LuxSci

Google Apps Users Beware – Your Web Browser May Not Work!

Published: September 25th, 2011

Many of our customers use Google Apps in conjunction with LuxSci email and web services.  One relatively new policy of Google Apps has caused and will cause many problems for customers who are forced to use “legacy” web browsers — Google only supports the latest 2 major versions of each browser. It already does not support Internet Explorer v6 and v7 and will soon force Windows users to upgrade to Windows Vista or higher.

What does this mean?

If your web browser is not upgraded and recent, you may not be able to access Google Apps or it may not work properly for you.  Google has been and will continue to design their site so that it works properly only with the latest browsers, disregarding any compatibility issues with older versions.

For example, Internet Explorer is currently at Version 9.  This means that Google and its sites currently support only versions 8 and 9 of Internet Explorer.  If you use version 6 or 7, then you are out of luck unless you upgrade!  Their site may not work properly for you or may break without notice and the only recourse is to upgrade or use another, more recent, web browser.

Why is this a problem?

Many organizations:

  • Do not have the IT staff to keep workstations upgraded all of the time
  • Have a mandated set of software that they use and which cannot be easily changed or upgraded
  • Still use Windows XP and have no immediate plans to upgrade everyone to a new system
  • Cannot upgrade for hardware reasons
  • Cannot upgrade due to compatibility issues with other software systems
  • Do not allow users to use any web browser except that installed by IT and do not permit users to upgrade or administer their own systems.

Of course, it is always best to keep your web browsers upgraded for both security and performance reasons.  There are many well known issues with older web browsers and their use should be avoided.   However, use of newer software is not an immediate option for everyone.

Internet Explorer v10 is already in “developer preview” mode and will probably come out early in 2012 (there is no official release date we could find) .  When Internet Explorer v10 comes out, Google Apps will support only v9 and v10 of IE.    Neither of these versions even run on Windows XP!  To use Google Apps without problems, user workstations must all be upgraded to at least Windows Vista and also must be upgraded to Internet Explorer 9.  Many organizations are not yet prepared to take this step, especially as it will probably require the purchase of new hardware.

Additionally, the other major browser vendors are now releasing new browser versions very quickly (the browser wars are escalating).  As of the time this post was written, FireFox is on version 6, released only 2 months after version 5 came out.  Google Chrome is on version 14, released only 1.5 months after version 13 came out.

To stay up to date with other browser versions, organizations must either ensure that the browsers are allowed to auto-update themselves as needed, or the IT staff must be prepared to manually update everyone’s workstations every couple of months.  Automatic updates are strongly recommended; however, this is not appropriate for everyone.

Any work arounds?

Google Apps is a very consumer oriented product that tries to attract businesses as an adjunct (e.g. PCWorld: 4 Reason Not to Use Google AppsDon’t ever use Google Apps for anything important), but still does not do a very good job.  This is reflected in their poor customer support, frequent downtime issues, lack of support for legacy browsers, to name but a few.

The best work around if you require support for older web browsers is to select an organization who does support legacy browsers and does focus on the needs of businesses more closely.

For example, LuxSci.com supports all versions of Internet Explorer from v6.0 up, FireFox from v3.0 up, etc.  LuxSci.com also has an Xpress web interface that works with any web browser and plans to continue to do so into the future even when Internet Explorer v6 (which was released in 2001 and really should not be used if you can help it!) is eventually phased out.

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