Google recently announced that Gmail will revert to basic HTML for Windows XP and Vista users by December 2017. The company also said anyone using Chrome 53 or below–the last version released for XP and Vista was Chrome 49–will be advised to update their software after February 8.
Besides ludicrous “hacking” scenes from shows like NCIS, few things scare the technologically impaired like the idea of losing access to their email, so it’s no wonder that news of Gmail’s upcoming changes has been making the rounds on social media. Never mind that anyone affected by this decision probably uses an operating system that officially died in 2014 or doesn’t know Chrome automatically updates. Just think of the emails!
Surely this must be some dastardly plot, right? Not so, according to Google, which explained in a blog post:
If you continue to use older versions of Chrome Browser now that support has ended, Gmail will be more vulnerable to security risks and users will not have access to new features and bugfixes.
Gmail will continue to function on Chrome Browser v53 and below through the end of the year. Users who remain on Chrome v53 and below could be redirected to the basic HTML version of Gmail as early as Dec 2017.
That gives people an extra year (give or take) to finally update to a new operating system or browser. This is something everyone should already be doing–especially since Google made this announcement in its G Suite blog, which is meant for businesses. Companies might have put off upgrading from Windows XP to avoid extra costs, either for software licensing or newer computers, but doing so also means they’re vulnerable to many attacks.
The same is true for individuals. Upgrading can be a pain, sure, and sometimes new versions of software don’t appeal to everyone who used the older versions. But making sure everything is up to date is perhaps the best way to defend against someone who wants to take over a device. Old software has known vulnerabilities, rarely gets updated to fix new problems, and ultimately offers just a little more protection than an open kimono.
All that said, Google recognized that many people will be affected by this change:
Please note: Google does not typically announce when we discontinue support for older versions of Chrome browser because of our current supported browser policy, which states that only the most recent version of Chrome is supported. This announcement was made given the expected impact on Windows XP and Windows Vista users and known security risks.