/ Technology

It isn’t taxing to download a new browser

Internet browsers are often a great source of debate. In a bold move, one online retailer has introduced the world’s first ‘browser tax’ for customers using Internet Explorer 7.

Firstly, why have internet browsers become such a contentious issue? It’s largely down to the fact that it’s difficult for website developers to support the quirks of old browsers when they’re trying to take advantage of the features in modern ones.

But since a small proportion of the population still uses highly outdated browsers, many companies still have to spend money making their websites work with them.

Usually this isn’t your problem. However, one online retailer has decided to try and dissuade its customers from using outdated browsers by charging them extra.

World’s first browser tax

Electronics specialist Kogan will charge its Australian customers 6.8% per transaction if they try to buy something from its site using Internet Explorer 7 – a web browser launched over six years ago in 2006. So how does Kogan defend this huge levy?

Its chief executive Ruslan Kogan said ‘Internet Explorer 7 has long since passed its use-by date’, while a pop-up on Kogan’s website explains that the charge is ‘necessary due to the amount of time required to make web pages appear correctly in IE7’.

So, Kogan argues that the money and time involved in catering to what is a very small proportion of its customers, justifies these charges. The user can download a free upgrade to their browser and avoid the charge, but aren’t non-web savvy customers the most at risk here?

Unfair to the unsavvy?

I wonder how many people presented with Kogan’s pop-up message will know how to download and install a more up-to-date browser? While the majority of people could probably do this without issue, online companies can’t simply assume that all their web customers are au fait with computers.

On the other hand, I think many web professionals will think this tax is a brilliant idea, as out-of-date browsers can cause them considerable headaches. But to be honest, this whole thing strikes me as more of a gimmick to draw attention to Kogan – its ‘browser tax’ has resulted in quite a bit of press attention. The tax hasn’t been introduced to its UK site yet, and hopefully it’ll stay that way!

Do you think it’s fair for retailers to charge customers extra for using out-of-date browsers? Or is it the retailers’ responsibility to provide a smooth experience for all customers, regardless of their software?

Should online retailers 'tax' people who shop using an out-of-date web browser?

No - you shouldn't be penalised for using an old browser (58%, 177 Votes)

Maybe - as long as they are alerted and given the chance to download a new browser (32%, 98 Votes)

Yes - it costs companies more to support old browsers (9%, 28 Votes)

Total Voters: 304

Loading ... Loading ...
Comments
Member

The explanation sounds a bit thin – sounds like it’s more about getting press attention than anything else.

Member

As someone who is responsible for multiple browser testing, I have to say that this is a great idea.

But as a consumer, my operating system/computer might be quite old too and therefore a new browser might mean renewing the lot which seems like a cynical ploy to keep us needlessly upgrading. Computer technology keeps updating practically every day, trying to keep pace with it and make a business model for something that will ultimately be obsolete is difficult, so you have to have a constant development flow to ensure everything works properly whilst using all the new and existing technology.

Hence extra expense.

Thinking with both caps on, I don’t think that the consumer should have to pay for this. IE7 isn’t THAT old and rather than charge people, they should just not support it and suggest the user download a new one (giving them the locations to go to).

Member

Hi Dean,

I gave it a test run and the banner Kogan puts up does link you to a site with links to popular browsers for you to upgrade to. The X to close the banner and keep on shopping is pretty small compared to the upgrade link so from this I’d say Kogan seems to be directing users to upgrade rather than pay the tax.

I must say, having built sites that then required a lot of jiggering about to get to work on IE6, let alone 7, I do have some sympathy with them.

As Jen says, there is publicity value with them doing this, I had not heard of the site until this story. Reminds me of the (later revealed to be fake) report that Internet Explorer users had lower IQs on average – it got a lot of publicity by attacking IE.

Slightly changing the subject but you could argue that Apple is doing the reverse of the Kogan tax – Flash sites that don’t support iOS Safari on the iPad/iPhone are losing traffic and potential paying customers.

Jonathan

Member
Matt Andrews says:
15 June 2012

Pretty unfair if you ask me (and I’m a web developer who’s constantly dealing with the headache of supporting Microsoft’s awful browsers).

My last workplace was still using Windows 2000 and IE6 — IE7 would’ve been a blessing — when I left in 2010. This wasn’t because they were unaware of newer operating systems / browsers, but couldn’t afford the cost of upgrading all the office computers. A lot of staff used Firefox instead but the less tech-savvy were saddled with IE6.

Punishing those users for a situation beyond their control is discriminatory, petty, and plain unfair. Petition sysadmins, cheapskate business owners unable to see the value in using a modern browser, or Microsoft themselves to offer half-decent browsers like IE9 to people using things like Windows XP, which are still in use in a massive amount of places.

Member

Absolutely – often company IT policies force old versions of software and OS’s to be used due to issues of support costs and concerns regarding stability – making even modest updates difficult and long role out times. As a general point – displaying websites properly on different browsers/platforms is a hot topic for some, but not for others especially when it comes to mobile browsers (the Kogan website doesn’t translate well on my smart-phone for example) and it all sounds very much like a publicity stunt to me.

Member

The supplementary charge looks very much like a publicity stunt. The company could have simply blocked use of IE7 and other outdated browsers.

Hopefully it will not be long before Internet Explorer is history. If it was not for institutional use the market share might have fallen much faster. I cannot understand why Microsoft have carried on with IE when competitors have done such a good job.

Member

So Kogan’s response to it own exercise of re-vamping its own website is to charge customers who have found a browser they know and presumably like and who don’t want to be unpaid testers of newer browsers.

And I don’t think much of Kogan’s tech dept. As all they need to do is a quick bit of Javascript to detect browser and version and then re-direct customers onto older copies of their website that were working in 2007. And if the content is database driven then no real issue. And there’s virtually no extra expense in having a fewer working older sitting on a web domain.

Customers on older browsers just miss out on all the silly flash gimmicks that web site designers think we all need to see.

Member

Some really good points are coming up in the comments here and I agree with Jonathan; I don’t think Kogan is really gunning to force this penalty charge onto its customers.

I’ve worked online for years and am often frustrated by the difficulties of cross-browser compatibility, but many companies are simply going down the route of no longer supporting these browsers. However, I also agree that this is limiting for the thousands/millions of people working in companies who refuse to upgrade their browsers.

As with all technology, there’s a point where we have to say ‘goodbye’ to the old and usher in the new. How long can we expect companies to support heritage browsers at some expense to themselves?