Legacy Entrapment

Where does it all begin?  When does a pattern emerge?  How do we decide that one thing is better than another?  Why do we make the choices we do?

Obviously we can blame our parents first.  That which we know probably started with them.  Then we can blame the media and the Internet for the remaining bits.  We see, we do.  We like to copy that which we have seen.  If we see someone do something and it worked for them, then it should work for us.

This is the nature of primates.  The roots are deep.  It is hard to ignore those aspects of ourselves.  We see, we do.

Sometimes things are designed to be so easy to do it is hard to avoid them.  Once they are used, it is hard to stop.  Things like telephones and televisions come to mind.  Simplicity attracts use.  Use attracts others.  Soon, a large group of customers are avid fans of that which they use.

Enter the entrapment.  Once a user gets hooked on a way something works, the user expects it to always do certain things.  The momentum of the mind will accept minor deviations in future products but will not tolerate having its basic needs met.

Think about Internet Explorer.  It first came out in the mid 90s after the huge success of Netscape Navigator.  The first decent version was 3.0 which corresponded with Windows 95.  It was a perfect time to introduce a new program based on browsing the Internet.  The timing was great and so was the way it was delivered.  Instead of selling it as a separate product, it was included with Windows.  This ultimately changed the game and forced Netscape to focus on the server products over time.  Users got IE for free and were able to browse the web with their normal Windows.

Fast forward to 2011 and the introduction of IE 9.  The expectation for IE 9 was high and Microsoft has pushed it extensively.  It is the first Microsoft browser to support HTML 5 and it has things that probably should have been included in previous versions.  It promised to make things much better for the user.

Then something else happened.  First it was my wife.  One of her web sites that she visits stopped working.  It sounded odd.  Web sites usually do not break that way so quickly.  Things were missing and other things did not respond as expected.  It truly was unusable.  Searching for the problem found results with other people having the same problem with the same site (Blogger).  And, much to my surprise, there was no easy fix.  All of the people on the forum discovered that the only way to get it to work again was to go back to IE 8.

Then it became a question of how IE 9 showed up in the first place.  I had assumed that my wife had installed IE 9 to get the latest browser version.  This was untrue.  IE 9 arrived through Windows Updates.  This means that getting IE 9 was relatively automatic and not always easy to understand how to stop.

Users have found that when they get rid of IE 9 it just tries to install itself later on through the update process.  It is necessary to hide the update as well so it will leave you alone.

I probably spent at least an hour finding this out and going back to IE 8.  After the computer was switched to IE 8, everything worked again.  It was refreshing to see it work but also a bit disturbing that it happened in the first place.

Then, within a couple of weeks, two other people in the family reported similar problems with IE 9.  A pattern was emerging.  IE 9 was not that good at supporting what people were used to.   Now it was no longer just a personal experience but a shared experience.  Bottom line, forget IE 9.  Go back to IE 8.

Being that I still develop software, I find this idea a bit offensive.  The latest version is always supposed to be the best.  Anything that worked before should still work.  Expectations are that things should be better and not worse.

And then, I remember something else.  Software companies and developers are always under pressure to meet other non-user demands.  Perhaps there is a major security threat that needs to be addressed.  Perhaps the architect wants a complete re-design.  Maybe the developers just do not care about compatibility.  It could be any of these.  At some point the past is forgotten and the company produces something that it thinks is better but actually it does not work as the previous products worked.  Resistance is quick and continues to the point that could lead to a quick exodus to other products and companies.

Sometimes companies just get cocky.  IBM had the PS/2.  Intel had the Itanium.  Microsoft had Vista.  All of these things were supposed to be so much better.  Each of these had aspects that were great.  Unfortunately, they let people down.  With IBM and Intel, it could be argued that the changes were designed to better control the market.  The problem is that people are already committed to doing things a certain way and drastic changes lead to rebellion.  The common theme is a lack of compatibility leads to greatly reduced acceptance.

People are trapped in the patterns that they do.  It is hard to change based on the momentum of the investments made.  Learning a new story and forgetting the old one can be very painful.  It is made worse when the new story is not compelling enough to change for.

Legacy entrapment means that a develop is trapped into supporting the old ways as well as the new.  There is no easy way to get adoption without it.  The only decent way to have something completely different is to make the old ways look primitive AND be able to do it so much cheaper, simpler, and faster.  Not many people still play music on cassettes.  Not many people walk to their destinations.

To ignore how things work now is a fatal flaw.  We are stuck fully in legacy mode and anything new has to respect that.


Live near Brisbane, Australia. Software developer currently focused on iOS and Android. Avid Google Local Guide

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Posted in Internet Explorer, Microsoft, Observations
3 comments on “Legacy Entrapment
  1. Mr. X says:

    Since the Blogger issue was reported last year when IE9 was in beta, which means it was reported many months ago, perhaps you should be flogging Blogger (that is to say, Google) rather than Microsoft.

    • jeffreymuir says:

      This might be true. However, this was not the only issue discovered. The web is a very huge place and it gets a bit hard to declare that common places are wrong for IE 9.
      There has to be some tolerance for what already exists. It is hard for even Microsoft to get people to change things.
      It might be worthwhile to explore the nature of how this stuff is failing. The one I saw was based on not doing anything when a button was clicked. Others have complained that it puts things in strange places or not at all. It sounds like some more serious than just security updates.

  2. You could attribute this to the way software companies do business.. From a “solutions selling, human capital centric, labor intensive, ‘let me get you a quote so you can purchase it from Tech Data/Ingram Micro style” to an online decision tree that guides the system integrator to the best solution, click/click/click purchase, download the binaries/executables, emailed the license key, and “awayyyy you go” to profits. CITRIX does it one way, VMWARE the other. Which one matches to what style do you think? 🙂

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