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Internet Explorer and On-line Filing in the Allegheny County Department of Court Records

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | April 17, 2015

No. 1,138

Credit: hjsessentia.co.uk

Credit: hjsessentia.co.uk

Back in the day, Internet Explorer (IE) was the overwhelming favorite web browser, attaining its peak of about a 95% usage share in 2002 and 2003, according to Wikipedia. The article stated:

“Its usage share has since declined with the launch of Firefox (2004) and Google Chrome (2008), and with the growing popularity of operating systems such as OS XLinuxiOS and Android that do not run Internet Explorer. Estimates for Internet Explorer’s overall market share range from 16.9% to 57.38% (or even as low as 13.09% when counting all platforms.)”

There once was a version of Internet Explorer for Macintosh.  It didn’t last too long.  As Steve Wosniak and others soon discovered, it continuously crashed.

Lawyers, who once were overwhelmingly Microsoft users, now include a growing number of Macintosh devotees.  This trend, which started with solos and small practices, blossomed among the larger firms with the advent of iPad. If you need confirmation of this phenomenon, read a few posts from The Mac Lawyer blog. The introduction of the Apple Watch, from all indications, will only solidify and expand this trend.  

But incompatibility with certain operating systems and competition among platforms was not the only reason for the decline of IE.  Its primary problem, and the one most troubling to lawyers, was and is security. The threat of malware and the like grew so ubiquitous that patching IE has become an industry. And now, to nobody’s surprise, except its most dedicated fans, IE is being phased out.  It will be replaced by a new product, presently called Project Spartan. There’s a beta version out, but it is acknowledged by its developers to be not ready for prime time. In the meantime, IE users are in limbo.

IE has been the chosen internet browser platform of on-line search and filing systems used by recorders of deeds and court records keepers since the beginning. This might have made sense in the old days, but it is increasingly difficult to justify in today’s fast-moving internet-based world.  Some of these dinosaurs only support IE access, while others, like the Allegheny County Department of Court Records and Department of Real Estate, have traditionally been accessible by other platforms, such as Firefox and even Macintosh’s Safari.

But now, the Allegheny County Department of Court Records appears to be taking a retrograde path.  I have been experiencing problems in remote filing and have been required to file certain documents in person.  This includes transactions where credit card payments are involved.  Until recently, this was not a problem.  Now it is.

The explanation I have received is that that certain “software upgrades” have been installed. My attention was called to the warning on their Welcome Page that  electronic filing is “optimized for Internet Explorer ONLY” [sic].  Welcome, indeed.

A parallel situation has existed for a long time with the Department of Real Estate — Allegheny County newspeak for Recorder of Deeds.  Once I was able to look at and order copies of deeds and other instruments on line, but not for a long time.  Until a few years ago, I was able to look at the indices using my Mac browser, I now must use Firefox.  But even Firefox only works in a rudimentary way. I haven’t even attempted to use their on-line filing system.

This circumstance is not universal in the Allegheny County on-line information system.  Real Estate Assessment works just fine using Safari.  However, no credit card transactions are involved.

I understand that there are budgetary restrictions on overhauling a system as large as the one used by Allegheny County.  But it has been installing “improvements” that are increasingly dependent on a defunct internet platform that has more holes than a large block of swiss cheese.  Since Microsoft itself has abandoned ship on IE, it is time for Allegheny County and others to do some emergency planning.  When they do (and they must) it is my sincere hope that they will design their system to support popular non-microsoft platforms, like Macintosh OS X and iOS.





CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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