US State Dept. workers beg Clinton for Firefox

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US State Dept. workers beg Clinton for Firefox

US State Department workers have begged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to let them use Firefox.

“Can you please let the staff use an alternative web browser called Firefox?” worker bee Jim Finkle asked Clinton during Friday’s State Department town hall meeting (http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/july/125949.htm).

“I just moved to the State Department from the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and was surprised that State doesn’t use this browser. It was approved for the entire intelligence community, so I don’t understand why State can’t use it. It’s a much safer program.”

Presumably, the State Department is using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. And we wouldn’t be surprised if it’s still mired in the eight-year-old IE6. The only thing that moves slower than Orange (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/07/08/orange_and_ie6/) is a US government agency. But the State Department has yet to respond to our questions about its Firefox-less browsing mandate.

Finkle’s fellow workers responded to his Firefox request with applause. While Clinton responded with bewilderment. “Well, apparently, there’s a lot of support for this suggestion. I don’t know the answer. Pat, do you know the answer?” she said, turning to under Secretary Pat Kennedy.

“The answer is, at the moment: It’s an expense question,” Kennedy said. Then someone in the audience pointed out that Firefox is free.

4 Responses to US State Dept. workers beg Clinton for Firefox

  1. You misrepresented the response by cutting off the article too soon.

    “Nothing is free,” Kennedy responded. “It’s a question of the resources to manage multiple systems. It is something we’re looking at…It has to be administered. The patches have to be loaded. It may seem small, but when you’re running a worldwide operation and trying to push, as the Secretary rightly said, out FOBs [for remote log-ins] and other devices, you’re caught in the terrible bind of triage of trying to get the most out that you can, but knowing you can’t do everything at once.”

  2. Haha he has a good sense of humor though.

  3. Even though Firefox is free, its total cost of ownership isn’t. For every additional supported browser, testing websites takes longer, more security vulnerabilities open up, and the sysadmins lose power that they enjoy over everyone in a company. Of course, no webpage should have ever been designed for IE alone. The only way to ensure security and minimize costs is to design based on the W3C specifications–but even that costs more money than just slapping a few lines of HTML and ECMAScript together. At this point, Firefox isn’t a free solution, but nor is any other solution like Opera, Safari, or Chrome.

  4. Gerard Gallucci

    I served in the State Department’s eDiplomacy office on and off from 2002 to 2005 and heard all the excuses from our IT and security people for not using Firefox. Some of them are repeated above. But what it really came down to, I came to believe, is the tremendous resistance to change on the part of folks invested in the reward and benefit system used by Microsoft to maintain support for continued use of MS product by large organizations. MS provides “certificates” and trainings plus freebies that hook the systems people in. And frankly, lots of folks have been doing MS for so long that that is all they know. Microsoft is a monopoly that has been broken in the free market, in the free world. But inside State it might as well still be 1984.