folks are still using IE6 in the enterprise environment because wise IT guys don't like to fix what is not broken.

Kozdra was immediately pummeled to death by a bunch of maverick meerkats. Of course, those meerkats will die themselves within the next four months.

Actually, Kozdra is alive and well and living in Florida.

A personal note - I actually got Livefyre to work, and was able to post a comment at The Next Web on this issue. Previously Livefyre has not behaved well, causing me to avoid Livefyre commenting. Why couldn't they just change to Disqus?
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