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Thread: Why are we backwards-compatible?

  1. #1

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    Post Why are we backwards-compatible?

    When creating a web page, you have to write extra code for people who have browsers that aren't standards-compliant, those that don't support CSS, those that don't support JavaScript, those that don't support Ajax, those that don't support images....

    I thought about this for a while and now I'm asking... why?? Why, in the new Web 2.5 with CSS3, HTML5 JavaScript x.x and the XMLHttpRequest() object, are we still trying to make sure users using IE5 aren't left out? Sure, you may argue "Well, that gets the webpage to less people. It won't be as popular." Well, how many people right now are using a CSS-less browser? Let me see, those using Dillo and those using Lynx. Who goes around the Internet with CSS disabled? I'm still waiting to see someone who does that.

    Even if there are a few people out there who may refuse to upgrade from IE3 or whatever, let's go ahead and leave them behind. Will that impact the number of people who visit your page? Probably not. If you make a good website, people using old browsers will:
    (a) upgrade
    (b) not upgrade
    Out of the tiny percentage of people who even have such a useless browser, I'm willing to bet over half will upgrade. In fact, half of those using IE will switch browsers if nobody designed webpages to be compatible with non-standards-compliant browser.

    The point is - leave bad browsers behind. If there were no pages incompatible with IE, we would leave it behind and MS would make it better. The way things are now, we're stuck. CSS3 brings great things, but the current most popular browser doesn't support it, among other various "things" that web developers could live without but don't want to.

    I don't see why we even bother.

    But, of course, this guy is a huge supporter of IE, and since he says so, I guess we can't make this change.

    Quote Originally Posted by That guy
    Forget all the other browsers and down with the Web 2.0 police!

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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    You may think that we're stuck but the point at which we are currently stuck is not the same point at which we were stuck a few years ago.

    So we're not stuck.

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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Quote Originally Posted by minitech View Post
    If you make a good website, people using old browsers will:
    (a) upgrade
    (b) not upgrade
    Out of the tiny percentage of people who even have such a useless browser, I'm willing to bet over half will upgrade.
    I'm willing to bet that virtually none will. Whatever reason they have for using an old browser (or disabling features on newer ones), they are unlikely to be willing to change it simply because of one site they've never used before - it's far easier to find another site instead.

    In theory you could get lots of other coders to join the crusade of "change your software to save me some effort", but that will only take us back to where we were 15 years ago - if users want to be able to use all web sites, they need to install multiple browsers.


    As for the incompatibility of IE, it has already been left behind to some degree. IE8 will happily drop back to 'old IE' mode when needed, but use a better method the rest of the time.

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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Most of those who use old browsers now days have it imposed upon them. For instance certain government departments still have a requirement for there employees to use IE6. This means that they do not have the choice to change there browser.

    Anyone who has bought a new PC and all the youth (because they want to use stuff like Facebook e.t.c) will be on newer browsers. This leaves an Ever dwindling list of those on really old browsers.

    In fact i have not seen anyone using IE3 / 4 / or 5 in the last 10 years !!

    IE6 is still out there, but your actions wont kill it, it will happen naturally at the same pace as Windows XP.

    Also as far as i was aware coding your page so that it works with CSS & Javascript disabled is fairly standard not because of old browsers but because there are users who turn off JavaScript and probably CSS within there browser. You may not have seen it but they are out there.

    I don't see why we even bother.
    I suspect most people bother because they are told by there place of work that they have to bother and there website must be compatible with certain browsers.
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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Someone should turn the internet off for a day - then the world would realise how much better off they'd be without it. I remember seeing the off switch somewhere.

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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    If everyone gave up on coding for IE6, people would be forced to switch.

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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Rather than coding for older browser, try coding for proxy servers... if your page works properly through proxy then more people behind office firewalls can access your site

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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Quote Originally Posted by minitech View Post
    If everyone gave up on coding for IE6, people would be forced to switch.
    From my experience most of the users of older browsers (particularly IE 6) are working in companies or government.
    They use a lot of web applications that were made for IE 6, that will break if they upgrade.
    We have a number of customers who simply cannot upgrade, because it will break some very critical web applications.

    One of our customers told me that their government department uses over a hundred (!) legacy web applications that can only run in IE 6.
    Upgrading them will cost dozens of millions so they simply wait until they are being replaced.

    This is a great pain in the behind, since it means we have to rewrite our application to work in IE 6.
    I code C#....

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    Question Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Quote Originally Posted by leinad31 View Post
    Rather than coding for older browser, try coding for proxy servers... if your page works properly through proxy then more people behind office firewalls can access your site
    Is there something more to it than making your page expire?
    Everything that has a computer in will fail. Everything in your life, from a watch to a car to, you know, a radio, to an iPhone, it will fail if it has a computer in it. They should kill the people who made those things.- 'Woz'
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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    I work in a fairly large company, and we are using IE6.

    There were promises to upgrade to IE7 when I first got here almost 3 years ago. The promise is now IE8, and they are even piloting it to small packets of users here and there.

    The bigger shop you work in, the longer it takes to get upgrades into the environment.

    The problem with continuing on with IE6, imo, is that is creating an ever-larger pool of bad web programmers.

    When I came in from college, I was already building pages/apps ready for IE7 and Firefox. It was PAINFUL for me to go back to hacking pages together so they would display properly in IE6. The only reason I wouldn't be lost if we got a standards-compliant (or in the case of IE8, at least SOME SEMBLANCE of a standards-compliant) browser is because I write small "do-nothing" apps at home and test them on things like IE8, Chrome, & Firefox. Many others in my building, however, will be caught like a deer in the headlights. They are so used to programming things the IE6 way, they've completely forgotten how to code the right way.

    Also, consider you run an e-commerce site. Are you really going to turn away potential customers because they are using a browser you don't feel like supporting?
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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    In pretty much any company people have enough privileges (computer-access-wise) to install Google Chrome If they had permission from the company to download it, things would be fairly easy.

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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Not so.

    At my company, developers are not allowed to install ANYTHING onto their computers that isn't sent down to their computer from inside the company.

    I don't even think we'll get Windows 7 anytime soon because you have to have admin rights to run Visual Studio (since it technically makes changes to your system/hard drive/whatever).

    Furthermore, even if we did go rogue and install a newer browser, all we would get is complaints from business users because the app wouldn't work properly in their browser (which would likely be IE6).
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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Okay - so that's why I say that companies need to give permission. However, you'll find that Google Chrome actually requires next to no permissions to run (on Windows XP, at least).

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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    In pretty much any company people have enough privileges (computer-access-wise) to install Google Chrome If they had permission from the company to download it, things would be fairly easy.
    Ahem, you obviously haven't worked at many companies. I have seen companies lock down the entire C drive so that employees cant even save data locally let alone install programs.

    Also Many Many companies have a work place policy about what browsers they support.

    You have to remember that most users are not technical and so first wouldn't even think of downloading and installing a browser, and secondly if some internal web app didn't' work then IT Support would just tell them to use IE.

    Okay - so that's why I say that companies need to give permission
    Companies dont need to do anything, they will do what they feel is in there best interests. If they think that users installing things themselves is a risk then they wont permit it.
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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Quote Originally Posted by minitech View Post
    In pretty much any company people have enough privileges (computer-access-wise) to install Google Chrome If they had permission from the company to download it, things would be fairly easy.
    Quote Originally Posted by minitech View Post
    Okay - so that's why I say that companies need to give permission. However, you'll find that Google Chrome actually requires next to no permissions to run (on Windows XP, at least).
    I work for State Government, my computer's locked down to the point where I can't install/update a FireFox extension let alone install the next version of FireFox or even another program. I have to submit a request and if it's an "ok" program the IT tech might come over and install (or update) an app on my machine, but they wont install every version of FF as they come out either. Just yesterday I went from FF 3.5.4 to 3.6.9. Also for the State of Michigan the policy is IE6 with the exceptions of us developers here, we're allowed to use IE7 set to compatibility mode only. But we only have 10 developers on this floor so the other 110 people on this floor have IE6 and that's actually what most of them use (even though they all probably have IE7 or 8 on their home computers) because to them IE is IE & the version doesn't matter as long as it works.

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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Quote Originally Posted by minitech View Post
    Okay - so that's why I say that companies need to give permission. However, you'll find that Google Chrome actually requires next to no permissions to run (on Windows XP, at least).
    minitech,

    I understand what you are saying, but your responses clearly indicate you have not worked in a large enterprise before (probably because you're 12 ).

    Let's say that I work for Company A. The CIO makes the decision that developers may install any web browser they wish. This is great, except for one thing: the users. Writing an app that runs flawlessly in Chrome is of great satisfaction for me as a developer, but what happens when we do user-acceptance testing and the people that will be using the app are still running IE6?

    The UAT will be a fail, and we get to explain to management why the project was not delivered on time. I'll tell you that management will not care that the users are using an outdated web browser. We, in turn, will get to spend many extra hours getting the app to work in IE6, with no extra pay (the part of being salaried that sucks).

    In regards to the last part, it's true. I cannot think of any web browser which needs admin permission to run. This is because browsers are "detached" from the PC. The rub here is that you have to run as admin to install the web browser on Win 7 (not sure about Vista, as I didn't use it much).

    I applaud your idealism, and I agree, I get very tired of supporting outdated tools (as I stated in my previous post). However, being a developer at the enterprise level leaves little room for my personal idealogy as to what a developer should have permission to do.
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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Okay - so the companies just need to give permission.

    I appreciate the excuses of "too many computers to change" but if you have a person working on each computer, let them install Google Chrome, if only temporarily.

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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Quote Originally Posted by minitech View Post
    Okay - so the companies just need to give permission.

    I appreciate the excuses of "too many computers to change" but if you have a person working on each computer, let them install Google Chrome, if only temporarily.
    But they can't... I work for a rather large company... with sites all over the continent... a lot of our apps are web based because of this... the standard is IE... and that's that... IE allows certain functionality that was can't get otherwise... so everything is built around this. I just happened to get lucky in finding out that I could run Portable FireFox... but only because there is no install... just a folder to copy. Even then, I brought it on a thumb drive... mozilla.com and chrome.google.com are blocked.. as is the Opera website. In this company, the IT force makes up for probably around 5&#37; of the total workforce of the company. So the rules in place are aimed at that 95%... some of us have found ways around it... but even those are slowly being turned off.

    The company doesn't *need* to do anything... sure it would be nice... but more often than not, it's policy that's out of our hands. We just have to live with it.

    -tg
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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Who is this "we" anyway?

    You're free to do as you choose. Where I work though they consider supporting a broad range of browsers to be a competitive advantage. Some days even a competitive requirement.

    This probably doesn't matter for stuff like personal vanity sites but even public libraries need any advantage they can get these days, let alone somebody running a storefront Web site.

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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Quote Originally Posted by penagate View Post
    You may think that we're stuck but the point at which we are currently stuck is not the same point at which we were stuck a few years ago.
    Well said; progress is made slowly, and usually by the "big boys" (Youtube, Facebook, Google, MS, etc.), not by any of us. Be patient.

    My choice on the issue is to base compatibility on the needs of the audience. If traffic analysis shows that a significant percentage use IE6, then I'd better make it work with IE6; if no one's using it, it makes no sense to waste time on it anyway.

    Of course, when I go to work, my choice doesn't matter - we test on old platforms, and that's that. I have learned some valuable lessons about CSS and Javascript through cross-testing, even if I don't want to do it.

    As for things like CSS3, it'd be great if all modern browsers supported it... but they don't - it's a caveat you'll have to accept if you want to use it. Make use of CSS' ability to degrade gracefully - if you can accept that your rounded corners in Firefox will be square in IE, great. Otherwise you'll have to find another way (plenty exist).

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    Super Moderator Shaggy Hiker's Avatar
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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Quote Originally Posted by Blakk_Majik View Post
    I get very tired of supporting outdated tools
    Are you really sure you want to be talking about your CIO like that?
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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    The CIO doesn't care... the Enterprise Architect does... and yes... we talk to him like that. He still doesn't care.

    -tg
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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Quote Originally Posted by minitech View Post
    I appreciate the excuses of "too many computers to change" but if you have a person working on each computer, let them install Google Chrome, if only temporarily.
    It is most definitely not an excuse, but an entirely valid reason - and your suggestion is not a valid way around it even if you could find a company that was willing to try.

    First of all, the vast majority of users would not be able to do it, even if you gave them a clear list of instructions with pictures. In extremely simple cases where that is done (not far beyond the scale of opening a file in Notepad), I still see about 10% failure rate - meaning that an IT person has to help them over the phone, or go there and do it for them.

    Even if the users could do it without assistance, how much will it cost? Each of those hundreds/thousands of people is being paid to do their own job (some far more than IT staff), which they are no longer doing for a while (much longer than it would take you), just for the sake of saving a tiny amount of people a relatively small amount of effort.


    In addition to that, giving users permission to install things is something you would need to be pretty naive to think is a wise move - because there will always be people who will install things that they shouldn't, such as games (which they then spend all day playing) and torrent downloaders (which eat lots of expensive bandwidth, get lots of viruses etc on to the network, and can cost a lot in legal fees), and other things which will cost the company in one way or another.


    Whether you like it or not, your attitude would cost companies a fortune, which is why they would avoid your work and get somebody elses work instead (even if you are the only supplier in the world at the moment, and it needs to be re-created from scratch at a far higher cost and dramatically longer time).


    Saving a bit of effort is nice when you can do it, but this is a situation where it is unreasonable to do so, and you would lose out because of it.

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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Oh, my, gosh. You're telling me that 10&#37; of people hired don't know how to navigate to http://www.google.com/chrome and click "Install", then "OK". That is just sad.

    @techgnome: If you bring Google Chrome on a USB drive, I bet it will install with a few small problems. It doesn't even install to Program Files, as people who use it know, but rather to the user's local settings which are usually accessible.

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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    YEs.. you're probably right *I* could... beccause *I* know how... *I* don't want to... I use portable FireFox when I need to... but *I* CANNOT use anything BUT IE to navigate the internal web apps... *THEY* wouldn't work... as I said, the policy is that the standard web browser is IE... currently 7. I think we (as in the IT dept) gets cut some slack... but the avg user on the network... they don't.

    At work I have no need for a bazilion browsers... just two... one to check web apps - since they only need to work with IE7, that's all I need to check... and FF for some general browsing.

    At home, I have them all; IE, FF, Chrome, Opera, and even Safari... and every since one of them is the latest... And that's the way I like it.

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  26. #26
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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Quote Originally Posted by wossname View Post
    Someone should turn the internet off for a day - then the world would realise how much better off they'd be without it. I remember seeing the off switch somewhere.
    All you have to do is drop or tip the internet, and the world will explode.


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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Quote Originally Posted by minitech View Post
    Oh, my, gosh. You're telling me that 10% of people hired don't know how to navigate to http://www.google.com/chrome and click "Install", then "OK". That is just sad.
    It wouldn't be quite that simple (eg: rather than downloading the file would be in a network location that might be awkward, plus various other minor issues), but you are right that it is a little sad.

    However, it is also completely understandable, as not everyone has the same level of computer literacy as people like us - some because not every job in the world needs constant use of a computer (some people only need to use a computer for less than an hour in their working week), and many others are technophobic so panic when they have to do anything 'new' on a computer.

  28. #28
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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    Oh, my, gosh. You're telling me that 10&#37; of people hired don't know how to navigate to http://www.google.com/chrome and click "Install", then "OK". That is just sad.
    Yes that's exactly what we are saying. A friend of mine was telling me a story the other day which kind of exemplifies this.

    When she got her first computer she phoned up her brother who works in IT Support to help her setup various programs and things, as he was giving her instructions in Word

    he said "ok now right mouse click"

    she replies "Ok i have done that"

    he says "Alright so what can you see now on the screen ?"

    She Says "Mouse Click"

    He Says "What"

    She Says "Well you said write Mouse Click so i wrote Mouse Click"

    He promptly hung up !
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  29. #29
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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    "Well you said write Mouse Click so i wrote Mouse Click"
    I broke myself laughing at that

    Minitech, Im afraid they're right. None of us like it but we have to live with it. Any ideas of this nature fall down on three points:-
    1. Anything that requires your user to exhibit the remotest competence with a computer dooms your aplication to failure. NSA's story is funny because it's entirely believable. I've had to support users who didn't know the difference between a window and the desktop before now. It's amazing how many of those users there are. And it's not just that they don't understand their computer, it's that they're actually scared of it. Ask them to do anything new, including pressing a single button, and they're thrown into panic. Tey simply refuse.
    2. Anything that requires the business customer to make any decision, even the apparently most trivial, is equally doomed to failure. Business's are incredibly risk averse. They detest change of any sort. That's may not be desirable but it's entirely natural. They have a business model which is basically working; they're making money; why would they risk any sort of change? Yes, implementing a change might give them a competitive edge, but it it also might (and probably will, given the nature of the users described above) come with weeks of headaches while everyone gets used to it. Unless they can be certain that the benefit is going to outweigh the cost, and it's damn hard for them to be certain when dealing with unquantifiables like a competitive advantage and 'headache' costs, they're simply not going to make a decision.
    3. Anything that assumes all other developers are going to join a crusade for change ('if we just stop developing for X the consumer will have to change' - that sort of thing) is, again, doomed to falure. If the consumer wants it they'll offer money for it. If they offer money for it someone (possibly me) is going to do it. While I'd be aplauding your morals, I'd be taking your business hand over fist. I've got a mortgage to pay.

    Don't get me wrong. I'd love it if I only had to work with the latest platforms and technologies. I'd love it if I was married to a supermodel with a PHD in interesting anecdotes. The problem is that neither of those is looking likely at the moment.
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  30. #30

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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    ... this is depressing.

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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    It is a little, and unfortunately it is just one of the many ways that the real world doesn't meet our ideals.

    You just have to find a way to deal with it, such as spending a little more time catering for multiple browsers. It can be annoying at times, but you just have to remind yourself that it is better than the alternative (such as having your own site be much less popular, or for a company site risk losing your job).

  32. #32
    PowerPoster Nightwalker83's Avatar
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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    To quote myself from the IE9 Beta thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by Nightwalker83 View Post
    Now I will have to realign all of my websites to suite IE9! It is so annoying that Microsoft can't see to figure out a one solution fits all type of thing when dealing with html. The other browsers are able to why not IE.
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  33. #33
    VBA Nutter visualAd's Avatar
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    Re: Why are we backwards-compatible?

    minitech: I think you will be surprised by the number of organisations that run almost entirely on out-dated applications. For a large corporate, the web browser your staff are using to access Facebook and Youtube in their downtime is nothing compared to the headache of supporting their 25 year old mainframe driven ERP system, keeping their customer facing website up to date, secure and compliant with regulations and managing the huge volumes of data that are produced on day to day basis just by normal business operations.

    The corporate IT policy isn’t just a list of draconian rules designed to make an employees life a misery. It will form part of the IT security policy which may feed through to compliance with external regulations such as data protection, anti bribery and corruption laws, anti terror laws. It may also form part of an industry standard such as ISO9001, ISO 27001, payment card industry compliance, the list goes on. The last thing you want is to find that one of your employees has stolen all the credit card details of your customers and sold them online which may result in loss of the authority to handle credit card payments, a fine from the regulatory body or government, loss of reputation and the huge cost of investigating the blunder and ensuring that is doesn’t happen again. This kind of thing can ruin a large organisation in a single blow and to be seen not to be doing everything to prevent it is quite simply suicidal.

    In order to prevent something, you need control and with control comes the need to monitor; it is the unfortunate face of security. Your corporate IT policy is the front line which attempts to control and monitor what employees are do, so if something goes horribly wrong, the organisation can demonstrate they did everything the could to prevent it.

    Things are changing though. Ten years ago the browser market was dominated by Internet Explorer (version 4 / 5 I think). In the past 5 years we have seen Firefox and Google Chrome break through the IE only Internet. If you are a web developer lucky enough to be working on an external facing web site you are now expected to support new browsers and not stick your fingers up at those using them.

    The more worrying thing for corporates is that in as little as 5 years, the graduates coming out of university are going to have been brought up in the information revolution and have had access to the Internet, social media and web mail from a very young age. Organisations blanket blocking these websites will quickly find employees using mobile Internet which cannot be monitored or leaving for rival organisations that do give them access. More worryingly, the will loose a competitive edge as proportion of relationship building with potential clients may be over social networking sites. In these times, when a website such as Googlemail or Facebook stops supporting IE6, corporates will have no choice but to bring their corporate networks into line.
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