Many Web developers and designers still design websites with Internet Explorer 6 in mind, despite the browser being 10 years old and lacking standards support or support for semi-modern features, all while being saddled with massive security issues (I do not still design for IE 6 personally).
The Web was launched in 1991. That’s only 20 years ago, and the Web is rapidly moving space. Despite this, Microsoft sat on IE 6 for years, not releasing IE 7 until more than five years later. It wasn’t until IE 8, however, that Microsoft put out a fairly competent browser. IE 9 looks to be by far the best version yet, and the best feature is that once people get on IE 9, they’ll automatically get new versions. A more secure Web browsing experience should follow, and Web standards should be supported much quicker.
Both Chrome and Firefox already support automatic updating, and this feature should help ensure that we don’t have a large percentage of Web users using an old browser. Geek.com has an article detailing some of the benefits:
Ryan Gavin, Microsoft’s senior director for Internet Explorer, pointed out several benefits. The overall security of the Windows user community will be improved as outdated browsers are replaced, developers can focus their attention on building sites using modern web code, and those who surf with IE will be able to enjoy the full Beauty of the Web.
Why don’t people update? Most people don’t know how to update, or they don’t know why they should update. If you’re in the middle of watching a video or writing a paper, do you really want to install updates and restart your computer? Of course not, and it’s silly that a pop-up message telling you that you have updates while you are in the middle of something important is considered a good idea from software companies.
While you’d be surprised at how many people click ignore when their computers or applications tell them that updates are available, it’s not that surprising when updating mechanisms have been so intrusive. In contrast, Chrome and Firefox update in the background. Users never know this is happening.
By making these updates automatic, these issues go away. This is more than just about getting more people with browsers that support the latest features; it’s really about making sure that people are surfing the Web securely. Your Web browser is by far the biggest vulnerability on your computer, and it’s much more important that you surf the Web with an up-to-date Web browser than it is for you to have the latest version of iPhoto.
If you’re computer, identity or bank accounts are comprised, there is a good possibility part of the reason was because you were using an old browser with security flaws that could be exploited or a browser that didn’t have automatic phishing detection or other security features.
My main browser is the latest version of Safari for Mac OS 10.7 without Flash installed (Flash is a major security vulnerability and performance decreaser). I wish Apple did automatic updating. Not for users like me who always update to the latest software immediately (sometimes too quickly) but for other people who never update their software.
While Mac OS 10.7 does download updates in the background, including to Safari, it doesn’t install them. This is a usability hurdle. If an update is critical, particularly for security and stability, it should automatically happen in the background. Windows 7 does support automatic updating, but it’s not on by default.
That’s backwards. The power users and system administrators who don’t want automatic updating know how to turn it off. The average computer user isn’t going to know to turn on this feature.
We’re making strides when it comes to usability with software updates. Mobile phones can update over the air, without needing to be tethered to a computer. More applications can updates themselves automatically. We’re getting there.