Firefox and banks

09 February, 2005

At some time in the distant past my Dad worked for Playboy Casinos and recently he heard that there was going to be some kind of reunion for ex-staff, but not knowing any details he decided to look it up on the internet (where he uses Internet Explorer). The first thing he did was to type ‘Playboy’ into Google. You can imagine the rest of his day, closing popup after popup whilst trying to find the right site. In the end the popups won – they were appearing faster than he could close them so he gave up, turned the computer off and didn’t bother looking again.

Whilst visiting few weeks later, and having heard this story of woe, my little brother decided to try and help. First of all he installed Ad-aware and scanned the computer which removed around 250 ‘suspicious’ items. Then he installed Firefox and helped my dad find the information he was looking for, popup-less. He set Firefox to be the default browser and left my dad to it (a few weeks another relative visited and removed the remaining ~50 items that had hidden themselves).

The problem is that, as non-tech savvy as my dad is, he does actually use internet banking and his bank, Nationwide, don’t support Firefox and so he had to return to IE.

On Nationwide’s “technical requirements” page (oh yes indeed) they say that Mozilla (up to version 1.6 not including Firefox) is Functionally supported. Mozilla 1.6? That’s pretty recent isn’t it? According to it came out in Jan ’04, and a month later Firefox was at 0.8, so I can’t possibly imagine why they don’t support Firefox (were there really major differences between the two?).

Whilst he was happy to make the transition to another browser, there’s absolutely no way he’s going to spend his time trying to remember which sites work in which browser, so it’s back to IE he goes, armed with a popup-blocker. Of course, that won’t solve all his problems, and at some point the machine will lock up again due to some IE exploit (they never download the Windows updates because they’re on dial-up) and someone will need to go down and fix it. And all for the want of Firefox support (ahem, mostly :).

A bit of further investigation (although, admittedly, not too deep – I don’t plan on opening a bank account just to find out what’s broken, and my dad lives over 200 miles away) revealed this little gem on Martin’s blog:

The Nationwide online banking site works fine in any browser. In fact, I highly recommend the service. Not only have they continually improved the interface to make it more simple and less graphical (there’s hardly any images), but you can now transfer money between your own accounts instantly (no clearing), pay bills and set up standing orders.

The only thing that doesn’t work on Mozilla Firefox is a javascript dialog box which appears when you log off prompting you to restart the browser. However, as this is probably only designed to avoid security holes in ie, I’m not bothered that it doesn’t work in Mozilla.

posted by: Frankie Roberto on July 10, 2004 10:21 PM

Could they really be not claiming support for Firefox just for that? It would seem so. Walking my dad through installing a user-agent spoofer over the phone is out of the question, so it’s IE only for him from now on, and a Firefox user lost. Things like this must happen every day, and it’s really tragic that someone who could really be helped by the features of Firefox is denied by the writers of the website.

To be fair to Nationwide, they’ve clearly set out what the requirements are, and do actually provide some support for Gecko browsers (albeit a browser that’s a year old, although that’s nothing in IE-years!), as well as handheld devices (not much luck for Opera though – they support all versions except 6.01 to 6.04 and 7, so that’s all the good ones then), but with the ever-increasing number of Firefox installations, can they (and other major websites) continue to justify not updating their sites?

See other posts tagged with general and all posts made in February 2005.


10 February, 2005 at 16:59

You mention user agent spoofing, but it’s not difficult to install. There is an extension you can have him install that should be simple enough. If you don’t already know about it, the link is:

I hope it helps. Sorry for the anonymous posting. I didn’t want to register with Blogger.

zxfiles AT yahoo DOT com

10 February, 2005 at 17:16

Yeah, I know the one, but really, it’s just not worth it 🙂

If I was there in person it might be a differenet matter! 🙂

10 February, 2005 at 18:34

How about installing View in IE? If you get to a complaining page like the bank you right click and then click ‘View this page in IE’

What the {insert explative} could the bank possibly be doing that needs IE only?

Reams of Firefox tips on my site.

10 February, 2005 at 19:45

ActiveX maybe? Some DHTML menus? Who knows?

Yes, ‘View in IE’ is a possibility. I forget that it’s an extension and it’s not actually built into Firefox 🙂

11 February, 2005 at 19:27

In fact, even that’s probably not enough since it may well redirect you through to an error page, so clicking “open this site in IE” will literally just take you to that error page, whereas it would really need to actually go to the desired page.

Anything more than one step is just not viable.

I’m so hard to please 🙂

11 February, 2005 at 20:49

I work for a bank, though not yours.

The product managers for our online banking aren’t willing to declare a browser as ‘supported’ until everything works perfectly. So one logoff confirmation dialog would be enough to ‘not support’ firefox.

Having said that, we don’t block access at all, more trouble than it’s worth.

12 February, 2005 at 01:17

Anon: Really? wow, that is interesting! I guess if it’s financial, they can’t take any chances!

16 February, 2005 at 15:06

” Anon: Really? wow, that is interesting! I guess if it’s financial, they can’t take any chances!”

Yep – I used to be an IT auditor for 2 banks (not yours), and for a while we would only support IE – because that was the only browser that had been tested to death on the system (as it was the most popular browser). We were not going to let anything go live is it was not flawless.

You should have seen the looks I got when I would complain that they didn’t support Lynx – some of us are old skool dammit!

04 April, 2005 at 02:42

I’ve been using the nationwide site for years and I’ve never noticed any problems using FF or Mozilla for online banking.

05 April, 2005 at 14:30

Really? It was definitely rejecting Mozilla browsers when I looked, but maybe it was just a temporary thing.