November 28, 2004
Dear Wells Fargo,
As a web designer, I understand the cost and frustration that goes into supporting the numerous web browsers out in the field. I understand that as a business, Wells Fargo needs to draw the line at some point regarding browser compatibility, lest you blow your entire web budget trying to support an ancient web browser used by 0.1 percent of your online audience.
However, it is with a heavy heart that I contact you today, regarding the announcement that my favorite web browser will no longer be supported by your service. Today I received a message from the Wells Fargo website that my browser will soon be retired from your secure service, and to continue my online banking uninterrupted I will need to “download a more recent, supported version of [my] favorite browser.”
“What browser are you using?” you may ask. Certainly I must be using an ancient or horribly archaic web browser, to have your robust system recommend that I upgrade for “security reasons.” I regret to inform you that my “favorite” web browser is a great program named Opera, and I am currently using version 7.54. This version was released mere months ago, and it is the most recent version of Opera available. One of the most beautiful things about Opera is its platform independency; if a website executes correctly in Opera for Windows, you can rest assured that it works on the Macintosh and Linux platforms as well. Opera is available as a free download at http://www.opera.com/.
Now, I must give Wells Fargo props where props are due. The inclusion of Safari in your list of recommended browsers was a very kind move. Safari’s compliance with web standards is top-notch, and I appreciate your effort to support the web standards movement in this regard. Before anything else, however, your support for Safari was likely a necessary political move. Since Microsoft announced that it will no longer develop (or support) Internet Explorer on the Macintosh platform, it was indeed necessary for Wells Fargo to support something on the Mac, lest you be accused of shutting out a large population of internet users from your service.
What’s also curious is that you suggest that people upgrade to the most recent version of Netscape, notwithstanding the fact that the entire Netscape development staff was laid off in 2003 and the browser is no longer being actively maintained by AOL (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netscape_Navigator). Nay, as far as browser upgrades go, Netscape trails far behind the code base for the Mozilla and Firefox web browsers, which are two choices that aren’t even mentioned in your recommendations.
One would think that the uncertain future of Netscape would make it an undesirable upgrade path for your users. However, if you are willing and able to support Netscape, why not Mozilla or Firefox? Recent versions of all three browsers share the same code structure. The only difference between Netscape and Mozilla/Firefox is that Mozilla and Firefox are actively maintained and upgraded by a passionate community, whereas Netscape is only upgraded when politics at AOL demand as such.
Thus, I highly recommend you include Firefox 1.0 in your proposed list of supported browsers. Firefox is available as a free download for the Windows, Macintosh and Linux platforms at http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/.
What’s more, you cite security concerns as the primary force behind your request that people upgrade their web browsers. If this is indeed the case, why do you still choose to support Internet Explorer, which has the worst track record for security in all current browsers? A Google search on "internet explorer security vulnerabilities" will return nearly a million pages (now showing 1.9 million pages — ed.), and none of them are particularly optimistic.
Even with the numerous security patches issued by Microsoft, Internet Explorer is still riddled with security problems. These problems are by design, unfortunately, as Internet Explorer’s tight integration with the Windows operating system actually requires that the browser be vulnerable to security risks.
The lack of security in Internet Explorer will be a chronic illness until people upgrade to web browsers that are independent of their operating system. Browsers like Safari, Firefox and Opera are secure because they were designed to be web browsers, and only web browsers. They do one thing, and they do it well.
Please take these suggestions into consideration, and I look forward to hearing your response.
P.S. Oh, and one more thing. Your browser test, at http://www.wellsfargo.com/help/wfonline/browsertest.jhtml, incorrectly identified my web browser. Even though I accessed your site using Opera 7.54, it identified my browser as Netscape 4.78. If I cannot trust Wells Fargo to correctly identify which web browser I am using, how can I trust Wells Fargo with my online banking?