Please use Firefox 2 or IE 6

This would normally fall into the “I don’t belieeeeve it” category had I not already heard of the problems endured by UK central and local government departments in trying to move on from Internet Explorer 6.

Out of curiosity I decided to see what pittance I might receive from the state when I retire so tried the advertised First of all I could not just use my existing username and password for the government gateway service to use the pension forecasting service. That’s fair enough. I appreciate the additional security level but then I had to wait two weeks for an activation code. This morning it arrived, I “activated” my account and attempted to log in. In a flash, a “Technical Error” page popped up with error and error ID codes, and instructions to phone them for help.

What followed has left me stunned.

“Are you using Firefox or Internet Explorer?” the nice lady asked.


“Which version?”

“3.5.2” I replied

“If you want to use Firefox, you’ll have to go back to version 2”

A few seconds of silence followed and then I asked if I could use IE 8. No, was the answer, it had to be IE6 or possibly IE7. Google Chrome? Not compatible. Opera? She wasn’t sure but if it was the latest version then no. Safari? Er..probably not. She explained that they haven’t security tested the latest versions of the browsers and Chrome is definitely out.

It is pathetic, stupid and irresponsible. We are all exhorted to keep our browsers up to date as part of our online security measures but the UK government is encouraging us to do the opposite. We are encouraged to file our tax returns online and use the government web sites to obtain information about our entitlements, but to do so we have to use browsers from the stone age. It does not fill me with confidence. Quite the opposite, I am beginning to feel seriously paranoid regarding the security of sites.

So have I got my pension forecast? Once I had stopped haranguing the poor lady on the help desk I was transferred to another department, my personal details were taken, and I was told my forecast would be in the post in about 10 days. So much for fast, efficient e-government!

I am still sitting here gobsmacked and wondering if I dreamed the whole thing. I think, after all, that this has to be filed as a Victor Meldrew moment.

21 thoughts on “Please use Firefox 2 or IE 6”

  1. Personally I would like to know how they justify “security testing” on these browsers; what kind of timescale are we looking at?

    Come on, Internet Explorer 8 was in beta a good year ago; isn’t that ample time to do any testing? This demonstrates a gross disregard for the rights of the consumer when they are locked down to a specific platform for the access of a WEB service, especially when said platforms are now considered legacy browsers.

    I’d be interested to know if the site is operable in a Linux or Mac environment or if you have to use Windows.


  2. It seems ironic that the UK Pension Service’s website should only support browsers which should have been pensioned off years ago! Worse, if Cameron got in, it would be redesigned using frames and font tags.

    When can I pension off IE6? It seems unlikely at present. 🙁

  3. First thing I saw when I clicked through to the site was a flower with the headline

    The content on this website is moving

    In what sense?

    How about sending this blog post to your MP and ask them to ask questions?

  4. Hi Stuart,

    I assume you mean zimmer frames 🙂

    It’s horrendous how many organisations still insist on using IE6. Some of them do it because they have equally ancient database services and software that will only work in IE6. One wonders which IE 6 security loop-holes the databases need in order to work.


  5. Hi Paul,

    “In what sense?”. Backwards I think, until it falls over the cliff edge! In any case, by the time I retire I doubt there’ll be any money left in the state pension pot.

    Re my MP, I’m on to it or will be first thing tomorrow. Currently busy sorting out a web site for hubby and a colleague of his. Heavy duty scientific stuff with hundreds of symbols, sub and superscripts. Hmmm, maybe I should adopt the pension site’s attitude. Viewable only in Netscape 0.9, then no-one at all could get in and I won’t have to bother sorting out all the equations.


  6. @Paul

    The content on this website is moving

    In what sense?’

    ‘Moving’ in the sense of being axed. By the way DWP are looking for someone to help shut down the Pension Service website – sadly it’s a bit too late to apply:

  7. Let’s be fair on this issue. It isn’t ALL government departments. HMRC, which is probably the most maligned UK government department for various reasons, has one of the best websites around and appears to work with any “modern” browser. Maybe I’m biased since I have to use this site frequently and am forced to use IE8 (no alternative when working through this particular client’s intranet) but even newcomers seem to find it easy to get the info they want out of it.

  8. Hi Hazel,

    The HMRC web site is OK when it comes to finding the forms for self assessment and VAT filings, and general information but I have given up trying to find very specific VAT or SA information. Their own site search engine is abominable. I now head straight for Google and do an advanced site search for the information. There is also an problem with one of the pages leading up to the VAT filings sections when viewed in Firefox. It all depends on which route you take and I can’t remember which one it is! There seems to be a problem with the style sheet and you end up with a page that is basically just text. It’s not just me as others have reported the problem. So I’m afraid HMRC does not get full marks when it comes to “any modern browser”


  9. There seems to be a problem with the style sheet and you end up with a page that is basically just text. It’s not just me as others have reported the problem. So I’m afraid HMRC does not get full marks when it comes to “any modern browser”

    Had and have this problem. I let them know not too long back and they seemed completely un concerned, however promote online use as much as possible.

    However, the ‘go back to firefox 2 is just incredible and almost unbelievable.

  10. Thanks, Paul, for the feedback on the HMRC site. I sometimes think I am going mad so it is always a relief to hear that others have similar problems. I could not believe what I was being told by the pension site helpdesk. And I’m still waiting for my pension forecast to arrive by snail mail.

  11. Was on the HMRC site again over weekend looking for some VAT guidance. A large proportion of their handy guides, lol were displaying in correctly making them almost unreadable.

    If a visitor told me about an error such as this on my site as am sure many other small bloggers would also do i would get it fixed asap. It really is not acceptable by the HMRC in my opinion.

  12. Hi Paul ( to distinguish you from Paul Canning!),

    Thanks for the update. I have sent in feedback, comments, reports etc so often about this and they just don’t bother to do anything about it. Perhaps they have decided to blacklist me 🙂

    What annoys me so much is that there is some brilliant stuff being done in local government – and yes, some really awful stuff – but it should be central government key web sites setting the example and far too many of them are not 🙁

    Rant over

    Note for those of you who do not know Paul “hip-consultant”: he does not do hip replacements! He does Home Information Packs and also Energy Performance Certificates. For those of you who do not live in England or Wales the explanation will be meaningless, so just forget about it 🙂


  13. “Note for those of you who do not know Paul “hip-consultant”: he does not do hip replacements! He does Home Information Packs and also Energy Performance Certificates. For those of you who do not live in England or Wales the explanation will be meaningless, so just forget about it :-)”

    that old chestnut !!! though not heard it for a while, though many thanks for the plug !!!

    If it will help ease confusion i will just call myself Property blog on your blog and slip in a keyword at the same time, lol.(Not that i believe it makes alot of difference)

    Now back to the point i visited for 🙂 It does seem on a general point that private orgs are taking their web presence more seriously than government sites. It could be argued this is as they are obviously more interested in making a ‘profit’ and realise the negative impact this may have. However, CLG,HMRC etc surely should be looking at improving efficiencies etc, now more than ever and web performance is certainly a big way of doing this. I have had to ring and speak to HMRC as the web page in question without CSS sheets attached can give rise to confusion in my opinion.

    Here is an example (nice simple url, just what we like, there will be no forgetting it !!!)

    In addition, if this web work is contracted out surely it puts into question the contractor or at least their internal QA processes.

    My other little rant with some of the ‘official sites is the organisation of the content. I do realise the amount of information they hold and publish is vast, but the structure of the sites do not make it easy to find. The HIP and EPC stuff is a great example and i obviously visit these sections on CLG quite often.

  14. Hi Paul – Property Blog,

    Sorry about “that old chestnut” but I had two non-UK readers who emailed me about it!

    Re the HMRC example you gave – we might just as well use telnet or good old fashioned ASCII output over dial-up.

    On the issue of finding ‘stuff’ on official web sites, I usually end up doing a Google advanced site search rather than use the site’s own search engine or navigation. But others are working on our behalf. For local government web sites there is the excellent Google Custom Search Engine and for the aptly named Directionlessgov search at Both superior to UK local and central gov web site search engines!


  15. Coming back in on the HMRC issues – just email me what you want to know and I’ll go in through our Agent’s window!

  16. Thanks Hazel. Much appreciated. I’ve downloaded most of the stuff I need to refer to on a regular basis but I may come back to you for updates or new notices.


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