Running a web agency means I am involved in several web projects. One issue that frequently comes around is what browsers should we generally support .
Our current policy says we should support IE7, Firefox 2/3 and Chrome (or superior versions, for that matter); this is also to say that any user with Safari will most likely have good experience with the website as well.
But sometimes we still get that call “the website you created is all broken” and this rarely happens by other reasons other than the user being stuck with an old browser. The question is why don’t they upgrade (it’s free, you know…)?
And when we talk about old browsers, the picture of one of the worst pieces of software every written and major time consumer for web shops comes to mind. We start recalling all the extra effort that is was some many times put just to try to make it work (usually on the later hours of the night), just because it almost completely fails to support web standards. Yes, you probably already guessed I’m talking about Internet Explorer 6.
The other day I was thinking about how some people still use it, because as I recall this is a rather old version. I digged a little into it just to be sure of its release date and was happy to find that it was back in August 2001 when the first version came out.
Well the thing here is that besides providing a very limited and full of nasty bugs web experience together with its complete uselessness with some “modern” web applications, I suppose most of this same people are no longer wearing some clothes they bought back in 2001 nor are they using the same computer, why would they do it with a web browser which they can just upgrade for free and get an improved modern reality?
When you start counting how many people out there are still stuck with it, I still can’t understand why the numbers are so high. I can see this happening mostly on major corporations where the user is not allowed to install and upgrade his own software.
The thing is I don’t believe their IT personal is all dumb and they most likely have a reason for not upgrading. I have heard from several folks that they can’t upgrade because they still have some old web applications (mostly internal stuff) that won’t work with a decent browser! If this is the case, why don’t they just keep IE6 and install Firefox/Chrome/Safari-whatever on the side, so people can just browse the web normally?
This whole thing can turn into a snow ball, because imagine you now need to develop a brand new web application, sometimes they will just ask you to stick to things that work on that old browser and that is really putting the bar way too low.
Bottom line is that 10 years is probably more than a century for software, so they should just go outside the confort zone, deploy a new browser and fix the old applications so they are not continuing the cycle of poor and outdated web applications.
Updated 01-Fev-2011: an interesting link on this subject (thank you @numian).