Why Browser Stick-in-the-muds Are Good For The Industry

March 4, 2008 at 8:48 am | Posted in Browsers | 2 Comments

I just had a good conversation with a reporter from the New York Times regarding why people choose not to update their technology and my blog posting on “More People Pick Their Religion Than Their Browser?“.  I’m not sure how much of it will wind up in print, so I’ll relate here what I said.

First, it’s a fact that even though vendors come out with a new release doesn’t mean that everyone automatically upgrades.  For example, 0.14% of browsers are still Netscape (not Mozilla/Firefox – I actually mean the old Netscape).  That may not sound like much, but given the number of browsers out there it actually adds up to a real number.  And since these stats are based on hits on websites, it does mean they are actually in use and not just sitting dormant on an old PC somewhere.

The reporter asked a good question, which is whether the people that are slow to update their software are good for the industry.  I gave a resounding “yes”.  These stodgy users force vendors to give compelling reasons to upgrade or else they won’t do it.  And the reasons have to be good enough to make up for their strong bias towards sticking with what has worked in the past.  When their PCs finally bite the dust and they need to buy a new one, that’s when they’ll get new software.  Good for them.

Of course, software as a service (SaaS) promises to change this whole dynamic.  Since the vendors make money from ongoing subscriptions rather than on periodic upgrades, they no longer have an incentive to make changes just to get a revenue bump.  But the other side of that coin is that SaaS vendors might have more incentive to skate by with whatever they can as long as it doesn’t cause a mass exodus of users.  Also, many enterprise users are uncomfortable with software that can change incrementally and frequently because of the burden it places on training and help desks that have to support users.  End-user SaaS is still new so it’s yet to be determined how these pros and cons will play out in the enterprise.



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  1. Great points! I find that with my site, I still am getting a few IE 5.x browsers! Strange, as you would think people would upgrade, but I do know that some corporations have tight restrictions about that.

    THanks for the great site, I subscribed to your feed!

  2. I disagree. Browser upgrades are usually not feature-upgrades; they may be included (such as tabbed browsing), but the primary benefits are standards compliance and security. Most computer users don’t understand either of these concepts, and there is no way to make them “sexy” so that normal users will want to upgrade.

    IE 5 is a good example. By upgrading to a more recent IE, Firefox, or Opera browser, these people would have a more visually pleasing experience and (if critical mass could be reached) time and money could be saved simply by using more recent design practices and standards. CSS hacks (for the most part) could be dispensed with.

    Furthermore, because people still use IE 5 with no security patches, we all suffer the problems of worms aimed at their un-patched systems. Spam, distributed denial of service attacks, random port scans and other nuisances emanate from these peoples’ computers.

    This is only good for “the industry” if you consider desktop support technicians to be the body of it.

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