Browsers I rather not support

There has been a little bit of noise about the blogsphere recently about wanting to drop browser support for a certain browser this year. So here are the browsers I would like to stop supporting, why and why I will continue to support them.

Internet Explorer 7

This would of been a great browser if it was released in 2003, instead it was released in 2006. The improvements over IE6 were good but not worth waiting 5 years for. It still has a number of the IE6 idiosyncrasies that require work arounds. It is the most popular browser is common use today, and likely to remain so for another year, before succumbing to IE8. Still you and I will supporting it for a few years to come.

Google Chrome

A fast, lightweight browser, which I was happy to use while in beta. Since it reached 1.0 release, I have become aware of a few short comings. It branched from the webkit evolution far too early and has not included recent improvements that other webkit browsers have. For example the problem with border-radius and box-shadow, lack of support for @font-face. In addition the Chrome renders type differently from all other browsers. Still while it has a decent market share for a new browser and the opportunity to improve exists, so it needs to be supported.

Internet Explorer 6

A great browser in 2001, which should of been replaced in 2003 and disappeared from view by 2006. It has a number of idiosyncrasies that require work arounds, and you have to spend considerable time after getting a design to work in IE6 after you had it working in more modern browsers. However, over two years after being replaced it still commands around 20% of the IE market share. This has very little to do with computers not being able to support IE7. Less that 5% of all IE6 users are on an OS other than XP.

Unfortunately IE6’s reign of 5 years cemented it’s position in the corporate market and their intranet systems. A large number of corporate networks could not upgrade to IE7, because major tools like the finance and human resources system (in our office) would not work with IE7. These are not quick and dirty locally built tools, but major applications built by vendors like Oracle, IBM and the ilk. However, more than 2 years after it’s release, IE7 is now getting support from these applications and as corporates upgrade these system, most are also upgrading their corporate browser to IE7. Unfortunately this will take a couple more years, before IE7 or IE8 rule the corporate sector.

A more disturbing trend is the netbooks and inexpensive laptops that connect to the free wifi at work, over 50% of the machines running XP use IE6, compared to less than 25% of the XP machines accessing the regular website. I do not know if this is because IE6 is the preferred browser for low spec machine running XP or something to do with the large number of Chinese and Korean language devices.

Still while IE6 is our corporate browser, I will have to support it, no questions asked. As I will while it remains popular in either in the corporate or low end netbook/laptop sectors.

Internet Explorer for Windows Mobile 6

If you thought supporting IE6 or the old IE5 was painful, you have never had to support IE for WM5 or WM6. It does not know if is a mobile browser or a full blown browser for the small screen, it loads both screen and mobile profile stylesheets, it only supports XHTML-MP which is missing a few key elements from HTML4. JavaScript support is interesting, some scripts work, other do not and some use crash the browser. Unfortunately it is one of the major mobile browsers and Windows Mobile is popular in the corporate sectors. Around 10 times more popular than the iPhone and Mobile Safari and a lot more than Opera Mobile, my favourite small screen browsers.

Browsers I will stop supporting this year

I have already made a decision not to worry about getting the new website I just launched for work, perfect in Firefox 2 and Safari 2. they accounts for less than 1% of all traffic. So as long as it functions correctly that is all I am concerned about. Minor defects are acceptable. On the other hand, Firefox 2 support will be a concern if I every get round to redesigning this blog because it accounts for 5% of all traffic. Apparently web geeks are twice as likely to stick with Firefox 2 than the average Firefox user, probably something to do with the trusty web developer toolbar. Still I will review that later in the year.

I am a little more ruthless than the Yahoo browser support chart, I have already dropped Windows 2000 support. I currently only worry about XP, Vista, OSX 10.4 and 10.5 and Ubuntu as OSes and IE6, IE7, Safari 3, Chrome, Opera 9.5, Firefox 2 & 3 as browsers for computers. Though I am looking at dropping Chrome and Firefox 2 to functional only, while adding IE8 and Opera 10 to supported. I also support Mobile Safari, Opera Mobile, Internet Explorer for Windows Mobile 6 and would support the latest S60 browser if I had access to a test device.

edited 17 February 2009 for grammatical reasons

9 Responses to “Browsers I rather not support”

  1. Nick Hodge Says:

    Nick

    I notice when looking at stats on my personal blog that:

    – Firefox 2.x has largely been replaced by Firefox 3.0.x
    – Firefox users are good at accepting the updates and staying at the latest version

    – IE6 continues to drop (thank goodness)

    – The sooner IE6 is replaced by IE7; or better yet, IE8, the world will be a better place(tm)

    – Yes, I’ve taken the public (ie: at WebJam) digs about Windows Mobile’s sucky browser relative to the competition. The only way is up!

    Thanks for a balanced and pragmatic review.

    Nick

  2. John Faulds Says:

    Apparently web geeks are twice as likely to stick with Firefox 2 than the average Firefox user, probably something to do with the trusty web developer toolbar.

    The webdev toolbar works in Firefox 3 (at least on Windows).

  3. Nick Says:

    John, I was just trying to understand why more than 10% of Firefox visitors to this site still used Firefox 2, compared to less than 5% to my work site during November and December.

    I disabled compatibility checking for my extensions when I started using Firefox 3 beta a while back and never turned it back on. I remembered Firebug and Web Developer Toolbar kept coming up on compatibility checks as I swapped between Firefox 2, 3 and 3.1beta. So I assumed it was these developer tools that kept some of the Firefox visitors to this site to version 2.

    Just checked figures for the past few weeks and that difference has almost disappeared, it is close to 8% for both sites.

    ps the web dev toolbar now works for Firefox 3 and 3.1 beta on the Mac.

  4. Still include IE6 support when creating a Web Application? | Moritz Haarmann's Blog Says:

    […] On the other hand, I guess that most people using really modern WebApps are nevertheless forced to use modern browsers. I don’t know, really not. A short yet true list of cons is presented here as well, and a rather radical point of view presented by nick cowie. […]

  5. moritz Says:

    hey, just found your post and .. I agree with you, almost. I’m afraid that dropping Safari support is a) unnecessary, because from my experiences, it’s not hard to optimise.. it works mostly and b) doesn’t take into consideration that macs market share is growing.. and growing. And keep in mind, iphone also uses safari, and it’s available for windows.

    Besides, great post.

  6. Nick Hodge Says:

    For those working on IE; note that IE8b2 has Developer Menu.

    Interested in feedback; with the IE7 “render switch” — hopefully this helps you guys out.

    If not, please tell me

    Nick

  7. Nick Says:

    Moritz, I am not dropping Safari support. I am choosing not to support older versions of Safari, before Safari 3 that was released in mid 2007. Safari users like Firefox users tend to update to the latest version fairly quickly. Of the 700+ visitors to the site in the past couple of months using Safari, only 5 used Safari 2 and 1 used version 1.32 (the latest version for 10.3). The work site stats are slightly higher, but not by much.

    The webki/khtml engine used by Safari is also used by the Nokia S60 browsers. The most popular mobile browser on the planet and one I do not have a test device for. So I do pay attention in getting it right for Safari.

    Nick H, thanks for that, had not really explored IE8b2, other than finally installing a Vista VM on my MBP with IE8b2 for testing.

  8. moritz Says:

    I should sometimes read twice to get the version numbers right.. my fault :-)

  9. Ben Buchanan Says:

    The browsers on my hit list this year: Firefox 2 and IE6.

    FF2 will just get dropped since its share has plummeted (and if you can install FF2 you should be able to upgrade). Getting rid of FF2 clears the way for proper use of display:inline-block which is awesome.

    IE6 has too big and persistent a share to drop it outright; but I’m moving it to second tier support. Things will be made functional, but I’m no longer going to spend large amounts of time making things perfect in IE6. A bug that can be easily fixed with a minor visual difference will be fixed that easy/quick way. If an advanced feature breaks IE6, IE6 will get a cleanly degraded version. Stuff like that.

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