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No Chrome, No Firefox: Why Chinese Online Banking Still Requires Internet Explorer

china-banking-firefox-chromeBanks in any country aren’t generally known for being on the technological cutting edge — my American bank’s banking platform is still pretty ugly, for example — but Chinese banks really take the cake. Many haven’t updated their systems in years, their sites can be a nightmare to navigate, and oh yeah: almost all of them will only work with Internet Explorer (or IE-based forks like the 360 Safe Browser).

An investigation by a reporter at China’s IT Times last year found that most Chinese online banks only supported a few IE-based browsers, and that support for Chrome and Firefox was uncommon. In a follow-up investigation published yesterday to see what had changed in the intervening year, the paper concludes that things are basically still the same, and that most of China’s major banks still don’t have online platforms that work well (or at all) with Chrome or Firefox.

Why? The short answer is laziness. When many of these platforms were being created originally, Internet Explorer was the dominant browser and many Chinese banks opted to use Microsoft’s ActiveX software framework in the security systems for their online banking platforms. Because ActiveX is proprietary Microsoft technology, it’s not supported in Chrome, Firefox, and many other third-party browsers, and China’s banks apparently aren’t interested in spending the time and money it would take to completely revamp their systems with new technology that works across platforms.

Chinese consumers are also somewhat to blame, as demand for online banking in other browsers is growing but remains low compared to what it might be in other countries. As many as one quarter of China’s internet users are still using the very-outdated IE 6, and many of China’s other market-leading browsers (like the aforementioned 360 Safe Browser) are IE-based.

If enough customers demand it, presumably many banks will upgrade their systems to permit more browsers access. But as things stand now, online banking — which is a pretty fundamental cornerstone of e-commerce — is a pretty unfriendly prospect for Chrome and Firefox users, and if the lack of progress over the past year is any indication, it seems like things will stay that way. The good news is that things look better for the mobile platform, where HTML5 development (supported by all browsers) is increasingly popular for standalone apps and mobile websites.

(IT Times via Sina Tech)


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