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Less than PEACH-y: UK's plant export IT system only works with Internet Explorer

You know, the browser used by 0.34% of netizens nowadays

A key British border IT system used by plant and seed exporters is so ancient that it will only work with Internet Explorer – which was deprecated by Microsoft last year and is used by relatively few people.

The snappily named Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) says horticultural companies moving produce from Britain to the European Union must use the PEACH IT system to register their goods in advance.

Just one snag: the system will only work properly with Internet Explorer – and even if you're using the latest, on-life-support version 11 of IE, you have to run PEACH in backwards compatibility mode because the software dates from the 2000s.

Defra's PEACH system, seen today

Defra's PEACH system, seen today. Click to enlarge

The PEACH homepage says: "PEACH is only compatible with Internet Explorer. If you are using Internet Explorer 11 it will only work with the compatibility view enabled."

The Statcounter website, which tracks browser usage, reckoned at the time of writing that Internet Explorer had a worldwide usage share of just 0.46 per cent in December 2021.

Defra had not responded to The Register's request for comment by the time of publication, though we understand from the department that it encourages importers and exporters to use its IPAFFS system, recently described as "medieval."

PEACH is an older but still-in-use system that provides similar functionality to IPAFFS, though in 2019 the National Audit Office warned that it risked not being delivered on time or "to acceptable quality." Both IT systems are used to comply with EU rules requiring the prior registration and certification of "horticultural, planting material and plant-related goods" being exported from Britain to the political bloc.

Back in 2019 Microsoft warned that keeping IE running just for "that one, weird app" was a bad move. Three years later it seems that Defra hasn't got the message, having seemingly kept PEACH online in substantially identical format since at least 2006, if the Internet Archive's first working snapshot of it is to be believed.

The Internet Archive's July 2006 screenshot of Defra's PEACH

The Internet Archive's July 2006 screenshot of Defra's PEACH

Almost all major browsers nowadays are built on Google's Chromium engine, Microsoft having controversially abandoned the field to Google in 2018 with its Edge reskin of Chromium. Redmond announced in May last year that support for Internet Explorer 11 will end on 15 June.

Anyone using it after that date is on their own as far as security and usability upgrades go – and even at the time we noted that just 1 per cent of web users were surfing the information superhighway's subterranean clouds through IE11, everyone else being on full-fat Google Chrome or diet Microsoft Chrome. Sorry, we mean Windows 10's default browser Edge.

Defra may or may not have plans to make PEACH compatible with 2020s browsers. If any modernisation plan exists and Defra tells us about it, we will update this article accordingly. ®

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