Monday, December 4, 2017

Revisiting my nine year old rant on sites that support limited browsers

Back in 2008, when I was working for Motorola, the company needed to ensure that all of its software worked with all of its internal systems. It can take time to test internal systems with new browsers, and as a result, Motorola's "approved" browser at the time was Internet Explorer 6.

This offended certain developers, who adopted an attitude that Ramblings of an Offbeat Mammal expressed in a phrase that I quoted at the time:

If all those folks using a version of any browser older than IE7 could just upgrade, get with the program and do their bit (it’s only a few moments to download and install and it doesn’t even insist on a legal copy of Windows these days!) then developers could concentrate on making great web applications using all the cool Ajax, Silverlight and Javascript features without having to worry about testing a load of different quirky behaviors.

Despite my rather strident opposition to this attitude, I did grant, and still do, that there are costs to supporting multiple platforms, and at the time, the need to support IE6 and IE7 and other browsers could certainly add up. Developers could support a lot of browsers and browser versions and run up those costs, or they could support a limited number of browsers and browser versions and limit their reach.

I could have lived with that, if the developers hadn't adopted the snotty "Why are you using IE6, you imbecile?" attitude. An especially ironic stance, since many of these same people were loudly clamoring that there was no need to upgrade to Windows Vista, and that people should be permitted to stay on Windows XP.

Well, that ridiculousness ended, or so I thought until I visited the new MySpace in 2012 and found that it didn't support any version of Internet Explorer.

You know, I've rarely visited MySpace since. (It didn't help that they deleted my original profile page. But I digress.)

Well, that ridiculousness ended, or so I thought until I read this piece.

Someone tweeted [Airbnb] about an issue with the website. Apparently, it’s impossible to make a reservation in Safari 9.1 The astute members of [The Next Web] know what the issue is here. That particular version of Safari came out in March, 2016. At the time of writing, the most current version of Safari is 11.0.1.

Instead of telling the user to update his browser (which is reasonable), Airbnb told him to install Chrome instead, as the site was “optimized” for it.

(Note: the Airbnb tweet was written in 2016, but as you'll see, Airbnb's current policy isn't much better.)

The story continues.

Another company that’s openly telling users to use Chrome rather than any modern competing browser — like Firefox, Safari, and Opera — is Groupon.

These two companies attracted the Twitter ire of one Jeffrey Yasskin. In a couple of tweets, he implored the two companies to not optimize for a single browser.

Yasskin, by the way, is on the Google Chrome Web Platform team. Perhaps in some weird alternative universe Yasskin would be fired, but Google, Apple, Mozilla, and other web browser developers realize that the secret to browser success isn't to go silo.

And even Airbnb's story has changed over time. Its "get with the program" page says to use the latest versions of Chrome OR FIREFOX. You can use IE9 or higher, but Microsoft Edge, Safari, Opera, and other browsers aren't mentioned at all. The 2016 tweet to which Yasskin responded didn't mention Mozilla, which apparently has now joined Airbnb's "blessed" list. Maybe they'll get around to support Microsoft Edge in a few years.


As I was working on this post over the weekend and tweeting about it, Jordan Harband responded with two tweets:

We definitely support Safari and Edge. Opera is just Blink now, so Opera always === Chrome anyways.

In general, we support ES5+.

Regardless, our internal support policy for engineers is distinct from our general support advice, which *obviously* is “use the latest version of your browser” at a minimum.

Compare this with Behance, which displays "creative work." In order to get more creatives to sign up, Behance has a broader browser support policy:

Behance supports:

Evergreen browsers (supporting the two most recent versions):
Google Chrome
Mozilla Firefox
Microsoft Edge

Other browsers:
Microsoft Internet Explorer 11
Apple Safari, version 8 and above
Opera, limited support for all versions

As for MySpace, it still doesn't support any Microsoft browser or Opera. Of course, this could be considered a security feature, since it limits the ways in which someone can hack into a MySpace account.

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