Tech

South Africa's IRS built its own web browser so it could keep using Flash

Why migrate to newer technology when you can just sidestep the problem instead?

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South African Revenue Services (SARS), the country's tax collection agency, has come up with a novel — but inelegant — solution to get around Adobe sunsetting Flash at the end of last year. Instead of completing its planned migration to HTML 5, the organization has created its own web browser because many of the forms taxpayers need to use to submit their returns still rely on the obsolete standard.

Considering Flash was retired because of numerous problems with its security, and SARS' job is to handles sensitive, financial information about South African citizens, we're a little skeptical that this is the way to go. Moreover, as TechCentral, which first reported on the move notes, the browser is only available for Windows... so Mac users are going to have to lean on friends or family. It is kind of fitting there's no support for the devices popularized by Steve Jobs, though, given he's the same person who sounded the death knell for Flash.

On Sunday, SARS released a statement announcing the browser on its own website's landing page, before tweeting about it on Monday morning.

Critics are unimpressed — Unsurprisingly, Twitter users have expressed dismay and disbelief that the crucial government body that accounts for much of the state's revenue and funds for infrastructure projects and other essential expenditure hasn't managed to upgrade its services in time... especially considering SARS — like the rest of us — had three years of warning to prepare for Flash's demise.

As one commenter astutely put it, "This is genuinely one of the worst ideas I have ever heard in my life. Just STOP USING FLASH! What is this, 2009??"

Windows XP all over again — Despite being 20 years old, and long-since deemed obsolete and abandoned by Microsoft, people just can't let go of Windows XP. NetMarketShare reports that, as of October last year, a full 1.2 percent of surveyed users were still using the operating system. By that measure, Flash might live on in some corners of the internet for a long time yet, and not just in The Internet Archive's collection of classic Flash games.

Not alone — SARS isn't alone in its desire to cling to Flash, Apple Daily last week reported the rail system in the northern-Chinese city of Dalian was rendered inoperable for 20 hours because of a failure to plan for Flash's retirement. The solution? Even less elegant. "Authorities fixed the issue by installing a pirated version of Flash."