La Defense by night

At the beginning of my career, I had to work as a Web developer in various corporations, from French main energy supplier to world sized banks.

The projects I’ve worked on were populated by young, inexpensive, geeky as hell and standard lovers know it all contractors. We were spending most of our days cursing the local IT for using Internet Explorer 6 when Firefox was the only obvious solution.

I’ve written a lot about that between 2006 and 2009, and did not think about that since this morning.

DSI, migrez vos navigateurs en dernière génération vous aurez des chiffrages plus léger et une UX plus sympa

IT, migrate to the latest browsers, Web apps will cost less and you’ll have a better UX.

My short answer:

Great, don’t forget the skyrocketing bill to migrate every internal application to the latest generation browser and the fact it takes so long you’ll be late by 1 anyway.

Nicolas Hoizey added some value too:

@fdevillamil @k33g_org @webaaz +1, les DSI sont pas débiles, si c'était si simple les vieux navigateurs ne seraient plus là depuis longtemps

IT are not stupid. If migrating was that easy, oldest browsers would have disappeared for a while.

I never thought I would write about this again, but I’m going to explain you why your company does not upgrade their f#$@! browser.

But first, let me tell you a story.

When I started a mission at a French energy supplier in August 2003, they had just migrated the last desktop computers from Windows 3.1 to Windows XP.

Windows 3.1 was launched March the 18th 1992, had its latest stable release in 1993, and support was discontinued December the 31st 2001.

So why did a company still run Windows 3.1 in 2003? Because they still had one critical application they could not technically migrate that was unable to run under Windows XP.

End of story.

To understand the way corporation upgrade their browser versions, you need to understand a few key problems they have and you don’t.

Imagine you’re a corporation IT; a small one, like 20,000 employees. You’re running maybe 50 internal Web applications (if you’re lucky), plus a bunch of huge server based applications like your ERP, SAP stuff, 20,000 desktop / laptops with a lifespan of 5 to 7 years.

Every year, new people join the company. You buy them new computers with the latest operating system, browser, Microsoft office version etc.

Now, let’s answer together 2 simple questions:

  1. how do you ensure people with a 5 years old desktop and people with a brand new laptop can use the same Web application?
  2. how do you ensure both can share and update documents produced by different versions of Microsoft Office?

The answer is simple. Since you can’t replace your computer and application fleet every year, you ensure everything works on the oldest computer you have.

So you:

  • Run the same operating system on every computer, hence the oldest.
  • Use the most recent version of Office that runs properly on that OS and your hardware.
  • Use the Web browser that runs properly on the oldest computer your have for the oldest Web application you maintain.

Now, let’s talk about the real migration cost. Let’s imagine you decide to upgrade your 20,000 computers at once (totally unrealistic).

  • Harware cost
  • Operating system cost
  • Licences cost
  • Web application upgrade cost

The later is not only about upgrading some Javascript and CSS to be able to run in the latest browser. As the hardware changes, screens and resolution gets bigger. So then, either you keep the same interface and just update the code, or you adapt it to the new UX standards.

Then, additional costs:

  • Web application redesign (for your 50 Web applications)
  • Network upgrade (because with all that Javascript and fancy pictures you’ll need more bandwidth)
  • Change management cost, because you have to teach 20,000 people how to work again and be efficient with your newly redesigned application. Which implies hiring a crapload of incredibly expensive consultants.
  • Strikes costs because we’re in France and they don’t want anything to change without a raise.


  • Create a single sign on for all your fancy Web applications.
  • Launch a bring your own device policy, stop supporting a single operating system to support all of them, stop supporting a single browser to support all of them and expect all your 20,000 employees to buy a new PC every year on their own to support your evolutions.

So now, you know why your corporation doesn’t upgrade it’s f$#@ old browser.

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