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The Volkswagen Group is using IE6 as standard for displaying web pages (vwgroupsupply.com)
179 points by rmoriz 1408 days ago | 89 comments



One time a few years ago I was contracted to redesign a large Mercedes dealership's website.

They recommended IE6 too but the main issue wasn't what the user saw when visiting the page, it was the supplier CMS used to administrate it. This was enforced by Mercedes themselves, so all dealerships had to use it.

It was custom, and, this is no exaggeration, impossible to use. There was probably a 600 page manual, caked in dust in some forgotten supply cupboard, detailing what exactly you had to do after you'd managed the Herculean task of logging in.

Editing a simple block of text required 'unlocking' it, which would for some reason lock other elements. And then when you did change the text it might not have let you save it anyway, providing plenty of incomprehensible error messages.

I must have put a mental block on the rest because I quit after just a day of figuring it out, but my guess is that pages like that still exist because no bugger can figure out how to edit them.

I'd be surprised if VW didn't use the same or a similar CMS themselves.

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This sounds like the most common reaction to users accidentally causing errors in data: lock everything down and only allow a very specific operation, and complain loudly and specifically (i.e., incomprehensibly) if they get out of line, in order to protect the data. Did someone find a new way to screw up? Add another restriction.

I sometimes wonder why these interfaces are so freaking common for anything not facing the general public.

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>I sometimes wonder why these interfaces are so freaking common for anything not facing the general public.

It's simple, the choice is to either use it or find a new job. Quitting is not easy or practical to many people.

Even the general public faces such choices with atrocious bank, DMV, govt sites etc. written 10 years ago in with CGI or ASP. (and a COBOL backend).

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Yep and sites like this get the back button treatment if they're public sites, but you don't know about it until you start working there when it's intranet crud.

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Well, this kind of made me feel better.

The CMS I maintain at work is not so bad compared to this.

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"For security reasons, the Volkswagen Group does not recommend other browsers like Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Netscape etc. as they show security gaps."

This probably means they have serious security holes which could be easily triggered by other browsers.

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I think it simply means that this page was written more than five years ago.

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Indeed. Aol stopped supporting Netscape (the browser) in 2008.

Ref: http://www.thetechherald.com/article.php/200810/312/Netscape...

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Not exactly conclusive, but <meta name="date" content="2009-10-20" /> in the source seems to indicate otherwise.

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This'd just be a case of yet another page that's never been updated. I think my bank's site recommends either IE or netscape - site works fine, just that no one's ever updated the required browser page

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Though claiming IE6 was the most secure web browser in 2009 is still pretty worrying.

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er, yeah... that one's a bit more difficult to explain :/

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My thoughts too. A mention of Netscape but not Chrome? Has to be several years old.

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They don't mention ie 7+ either. It's possible they just ignored it, but given the other browsers mentioned it seems likely that this was written when 6 was the most recent Internet Explorer.

So we could easily be talking 2006 or before.

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Apparently they don't recommend other browsers as they show security gaps. I'm glad the security experts of VW have finally decided to share their knowledge with the world. A pity they don't make routers and anti-virus software, rather than cars.

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For a well-designed website, I must say, I'm a bit worried.

> The cooperation takes place by our Group Business Platform using current security standards and ciphering methods. A secure data interchange has high priority!

Because that's all there is to security.

> All data is transferred with a 128 Bit SSL coding and are even secured by your log in on our Group Business Platform. This ciphering method is used in all areas of the platform and is added with further certificates.

I didn't realise we could code in SSL.

> The Volkswagen Group is using Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 as standard the for displaying web pages. For the daily work with our platform, we recommend you to use the Microsoft Internet Explorer 6, too.

IE6 ftw!

> By using the current version and the updates provided by Microsoft we guarantee you a secure connection.

I must have been living under a rock; I thought that it was because Internet Explorer was so insecure that I get patches every week for it. Oh, but then again, those were security issues with the rendering, not the connection. It must be the connection that is so important!

> For security reasons, the Volkswagen Group does not recommend other browsers like Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Netscape etc. as they show security gaps.

Oh. Okay. I understand.

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Wow, that translation is really crappy. "The cooperation takes place by" is a dead giveaway that it was translated from German by somebody who'd never heard that you should reword things a little in English. I used to churn out this kind of text, back when I'd just started translation.

"Coding" is also a mistranslation, fwiw; should be "encoding". I like the number mismatch in that same sentence - data "is" transferred but "are" secured. For computer applications you normally go with data as a mass noun (always singular, like water or corn), but you definitely should be consistent with your choice.

Ugh. This whole thing is causing me bad proofreading flashbacks. I'm leaving.

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The funny thing is that the German version reads like it was badly translated from English...

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You forgot this bit in the technical requirements:

-PC or MAC with internet connection

-Web Browser (Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 is recommended)

So... they mean a (pretty old) PC with internet connection then?

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There was an IE for Unix. So there's some HPUX boxes that could have been running some version of IE. I have no idea what version it got to. I have never met anyone who used it.

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Thanks for the info, didn't know that.

According to wikipedia, the project was discontinued as late as 2002. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Explorer_for_UNIX

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Hey now, there's Microsoft Internet Explorer for Mac. Supports high-quality (broken) CSS1, y'know.

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I stand corrected and humbly defer to your knowledge of horrible browsers ;)

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Not IE 6. Mac stopped at 5.something.

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Yup, but I remember IE 5.2 on Mac being a little better wrt. the w3c standards than IE 6 on windows, so I guess the version numbers weren't really comparable.

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It was better in some ways, but IIRC the box model was the brokenest thing ever.

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Don't worry! It's an industry-wide standard (apparently).

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It's a good thing they require an internet connection. Because otherwise, you know... chaos.

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While I agree (and laughed) with most of your comment, this is incorrect:

> I didn't realise we could code in SSL.

"Coding" does not solely mean "programming", it also has the meaning of "encoding" in general.

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    By using the current version and the updates 
    provided by Microsoft we guarantee you a secure 
    connection. 
Tell this to Microsoft which currently formally stated: "it’s time to say goodbye to IE6" at http://www.ie6countdown.com/

    10 years ago a browser was born.

    Its name was Internet Explorer 6. Now that we’re in 2011, 
    in an era of modern web standards, it’s time to say goodbye.

    This website is dedicated to watching Internet Explorer 6 
    usage drop to less than 1% worldwide, so more websites can 
    choose to drop support for Internet Explorer 6, saving hours 
    of work for web developers.

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Apologies for being mind-numbingly obvious, but this is an opportunity for being very disruptive, and similar opportunities exist in every hide-bound industry. Unfortunately you cant do it on a ramen or even a YC budget. However if you work for a feisty player and can convince them that there is money to be made in selling their back office software, you have a chance. A few years ago I almost pulled it off until the principals realized the cost of HN grade sr developers.

And most of you wont be in a position to do so, because you avoid these industries like the plague. :-)

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For some reason the corporate world is still stuck with IE6.

Just recently we were dealing with a large corporation that was still using IE6 throughout the company and our web app had to support this browser.

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The reasons aren't mysterious; it may be worth going over here:

1. Windows XP. XP installation media only ever came with IE6, never anything newer. Given the frequency that most corporate workstations get reassigned and wiped and reimaged, IE6 comes out of the reinstallation casket all the time.

2. Intranet systems. For most corporations of size, internal browser-based applications get the company's business done on a daily basis. Optimizing for this case is more important than optimizing for public web browsing. And these apps were written by the lowest-available-cost developers, many in outsourced shops that are long gone, who barely understood anything about the underlying technology and inadvertently rely on all sorts of browser misbehavior and bugs. (Also, the real limitation here is Microsoft-imposed, that you can't easily run multiple versions of IE on the same system, because so much of what we call IE is really integrated operating system components. IE6 for intranet alongside IE8/9 for the public web would be an optimal case but is not practical.)

3. Other browsers do exist. In several large corps I've seen, the policy (unofficial or official) is to use IE6 for the internal apps, and go ahead and install Firefox for public web browsing. The users savvy enough to install Firefox will do so; the users that don't know what a browser version is aren't missing anything.

4. User training. These are the users that will call the helpdesk and complain when their intranet app opens its popup in a tab instead of a new window and they can't find it because the instructions on their Post-it say to click on the window in the taskbar. No IT department wants to deal with that.

5. Cost-benefit, which is really a superset of everything above. There's still no compelling business benefit for most companies to buy Windows 7, so they're still reinstalling XP with IE6 all the time. There's no profitable business plan to be shown for spending time and money upgrading internal apps to work with IE8/9 and retraining users to the new workflow. Remember that these corporations are always in existence to make money. They aren't there to serve some Platonic ideal of everybody using the World Wide Web with the newest technology.

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The reason in Germany is mainly SAP (because of its popularity here)

Their Netweaver product was build with lots of ActiveX + OS stuff that's so proprietary, that it will not work with even IE7.

Of course SAP has released upgrades but companies have to pay for it or change larger parts of their ERP to be able to apply the upgrades. As ERPs are propably upgraded once per decade, this will take some time...

From various access logs I've analyzed, I can say that Daimler, Merck (the Germany Merck), Bayer, Deutsche Post and some Governments (Bundeszentralamt für Steuern) still run IE6 in wide-scale deployments.

It seems that only view companies provide alternative, modern browsers to their users or the users don't use them and stick with their IE6 default (as they know from SAP Portal) even when browsing externaly.

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Working in a ~50000 employee company that shall remain nameless I can give you another datapoint from "big companies" out there:

We only got IE8 (on WinXP, Win7 will not launch for another year or two) this year. And before that it was whatever IE version ships with WinXP.

The alternative we can use is a Firefox that has not been updated since its rollout in 2009. And of course you are not allowed to use other than company-managed software, especially web-browsers are tightly regulated, exceptions granted only for a few chosen employees.

The policy regarding webbrowsers explicitly states that this is done to avoid having people running outdated versions of them...

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Here's what I don't get. (Maybe someone here can help answer this.) My company, with 18,000 employees, recently decided to upgrade workstations from IE6 to IE7. It wasn't entirely seamless - employees still had to double-click a desktop icon to kick off the upgrade. What I don't understand is why they upgraded to IE7. Once you're going through the friction of doing an upgrade at all, why not go all the way? Is the retraining coefficient that much more for IE8 (or 9) vs. IE7?

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I can't say what happened at your company, but at mine (which is a bit bigger), the IT people started "qualifying" IE7 when it came out. It took them until after IE8 was released to get all the various internal groups working and tested on IE7. The testing part was really the big piece, so they couldn't just jump to IE8 when it was released because it would have meant months or years redoing the testing cycle.

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Exactly. My experience at work is that we "bootleg" in other browsers to do dev work on external facing sites, but the intranet stuff really only works on Internet Exploder, and thems the breaks.

While it's laughable, I understand the driving forces behind it, and have since stopped caring, so long as nobody insists that our public sites need only work on IE 6/7/8. I can usually end that discussion with one word: iPad.

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Wow that's amazing, sometimes I wonder how IT staff get up in the morning and go to sleep at night. Could it be that they are using some sort of monitoring software that actually utilises the flaws in these out of date browsers?

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No, it's because they can't spare support resources for other browsers. If they know the flaws they have to support workarounds for, they keep support to a manageable level.

They could, of course, just hire more support staff, but then their productivity would drop and the CEO would have to shave five feet off the length of his next yacht.

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A workforce on an old browser is an awesome way to stagnate innovation. If you complain about this on some sites (ahem...reddit), you will receive replies from thousands of self-loathing IT staffers who will give you a thousand bullshit reasons why supporting even newish browsers is "impossible" for a large company.

In nearly every case, the old browser in the standard image is there because of some terrible legacy software from the late 1990s that: (1) was premised on the notion that the runtime environment would never change, and (2) is licensed from a vendor who charges obscene amounts of money for any change. Either that, or some useless "intranet" that nobody invested in since 1998.

I will never for the life of me understand why these companies don't create desktop shortcuts to the IE6-based tools, and let employees do their other browsing in a newer browser. It comes down to laziness and apathy, and the dynamics of a big company that has matured to the point where too many second-rate, CYA-oriented people infiltrate the ranks of management and operations.

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The cost of retraining thousands of non-technical people coupled with the interim hit on productivity is larger than you think. These costs are potentially inflated by CYA attitudes, but they are real.

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Not too mysterious. Many large corporations have invested $x million in proprietary software where the cost is amortized by the beancounters over a number of years.

Some of this proprietary software was written in ActiveX, VBscript or some other technology that means that the vendor only officially supports it operating under IE6. It might run fine under newer IE versions or other browsers, but doing so would void the support contract with the vendor (which means huge costs).

So the choice is either to spend millions more upgrading it (when it works perfectly fine for business purposes already), or keep everyone on IE6. Most stick with IE6.

It's getting better as the cost of the software gets fully amortized and planned replacement projects start going ahead - but there's still holdouts.

I work with a 50,000+ employee corporation that just got the go-ahead to upgrade employee workstations to IE8 - with the exception of a few departments (x,000 workstations) who are stuck with one of the aforementioned proprietary apps that's more expensive to upgrade than it is to support the users with the crappy browser.

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Just wondering, virtual machine running XP/IE6 then a new desktop for other newer things for some staff who need them?

Too hard to manage?

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Health care, too. There's an Active X Control, made by GE, used for displaying X-ray imagery, that's bug for bug compatible with IE6. It's expensive and risky for hospital IT departments to upgrade all that stuff.

An open source HTML5 replacement for that application would be interesting and a huge boost to new health care web apps. But it would be hard to convince risk-averse hospital IT people to use it.

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Well, some have updated to IE 8.

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Peugeot suffers with the same issue:

http://landing.peugeotlink.co.uk/browser1.php

I think this is pretty common through the motor trade. They simply cannot move quick enough.

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Does anyone else get the feeling that the entire automotive industry could be disrupted by a company that focused on design, usability, and modern technology in their car interiors? It seems to me you could replace just about every car's dashboard with an iPad and already be light-years ahead of the industry standard.

In fact the problem seems to get worse as you add more technology and money; if Top Gear is any indication the supercars of the world are all a usability joke. They have a dizzying array of meaningless, misplaced, and practically useless buttons. I believe on the latest Ferrari you can either see your speed or your position on a map, but not both.

It seems very similar to the phone industry before the iPhone.

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Controls and instruments in a car are meant to be used while driving. They should be fairly standard, non-distracting, and not require a lot of thought. Analog gauges do this well. Controls should be simple to operate and always do the same thing so you can use them without taking a large fraction of your attention off your primary task: driving. Once you learn where the knobs and switches are you should be able to operate them without looking or with maybe a quick glance. Many of the newer multifunction touch screen controls violate this. I rented a Ford Flex last year and every time I needed to adjust the climate controls I would nearly run off the road because it was impossible to do it by feel, in fact you needed to watch the screen carefully and navigate through several UI buttons to effect a change in temperature.

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Top level Mercedes don't have a traditional 'dash panel'. The entire area is just one large LCD display. This generally is used to display speed/engine revs/temp etc, but can also be switched for infra-red imaging, reversing camera, navigation overlays and other things. It also can be themed with the rest of the car, so you can choose a blue, red, yellow, etc theme for your interior.

BMW have had HUD for several years, which overlay speed and turn-by-tun navigation, which are very usable.

You can expect this type of thing in entry and mid level cars within the next 5-10 years, as the current model cycles pan out. Top Gear love to make fun of these features, and indeed some are silly. But the vast majority work well and have a lot of thought behind them. The version 1.0 of all this stuff is already 10 years old.

Early experiments into touch-screen everything have proven to not be popular with the car-buying public. Through experimentation, designers have found that, for important functions (ventilation, radio, etc) a physical button in a known location outperforms a touch screen interface every time. In my case, this is because you can memorize the location and feel of a button and can push it reliably without taking your eyes off the road. You can push it in the dark at night time, and you get tactile feedback.

Touchscreen systems are already here, but will always bury less-used functions like options and navigation, which is designed to be used while stationary, while the more common functions will remain as dedicated push buttons.

Outside of the tech-geek world, function, function and function is prized much more than interesting neat features. Take a test drive with the average car buyer and you'll find that a simple, familiar and well-designed user interface will trump a tech-fest every time. While there is a lot of technical interest in 'carputers' the general public won't ever really warm to them. The big sales winners are in things like self-parking and parking cameras/sensors, accident avoidance and other passive safety systems.

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So touch screen only controls aren't the way to go. But it may not be necessary to reinvent the basic controls of the car. Making a better climate control system isn't going to win hearts and minds. But what would be very interesting is a web-connected car with an API and a touch-screen device with an open app ecosystem.

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It is hard (but doable) to make a car. It is nearly impossible to make a car that is cost-competitive and reliable.

Just one item: in order to cost-compete you need very high volume, and that means putting huge amounts of capital at risk. Automotive engineers care about component pricing at the sub-cent level since volumes are so high.

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I don't understand cars, at all.

But to me, it seems car market is very different from consumer electronics. First, building a car is still a hard task, harder than putting transistors together. Second, risk of car failure is much higher than risk of computer failure.

In other words, I would be afraid to ride 120 kmph on a highway if I knew the probability of random failure is as high as on my computer. I can't just backup my life regularly.

edit: OK, I misread your post a little, but I am letting this comment here since I wrote it already

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Tesla has already done that to Model S: http://www.teslamotorsclub.com/showthread.php/2615-Model-S-D...

Except that the interface is... kludgy, at best.

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Ford seems to be taking usability and integration with our modern "technology" (in the consumer electronics sense) quite seriously. They even have a website going into the details: http://www.ford.com/technology/

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Since we're talking IE6 here, we should note that SYNC is made by Microsoft. Don't panic.

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Yes, the dashboard / HUD could be a sweet mobile device if only manufacturers thought of it as a computing platform.

They could ship with a package manager (or "app store", what have you), and offer an API to the car. If they allow competition amongst app makers then usability standards should naturally increase.

Of course it would be necessary for car-makers to set high minimum standards of safety in app design, and to enforce those standards strictly.

I've considered starting a car company around this principle, but the barrier to entry is daunting.

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Seems like a lot of industries are like this. They're too focused on things people don't care about, and haven't woken up to the fact that consumers now have much stronger voices when it comes to poor UX. With increased transparency and faster feedback loops comes a greater emphasis on features people actually care about.

Banking is another example, hence BankSimple. A decent web UI/experience will get them more brand loyalty than a TV ad with ponies. This logic applies across all traditional industry verticals.

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The dashboard is not the most important thing in the entire automotive industry.

Car companies are focusing on design. They are spending billions on it.

Regarding the Ferrari 458, it can show the current speed as a number while showing the map at the same time.

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I know it's not the important thing in the entire automotive industry. But I think it just might be to the average driver. Assuming, of course, you've got the mechanics right. Like a hierarchy of needs, having a reliable car to go from point A to B is the foundation. If you had already had a car with the same performance, reliability, safety, efficiency, etc. of a Honda Civic how could you beat Honda?

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when today's cars were designed, ipad didn't even exist. it's a very long process where economy is crucial, there is no place where somebody will jump in in the last moment and "hey, have you heard of tablets? let's put it there!", it's technically and economically impossible.

even if somebody today put your beloved ipad in a concept, you would still laugh it off in 7 years when/if it got into production.

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Perhaps it could be- but the trouble is, building a car is still so much more than just making an nifty interface.

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Cars are a lagging indicator for technology in every feature that isn't specifically automotive.

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I can understand- at my last job (multi-national CPG manufacturer) the code on all the internal webpages wouldn't even display in Firefox. Between the IT workload and general paranoia / superstition of execs (any change is bad), there was no motivation to upgrade internal software. So we made all of our suppliers comply if they wanted access to any piece of the intranet. Just easier that way.

For companies that don't rely heavily on internet tech, understanding why you don't want to use IE6 is beyond most people.

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Except that they're boasting about how good their software and coding are...

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I see that you'll also need either a PC or a Media Access Control.

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Ah, that's why my Message Authentication Code wasn't working.

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Good for you. I tried several hours of Murawarri aboriginal chants and was ready to start with the Miappe ones... ;-)

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As someone who works for a car dealership which uses these systems I can tell you that the "VWG Desktop" intranet dashboards are only accessible via VPN'd tunnels that you can't just "connect" to from the standard internet.

Further more, we use their systems with Chrome, Firefox and other browsers with no problems.

Maybe the standard is different with the US, but in the UK this doesn't apply.

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"By using the current version and the updates provided by Microsoft we guarantee you a secure connection."

Is that a "legal" guarantee? Seems kind of dangerous for a company to make that kind of claim about 3rd party software.

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It's pretty common for big organizations. In one of our websites it is still recommended to use IE5.5+

As much as I want I can't drop support for IE6, it's still 40% of my crowd (old people ftw).

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A few years ago I remember thinking of applying for a position at VW, yet their blind adherence to IE really turned me off. Its gotta be a indicator of the culture there.

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Funny - only the other day I posted on this:

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3129438

It seems that the current post "outs" the security function.

I wonder if it was carefully worded by someone who knew better as it appears to be a very good advert for attracting "unwanted" attention.

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Even those who don't know whether the word "data" is singular or plural tend to be consistent ... not this crew.

"All data is transferred with a 128 Bit SSL coding and are even secured by your log in on our Group Business Platform."

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I hope this is because they haven't updated the content of the page in a while.

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<meta name="date" content="2009-10-20" />

Although even in 2009 I still wouldn't recommend IE6.

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recent access logs with requests from VW still show IE6 :-/

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"using the current version and the updates provided by Microsoft"

If you have a current, up to date version of IE, it's not version 6. We've been trolled by what is clearly some sort of prank.

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I think this document is pretty old as they have mentioned Netscape which is no longer exists. And even didn't notices Google Chrome. :-)

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I found the link at the bottom to download Adobe as the cherry on top. Let's make sure you have a few other problems along with IE6.

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I am running osx, and I really want to be secure. How do I get this IE6 nonesense.

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This must be some kind of joke right? The trolling of the year?

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Some bank's have problems with new browsers, it's strange.

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Is it april 1st already?

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Somebody please explain to me what new browsers have that a car manufacturing corporation needs for its daily business. Flash games? WebGL? Or a bit lower, popup-blocker and google search field?

HELLO?

Obviously this entry is for unexperienced people of the IT, which neglect the fact that your stuff is only safe as long someone hasn't found it's weakness.

http://youtu.be/sforhbLiwLA

AND - CAN YOU BELIEVE IT, REVERSI!

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"Obviously this entry is for unexperienced people of the IT"

They are giving the unexperianced wrong information and making them misinformed. If they want to help the unexperianced, they shouldn't tell them that a secure experience can be guaranteed with IE6. They should encourage them to use modern browsers which are still regularly supported with security patches.

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honey you DID read it's in their B2B folder? So this is for BUSINESS TO BUSINESS and they want to interact in a secure way with small companies which probably have 0 IT professionals and old software.

You only prove me ..

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Old software? That can't be right, since the page expects everyone to have the latest version and all updates from MS.

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"honey"? Really?

He only proves you wrong. The fact that is for B2B doesn't change a damn thing, false and dangerous information is false and dangerous information, and in fact EVEN MORE SO, since it is addressed to "small companies which probably have 0 IT professionals and old software".

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