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Nov 02 2013

I’d dismissed the problems with Obamacare enrollment…until now

I know it seems to be the comedy routine du jour to mock the software glitches plaguing the new health care program rollout. I hadn’t worried about it: I’d heard nothing but encouraging words about the program itself, and putting together a huge web service for the entire country is a gigantic undertaking, and I could imagine lots of ways it would run into problems, problems that would eventually shake out. I remember when we first fired up FtB, and saw it buckle under the traffic immediately!

But then I saw what the Oregon state health exchange website put up.

Oregon health exchange requires Microsoft Internet Explorer!

Holy hell. Who designed this abomination? It’s 2013, and they’re requiring users to access the site with Microsoft Explorer? And the submit button doesn’t work on any other browser?

I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist, but this is so ridiculous and such bad design that I’m thinking sabotage.

76 comments

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  1. 1
    colnago80

    So if you have a MAC, you are shit out of luck.

  2. 2
    ricko

    Or a Mac without a wide expanse of options, like FireFox or such.

    I’m in Wisconsin, the errors I get are apparently Gov. Walker making things harder for me.

  3. 3
    hopeleith

    requiring IE is astoundingly common. I run into it with textbook sites from major publishers, major media sites (ie streaming media from CBC only worked with IE, the stats software at work .

  4. 4
    August Berkshire

    If they couldn’t figure out a way to have one option for all browsers then at least they should have created multiple options: IE, Safari, Firefox, Chrome.

  5. 5
    markpursey

    That reminds me, must head to the Macintosh store and pick up one of those new fangled Macintosh phones.

  6. 6
    unbound

    Although they should certainly be supporting multiple browsers, don’t be so shocked by the requirement of Internet Explorer. Despite the substantial issues with the browser, it is still about 60% of the desktop market share actually browsing the internet. Safari is only about 6%.

    In order of priority, a site should be designed / tested for: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari. That will cover over 98% of the market.

  7. 7
    cswella

    Working in the automotive business, most of the websites we use to access *brand* warranty/parts/service programs still require IE to run at all.

  8. 8
    PZ Myers

    I don’t care what percentage of the market uses IE. It’s the very worst browser out there.

  9. 9
    sqlrob

    @colnag80 #1:

    So if you have a MAC, you are shit out of luck.

    Well, duh. A Message Authentication Code isn’t going to get you anywhere.

  10. 10
    sqlrob

    @Unbound, #6

    Although they should certainly be supporting multiple browsers, don’t be so shocked by the requirement of Internet Explorer. Despite the substantial issues with the browser, it is still about 60% of the desktop market share actually browsing the internet. Safari is only about 6%.

    Depends where you look. w3cschools has Firefox as twice IE, and Chrome is twice that. Statcounter shows Chrome at 40% and IE at 30%. NetApplications is the only one listed on Wikipedia with an IE usage higher, all others have Chrome higher.

  11. 11
    Kristjan Wager

    I don’t care what percentage of the market uses IE. It’s the very worst browser out there.

    Actually, no it is not. The release cycles of IE means that it gets outdated faster than the other browsers, but it is a quite decent browser these days, if you don’t want to user plugins (which most internet users don’t). Also, it is quite good at following standards these days (unlike how it was in the past).

    Don’t judge IE on how it used to be back in the IE 6 days.

    If I should make a nomination for the worst browser currently, it’d probably be Opera or FF – FF have some serious memory leak problems (I still use it, because I like having adblock, and I don’t trust google enough to make Chrome my main browser).

  12. 12
    vexorian

    Although they should certainly be supporting multiple browsers, don’t be so shocked by the requirement of Internet Explorer

    How would you “support” multiple browsers and require Internet Explorer?

    The most optimistic percentage for internet explorer is 60%. This is a government site. Everyone pays taxes, not just the 60% IE users. As a government site, it is supposed to be accessible. Not only should it be supporting all 5 major web browsers , it should be fully standard compliant and also make sure to work perfectly with screen readers.

  13. 13
    Kristjan Wager

    sqlrob, government sites (across the world) usually have IE as the most used browser. It has much to do with the demographics of the people using the sites.

    This doesn’t mean that I think it is OK to only support IE – obviously it is not (and have never been). And I speak as someone who works on creating large public systems every day, all of them web based.

  14. 14
    vexorian

    Actually, no it is not.

    Well, depending on the version IE is the worst (IE 6), second-worst (IE 7), or third-worst (IE 7+).

  15. 15
    vexorian

    The only reason IE is so widely useful is because of douchebag web programmers that think it is fine to require it.

  16. 16
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Low bid contractor, limited budget so there are as few bells and whistles as possible, not that unusual. Been there, still there. Right now, any changes to the CMS on our federal NPS site have to be put in using a very specific, and very outdated, version of Firefox. Any other browser used to load the CMS content will fuck the system royally. Doesn’t surprise me at the state level, either. We are always willing to not spend enough to do it right. Keeps the Koch’s taxes lower.

  17. 17
    Gregory in Seattle

    Speaking as someone who writes websites for a living: there is no excuse for requiring IE. None. If your site is so badly written and tested that it will work properly in only one browser, it should be scrapped and rewritten from scratch.

    Then again, the release of Oregon’s site was delayed almost a month because the state apparently went to a local high school and hired some kids to do the work for giggles. I’m not surprised the site is so buggy.

  18. 18
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    @Kristjan Wager #11:

    Don’t judge IE on how it used to be back in the IE 6 days.

    Maybe you should pass this along to the Oregon exchange programmers, since they apparently haven’t heard that there are newer versions that are more standards compliant.

  19. 19
    Kristjan Wager

    Maybe you should pass this along to the Oregon exchange programmers, since they apparently haven’t heard that there are newer versions that are more standards compliant.

    In all seriousness, such people should not be involved in programming or systems development in any way.

    There are a lot of us working on making non-crappy software, and such people should leave the job to us, rather than putting out more crappy software. The world does not need more crappy software.

  20. 20
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    @Ogvorbis: Apologies Available for All! #16:

    Low bid contractor, limited budget so there are as few bells and whistles as possible, not that unusual.

    If the effin’ “submit” button doesn’t work, that suggests to me that somebody added in loads of bells and whistles. They just added them using brain-dead Javascript that only works on Internet Explorer.

  21. 21
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    The world does not need more crappy software.

    From your lips to my bosses’ ears….

  22. 22
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Naked Bunny with a Whip:

    Sorry. That was my personal experience — hell, when we first started our new CMS system, half of the things we actually needed had been left out save money. Including cross-platform compatibility (which is still an issue). Nevermind.

  23. 23
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Hey, I’m not even a web programmer. I’ve only coded a few small test sites. That’s how I know that someone has to go out of their way to break a “submit” button.

  24. 24
    Muz

    Even if IE is alright these days (and compliance aside, the interface is a pile of crap so bad my mum switched to firefox. And she’ll put up with a lot) surely – Surely – these people have noticed that IE hasn’t been number one or at least not had the field all to itself for six years by anyone’s measure. And that’s just on PC.
    Then they’ve surely heard of Apple. I mean, just a little bit.

    Amazing.

    Worse thought; maybe it’s some IE proprietary security signing they’re using? (don’t really know about that stuff). Something that was broken 2 years ago and easily MitM-ed?. Reassuring stuff like that.

  25. 25
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Our issue-tracking software at work is not only not cross-platform, it doesn’t even work on versions of IE later than 8. Our IT department made us run a Registry update awhile back so we wouldn’t accidentally upgrade the browser doing Windows Update.

  26. 26
    penumbra

    @ Gregory in Seattle #17

    Couldn’t agree more! I live in Oregon and am at a loss to explain this. We have lots of excellent, starving programmers here and a governor who ostensibly supports Obamacare and we get this pos for a healthcare website? Guess I’ll have to ask Mr. Penumbra to write a snark. He happens to be a seasoned programmer and can explain in great detail why the site is awful. I just know I’ve visited the site a couple of times and ended up terminating the sessions out of frustration.

  27. 27
    00001000bit

    I manage a high traffic, non-tech site (so we’re not talking computer power users here) – and I only see about 25-30% IE.

    Mobile browsers (iPad, iPhone, Android) have come on strong in the last two years, and shouldn’t be ignored.

    But, even if 60% for IE is correct – who made the bonehead decision that it would be OK to tell almost half your users to go F themselves?

  28. 28
    davem

    IE is the proverbial pile of doo-doo, especially when you do javascript stuff for it. Nasty. But hold it, the…submit button? Wow, that’s really awful. I’m struggling to think of ways to get it to go wrong in IE. How many millions spent? Unbelievable.

  29. 29
    larrylyons

    Frankly IE even the most recent version sucks dead budgies. The number of hoops and jumps I have to go through to get even IE8 and 9 to work with HTML 5 is insane. you have to add extra javascript libraries, like HTML5shim.js and respond.js to get them to work correctly. I think that retailer who decided to do a surcharge for IE users had the right idea (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-18440979).

  30. 30
    Kristjan Wager

    larrylyons, well, there are also issues with Chrome. I’ve found some strange bugs even with older versions of HTML and CSS.

    Regarding HTML5 and IE: Problem is that there is no standard for HTML5 yet (it is a draft), so it is a bit weird taking about “get[ing] them to work correctly”, when correctly is not well defined yet. That said, HTML5 support in IE is definitely not up to par, and IE does have some way to go yet before becoming a good browser, but as I said, it is not a bad browser these days, and definitely not as bad as it used to be.

  31. 31
    Karen Locke

    This doesn’t strike me as a programming issue as much as a management issue. It’s most likely the order was “We don’t have time to make it work on all browsers, so focus on IE.” Then some programmer got carried away. When the immediate goals of the project work against the ultimate goals of the project, there’s usually some management issues.

  32. 32
    MJP

    I have Interned Explorer 10. It still loads pages noticeably slower, and even scrolls in a more choppy manner, than Firefox 24.

  33. 33
    colnago80

    Well, actually having a Mac may not leave one totally shit out of luck. One can either: (1) download BOOTCAMP and set up a duel boot system with Windows 7 or (2) purchase Parallels and run Windows under the Mac operating system. In either case, one can run Explorer under Windows.

    Certainly a pain in the ass for a one shot application such as the ACS, considering that one has to purchase Windows separately. I also don’t know if Microsoft will provide support for a Windows system running on a Mac.

  34. 34
    LewisX

    I have not been able to reproduce this at http://www.coveroregon.com/ using PC Chrome or Firefox. Generally the experience is smooth, if a little anodyne and forms seems to behave well in both browsers. Can anyone else verify this story or at least provide a URL where this text about using IE is found? Is the site really a living hell for mac safari users? Maybe I am being a little too suspicious but so far none of this adds up but perhaps I am missing the blindingly obvious.

  35. 35
    LewisX

    Re my #34. To be clear: I am wondering if this buzzfeed article is total bullshit and a smear.

  36. 36
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    As someone who has lived in oregon, I can tell you unequivocally that there are libraries where no IE is in sight.

    It’s one thing to make a business website where your customers are other businesses and have them use a crappy browser (or even a great browser, but one that they don’t want to use).

    This website IS FOR THE POOR. We don’t all have computers. I admit, it’s common nowadays to have and use computers, but there are people under 65 who don’t. I used a library computer for years & i’m smart, had a job, etc.

    This is not a situation where your target audience is always sophisticated troubleshooters who can download a new browser. It either it works on the library computer, or it doesn’t. If the latter, they take up librarians’ time (public employee time) trying to make it work. Then it’s either completely broken (at least, to the extent that librarians are no more allowed to install new software on a whim than the visitors are) or assistance works, but we paid a public employee to register them, and probably as much as we would pay a telephone registration worker. Possibly more.

    This is a travesty. The saving grace is that rural libraries are more likely to use IE, so at least the people who are turned away from the website are slightly more likely to be in a locale where getting to a completely different library system isn’t out of the question.

  37. 37
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @colnago80

    If you’re poor and running a mac b/c it’s a hand-me-down or a library computer,

    Well, actually having a Mac may not leave one totally shit out of luck. One can either: (1) download BOOTCAMP and set up a duel boot system with Windows 7 or (2) purchase Parallels and run Windows under the Mac operating system. In either case, one can run Explorer under Windows.

    is not any help at all. This is great technical exploration, but – and I’ve now seen the info that this whole article might be false – if this is a real problem, the answer is a whole lot more than, “Sure you can have the insurance you desperately need, just buy Parallels!”

  38. 38
    narciblog

    I have not been able to reproduce this at http://www.coveroregon.com/

    I can. The problem is not that they screwed up a web form. It took me forever to find it, but the application on this page loads a (2.4 MB!) PDF form with a big blue submit button at the bottom. That seems to be the form that doesn’t work in anything other than IE.

  39. 39
    LewisX

    narciblog @38. Thank you. That nails it and the buzzfeed article is right. This is an appalling, systematic way of obstructing people’s access to such a vital service, whether intentional or not.

  40. 40
    LewisX

    Interestingly it is not the coveroregon.com site that is technically limiting access but the oregon government run site: https://apps.state.or.us/mbs/landing.jspx. My guess is that other healthcare providers would link to a similar page, on the same site, with their logo up at the top.

  41. 41
    A. Noyd

    I use Firefox or my iPad (Safari) for most of my browsing, but there is one thing that IE does well that makes it useful for me: it allows me to set input language for each tab separately. If I’m doing some serious multilingual lookup (such as translating or writing something in Japanese), then it’s awesome not to have to keep toggling input language between English and Japanese whenever I swap tabs.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    00001000bit (#27)

    Mobile browsers (iPad, iPhone, Android) have come on strong in the last two years, and shouldn’t be ignored.

    Just so long as the people catering to mobile browsers avoid goddamn fucking Onswipe. I hate that shit.

  42. 42
    ck

    To be honest, most people who are poor don’t end up buying Macs, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that Bootcamp/Parallels thing. I think the bigger problem is that many people who are poor may just have a phone as their internet connection device these days, and the two most popular mobile phone OSes use either Safari or Chrome (or webkit) as their web browser engine.

  43. 43
    timberwoof

    It does not matter that Internet Exploder “is still about 60% of the desktop market share”. That figure represents two or three separate lineages of internal IE code development, each of which breaks differently and thus has to be tested separately from the others if you do any kind of fancy-schmantzy page design. Perfectly functional and attractive web pages that get the job done with a minimum of fuss and bother can be made with 13-year-old web technology that works everywhere and is really, really fast.

    Well, you’ll have to make do without some essential web page features such as … well, for a businesslike web page that gives and takes information, I can’t think of any. I don’t need Donkey jumping up and down in the background screaming, “Click me! Click me!”

    Failure to design and test for a wide variety of web browsers is, IMNSHO, breach of contract. Any competent web site design house knows how to do that.

  44. 44
    iknklast

    That may be the norm nowadays (though not necessarily Microsoft). We discovered when we installed our new online teaching software that it won’t work with Internet Explorer, which is what most of our students have. It was designed on Mozilla Firefox, and so we have to use Firefox whether we like it or not – and when we complain that it takes 3 strokes to do what you can do in one stroke on Explorer, we just get a shrug. Oh well. So we submit to the tyranny of the software designers who don’t design them broadly enough to work with a wide variety of browsers and give people the choice of which works best for them.

  45. 45
    boskerbonzer

    If you’re not in any particular hurry, you can, like the site says, print out the application, fill it out and mail it in. “You may apply for coverage online, or you may also fill out a paper application, which you can download from the website or request by contacting Cover Oregon at 1-855-CoverOR (1-855-268-3767).”
    Although granted, this information should be printed in huge, blinking, scrolling lettering on the page where people are trying to fill in the application.

  46. 46
    Rich Woods

    @Naked Bunny #23:

    Hey, I’m not even a web programmer. I’ve only coded a few small test sites. That’s how I know that someone has to go out of their way to break a “submit” button.

    A failure like that most likely comes about because of the client-side validation routines they are running. A half-decent application would check the form data client-side to provide the best user experience, if at all able, but still fail gracefully to allow the server-side validation to pick up and highlight problems by return. A fully-decent application would work client-side on all of the mainstream browsers released in the last four years (yes, IE6 can — and should — go hang) and also work on the most common current mobile platforms/client combinations.

    The thing is, once you’ve developed this code once, along with the implementation rules and test packs to go with it, it can be re-used time and time again, and needs only minimal upkeep. There’s really no excuse for a public agency to be contracting out such a web development function to any specialist private company which hasn’t already developed proven code (whatever their underlying platform). After all, that would help make development both fast and cheap — unless the company planned to rip the agency off by imposing dubious licencing fees.

  47. 47
    Rich Woods

    @iknklast #44:

    We discovered when we installed our new online teaching software that it won’t work with Internet Explorer, which is what most of our students have.

    I’m sorry, but I have to ask: why wasn’t this discovered earlier? If you approach a number of companies to provide a software solution, they should be able to say which elements of their software match your requirements and which don’t. You get to question anything suspicious (there’ll always be something). Even when you’ve whittled the tenders down to the final two or three, you should have them install a testbed which you can do your very best to break. The final choice should be tested with a pilot project, so you can determine which real-world activities weren’t necessarily accounted for in your testing-to-destruction attempts (each approach can easily uncover something which the other might well not).

    Having said that, you have my complete sympathy if you were pushed into trying to support a package which had been bought by someone who earns more than you do and who has a budget and a Dunning-Kreuger level of knowledge. Been there, seen that. Laughed out loud and told them (politely) to fuck off.

  48. 48
    Rich Woods

    Krueger, idiot! It’s an ‘e’ after an omitted umlaut.

    I walked into that one.

  49. 49
    carolineborduin

    I just tried to post an event on two of my local TV stations websites with Chrome – among other things, the SUBMIT button didn’t work. At the Oregon website warns you to use another browser – government is so much better at IT than corporations. Snark, that was snark.

  50. 50
    trucreep

    @9 sqlrob

    Nice ;]

  51. 51
    Moggie

    This is a surprise, since government IT projects are normally so well run.
    /snark

  52. 52
    Gregory in Seattle

    @narciblog #38 – Ah. THAT is a problem I have encountered. The problem actually resides in the PDF browser plugin: the IE plugin allows PDF documents to run Javascript, while the equivalent plugins for Firefox, Chrome and the do not, because allowing documents to execute code independently is a huge gaping hole in security. If this is what the issue is, then Buzz Feed completely misrepresented the situation.

    I have a pro version of Acrobat, so I wouldn’t have any problem with the document despite using Firefox: I could download it, open it in Acrobat, say “Yes, I want to let it run Javascript”, and proceed. I’m not sure if Acrobat Reader allows scripting; probably not.

  53. 53
    colnago80

    Re #37

    If you are not interested in having both OSX and Windows operating at the same time, you don’t have to purchase Parallels. BOOTCAMP comes free with the Mac operating system. The problem is that one has to purchase Windows separately, a $200 item (last time I checked, Parallels was $79 in addition to Windows). I don’t think this is in any way, shape, form, or regard a “good” solution but may be the only recourse if one is a Mac user (actually, one might be able to rent a Windows machine for the requisite time for less then $200 or use an Internet cafe site).

  54. 54
    sirbedevere

    I’m not surprised. The U.S. Copyright Office “Electronic Copyright Registration” web site, which I use frequently, works only with IE and Firefox. Better than IE alone but still unacceptable web design in 2013.

  55. 55
    iknklast

    Rich Woods @47: Because the decisions on which programs to use are made by different people than actually do the computer support, who are totally different from those who actually use the program. The program had already been chosen and contracted before either our IT guys or the instructors knew there was going to be a change. They ran no test classes through it; the only tests were done on the administrative side, to see if the software worked for the administrative functions. The people making the decisions have no real contact with students or faculty, and don’t ask what is needed. They get starry eyed from some salesman selling them a piece of glitz, and don’t check much further. We were told all the wonderful new things this program would do by people who had no clue that the program we already had could do those same things, and in some cases easier and faster. The ACA program may have been handled in the same way, because decision makers are often separated from end users by an enormous chasm, even if they’re in the next office over.

  56. 56
    atterdag

    I’m a software engineer, and I am pretty sure I know where the IE restriction comes from. The vast majority of commercial workstations run Windows; therefore, the odds are that the creators of the web site are using Microsoft tools to develop it. Microsoft has created a great set of tools that make it very fast and easy to create web sites and databases. The problem is these tools are designed for Microsoft products, and intentionally exclude other technologies; most importantly, they exclude standards. If Microsoft followed standards, then it would allow people to use software other than theirs. They don’t want to make it easy for their customers to flee to other systems, bad for business. Given the tight schedules and budgets that both businesses and governments are operating under, I am not surprised they took the quick and dirty approach.

  57. 57
    Pteryxx

    QFT everything Crip Dyke said at #36, in huge blinking letters.

    This website IS FOR THE POOR. We don’t all have computers. I admit, it’s common nowadays to have and use computers, but there are people under 65 who don’t. I used a library computer for years & i’m smart, had a job, etc.

    This is not a situation where your target audience is always sophisticated troubleshooters who can download a new browser. It either it works on the library computer, or it doesn’t. If the latter, they take up librarians’ time (public employee time) trying to make it work. Then it’s either completely broken (at least, to the extent that librarians are no more allowed to install new software on a whim than the visitors are) or assistance works, but we paid a public employee to register them, and probably as much as we would pay a telephone registration worker. Possibly more.

    This is a travesty. The saving grace is that rural libraries are more likely to use IE, so at least the people who are turned away from the website are slightly more likely to be in a locale where getting to a completely different library system isn’t out of the question.

    Several of the rural libraries that I’ve used, in multiple states, use Firefox BECAUSE then they can use free open-source security software and ad blockers to protect their systems from malware and bandwidth hogging when the less savvy library patrons fall for scam sites, click on ads or whatnot. IE itself doesn’t cost extra, but the programs that play well with it often do. (And I’m reporting this because I *ask* libraries about their software choices, and that’s what three different librarians in three states have told me.)

    narciblog #38

    It took me forever to find it, but the application on this page loads a (2.4 MB!) PDF form

    *headdesk*

    …I’ll just repeat my usual rant here about how a great many folks in the rural US (HI THERE!) or even in the edges of cities don’t have access to highspeed and may be trying to get health insurance over dial-up.

  58. 58
    fentex

    60% of the desktop market share actually browsing the internet.

    Not anymore – it’s no more than 30% today and Chrome has a larger share.

    I don’t care what percentage of the market uses IE. It’s the very worst browser out there.

    I disagree (as a professional web application developer), now that IE6 can be ignored and the vast majority of IE installations are 8 or better Firefox is now the worst of the common browsers with the most gotchas and requirements for special consideration.

    These days however there’s little reason to care about what browser is in use as the common standards shared by them are more than adequate to produce reliable performance across all browsers with ease.

    Not being able to do so, requiring a specific browser, is incompetence of uncommon mean these days.

  59. 59
    AJ Milne

    I must confess I’ve written code that would probably support everything of any recentish vintage but IE…

    … it’s not so much an effort at balancing the world, as it is they were admin interfaces only I’m ever going to use, and I don’t use IE, so it’s not like there’s much point in adding that extra code to scripts. I mean, I do theoretically have one not-belonging-to-the-employer machine with it installed, but haven’t booted it into Windows in, umm…

    ( … counts on fingers… takes off shoes… counts on toes…)

    Well, a while, anyway.

    … still seriously, people, let’s give Microsoft some credit here…

    Yep. I expect IE is still a pretty decent browser for downloading some other browser.

    And yes, I’m afraid that was mandatory.

  60. 60
    lorn

    I think you nailed it on the first try: Sabotage.

    Of course there is some chance that energy and dedication was lacking simply because so many people in the business community, hoping against hope, thought/wished the ACA program would be defunded, cancelled, and the software they were contracted to write would never be delivered. Natural that here would be foot dragging.

    Besides, why work hard to get a program you are ideologically against working? They know that being a private business delivering to the ‘gang that couldn’t shoot straight’, a claim so common it is accepted as a given, that people are already primed to blame any failure entirely on the Obama administration. There is no down side to failure. Failure, in this case, being less a bug and more a feature, because sticking it to Obama is a great way to get in good with a a lot of very wealthy people.

  61. 61
    ekwhite

    LewisX@34 & 35:

    It is not Buzzfeed bs. I was able to find the page in less than a minute using my androis tablet.

  62. 62
    ck

    It’s sabotage only in the sense that the practice of blindly granting contracts to the lowest bidder is practically a guarantee that a relatively poor product will be delivered.

  63. 63
    ricko

    Unbound, #6:

    Two of those, IE and Chrome DON’T work on the Mac. Chrome MAY after their next update, but the latest one doesn’t.

  64. 64
    JCB

    ricko, #63

    Two of those, IE and Chrome DON’T work on the Mac. Chrome MAY after their next update, but the latest one doesn’t.

    Chrome does work on Mac. I’m using it on my Mac right now, and I’ve been using it as my primary browser for almost two years. Some quick research shows that the first stable release for Mac was in May 2010.

  65. 65
    macallan

    So if you have a MAC, you are shit out of luck.

    Good luck connecting to anything at all without a Media Access Controller. Unless you’re on dialup you’re shit out of luck.

  66. 66
    bortedwards

    Not limited to local governments.
    I just went through the trauma of getting a J1 visa to work in the US. One of the online forms for large gov department (sorry, can’t remember which, and not digging back to work it out) required an application fee, which after filling out 5 pages of application blithely told me I needed IE to submit payment. I was on a mac. In a department of macs. I had to drive to my parents place and do it all again on their PC.
    “Welcome to the US, home of 1990s compatibility”

  67. 67
    Rip Steakface

    I’m 100% with PZ, and that’s even as someone who doesn’t use anything Apple (I’ll set aside any issues I have with Apple and just go with I don’t like how it feels, alright?), or Firefox. I’m a Google guy, using Chrome as my browser on my Android phone and my computer, so it would leave me completely stumped as to why the fuck they would require IE.

    I can happily inform everyone that WA’s exchange isn’t so… backwards. Works fine on Chrome (and probably Safari too), and the site design isn’t too terrible (though it could be a bit better).

  68. 68
    Kristjan Wager

    This is a surprise, since government IT projects are normally so well run.

    Moggie @51, FTFY. The biggest failures I’ve been part of, have all been private sector IT projects.

    Ah. THAT is a problem I have encountered. The problem actually resides in the PDF browser plugin: the IE plugin allows PDF documents to run Javascript, while the equivalent plugins for Firefox, Chrome and the do not, because allowing documents to execute code independently is a huge gaping hole in security. If this is what the issue is, then Buzz Feed completely misrepresented the situation.

    @Gregory in Seattle @51, yes that would also be my take on it after hearing where the problem occurs. Someone seems to be trying to make up stories about the site.

  69. 69
    DanDare

    There is no excuse for this. Every web developer should write pages that work on all major browsers. That itself is incredibly easy and every developer I know does so as a matter of course.

    If you want to use a feature supported on only a few browsers then have a fallback for the browsers that don’t use it.

    Its disgraceful and embarrassing to the profession that anyone these days would write such rubbish in a major web site.

  70. 70
    gillt

    PZ:

    I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist, but this is so ridiculous and such bad design that I’m thinking sabotage.

    hahah, how naive. You’ve obviously little to no experience working with our federal government. For instance, as part of the hiring process at NOAA there are many online forms all of which warn of massive failure if not run through IE. But that’s not all…online access had to be on a PC! I balked of course and almost delayed my hire date.

  71. 71
    Kagehi

    Actually, no it is not. The release cycles of IE means that it gets outdated faster than the other browsers, but it is a quite decent browser these days, if you don’t want to user plugins (which most internet users don’t). Also, it is quite good at following standards these days (unlike how it was in the past).

    Don’t judge IE on how it used to be back in the IE 6 days.

    This would be all well and good if the people writing f-ing websites actually followed the standards, instead of going, “Ooh! Lets use this special thingy that only IE does, which is not even close to standard, and then, just to be real piss heads, not include free, standardized, patch libraries, to work around the problems.” You know, the ones where you drop in a line sort of like “#include bunghole_patch”, and the patch looks around goes, “Ah, they are actually using Chrome, but the page is set up for IE, so I need to, instead of just tossing them the page as is, include this bit of Javascript, which “adds in” a version, using actual “standards”, which will more or less work as intended.

    You know.. sort of like having a switch for 50hz, and an adapter for a three prong plug, because, well, everyone isn’t from the US, so… you might otherwise have a problem plugging in to a power outlet, if you, say… visit any other part of the planet. Its called “an adapter”!

    Hmm. Was that a bit aggressive.. must be blog withdrawal. Another bunch of dimwits managed to break something between the local node, and my house, then a) couldn’t find the problem, b) insisted there couldn’t possibly be a problem, and c) didn’t follow up on it, until 4 days later, *after* I called them to say, “It still isn’t bloody working!” So, now I have some sort of amplifier, which I didn’t need 7-8 days ago, before I started getting glitches, and finally had the modem just stop connecting to their network.

    Pretty sure they clowns went to the same “telecommunications” school as the ones writing these web pages. :p lol

  72. 72
    carinade almeida

    Well it certainly is clear that they did not have a Business Analyst on this Project *smirk*. Had there been one this problem would have been anticipated early on in the elicitation process and documented in the Non Funtional Requirements section of the Requirements Documentation.
    PS Heathens make for excellent analysts!

  73. 73
    Bawgh Bawgh

    Speaking as a developer, who has worked along-side CGI several times in the past, I think it’s pretty silly to come up with a conspiracy theory. Isn’t there an old saying, something like “don’t assume a conspiracy when incompetence explains it all” ?

  74. 74
    fraedrill

    Allow me to humbly submit something that beats this:

    This is the actual page giving advice to benefit claimants in the UK. Well done Iain Duncan Smith.
    http://www.dwp.gov.uk/eservice/need.asp

    Some extracts:

    The service does not work properly with Macs or other Unix-based systems even though you may be able to input information.

    You are likely to have problems if you use Internet Explorer 7, 8, 9 and 10, Windows Vista or a smartphone.

    There is also a high risk that if you use browsers not listed below, including Chrome, Safari or Firefox, the service will not display all the questions you need to answer. This is likely to prevent you from successfully completing or submitting the form.

    What the service was designed to work with
    The service was designed to work with the following operating systems and browsers. Many of these are no longer available.

  75. 75
    Carlitos@LX

    Fun fact:
    Most of these IE only sites only work with newer versions of IE (9 and up) because of the magic of “compatibility mode” (Microsoft actually mantains a list of these sites to mostly make sure they don’t break hopelessly when people update IE).

    Also, if you think there’s no excuse for this, you’ve obviously never worked on a tight budget. When you have to get the job done for yesterday, for cheap, oh and it absolutely must run on IE 8, trust me on this, you get stuff like this, and things much much worse.

    Also, also, more and more, you see sites that specifically target WebKit, not really the W3C standards, because that’s what Safari and Chrome use, and those are the browsers that all the cool devs use, all the while shouting “STANDARDS! STANDARDS! STANDARDS! STANDARDS!”.

  76. 76
    Kagehi

    Actually.. Webkit, while currently only in those browsers, is likely to end up “in” the standard at some point. In actual reality, every browser has either features they support, that *are* in the standard, that the rest don’t, or only partly support, or are “sort of” in the standard, but still experimental. I read up on this a while back, trying to work out a simple way to do some graphics tricks (which later I gave up on due to other, entirely non-browser related issues. Basically… pages don’t “autoload” for people in the virtual world, so even though the client supports webkit, I can’t actually have any of it run the animation I need, as soon as someone enters the room its in.).

    The only way, even with HTML5 to do the same thing, at all, is often idiotic, overly complicated, or basically impossible, without like.. building an entire graphics engine in Javascript (and making it slower than hell in the process). The problem has always been, on some level that the people deciding what the standards should have in them are not the people writing the browsers. The effect of this is that none of them “meet” the standard, but mostly, they all get way closer now than they used to.

    Webkit, right now.. is kind of in the “experimental”, but “working very well” stage. Its unlikely to remain non-standard for very long, given the range of things it does that either can’t be done, or require way more work to achieve.

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