Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Michael Bissell's Blog

Browser Bigotry

2009-01-09 10:04:37
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My usual routine in the morning is to get up, check my email, delete my spam, take a shower, read the news online, and check on some web stats. This morning I followed a link to on the old box at home, and it immediately redirected me to the Firefox download page.

Now, my first thought was that something had gone wrong with the reporting software I was using. There was no explanation, I was just on the Firefox page. My second thought was that they had done something almost clever -- build up traffic then force all traffic to a revenue share deal to make a couple bucks.

But, no, it was just that they didn't code for Internet Explorer 6. They didn't bother telling me that I needed a new browser for their site by giving me an alert or a pop-up page, instead they just forced me to use their browser.

W3C stats shows IE6 still at 19.6% of the market as of December 2008 (just last month). If we assume there are 1.5 billion people online, that means they are ignoring 294 million people. Granted, they aren't all going to be interested in what people are saying on Twitter about the weather, but, talk about limiting your audience right out the gate -- 20% BAM, gone.

It's like saying, "No darkies allowed at the bar." And forcing me away without explanation is just that, shoving me off into a corner.

There are legitimate reasons people may have older browsers, including they aren't allowed to install anything else but more importantly, personal choice. If I choose one browser over another, and certain functions don't work, then that's my call.

Your website should work for any major browser. That's the beauty of the web, I don't have to install anything; I just open a browser, click on links, and see the stuff I want to see. Sure, you might have to install plug-ins like Flash, but it's already installed in over 90% of the browsers, so writing for Flash is pretty safe.

I understand not liking the mess the browser manufacturers have made of CSS and JavaScript, but if you're a coder, learn to code within the limitations of the environment. We push a lot of functions onto the server, and we use HTML that may be "deprecated" by W3C standards, but works on all the major browsers.

It's a matter of respecting other people and the choices they make, or are forced into for reasons beyond their, and your, control. Anytime you insist they do something that's not part of the core goals of your website, is a time that you're forcing them away from you.

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aviel: Re: Browser Bigotry
2009-01-09 10:18:34

So I built tweetweather, and believe it or not, I'm a .NET developer.

The fact is, I write code all day that is used by 90% ie6, but when I come home (to my mac) I don't want to boot into windows much less spend hours of my free time testing for ie6 rather than adding more features.

You'll notice that ie7 is support, and you know what, I bet ie6 renders just fine, but I refuse to even spend the time testing it.

Honestly, things like TweetWeather (fun side projects) are often done as acts of love by the developer, there is absolutely no contract with the end-user to support their outrageously inferior browser.

Granted, if TweetWeather was anything but a fun sideproject, I would agree with you 100%.

crunchysue: Re: Browser Bigotry
2009-01-09 10:48:17

Where do you, personally, draw the line for user exclusion? Somewhere between 10% and 20%, I guess, since for you it's OK to exclude the 10% who don't have Flash, but not OK to exclude the 20% who don't have a browser newer than IE6. Lots of people (especially at work) don't have admin rights to their machines, and so can't install/upgrade their browser or Flash.

So I'm wondering what the usage stats will have to be before you reckon it's OK to exclude the IE6 users.

Michael Bissell: Re: Browser Bigotry
2009-01-09 10:51:40

Thanks for the response -- I think the main problem with the instant redirect is the moment of "What the hell just happened?" A simple javascript alert like "This site doesn't support IE6, prepare to be redirected to Firefox..." would help a lot.

Teagan Drumheller: Re: Browser Bigotry
2009-01-09 10:53:34

aviel: Very neat application, I had some fun looking around at the weather in various places. I like the idea.

I just tested the site in IE6 right now, actually, by specifically disabling your IE browser version check in the tweetWeather.js.

As far as I can tell, there are no problems running the site in IE6, or, if there were any, I certainly couldn't notice them. Everything seemed to function right.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating the use of IE6- that antiquated hunk of software should be long dead by now, at LEAST replaced by later versions of IE, and reasonably, replaced by Firefox or Chrome.

But, it is up to the user, after all. Ever see those little labels on the back of electronics that say "This device must accept any interference recieved"? I'd say the same should be true for webpages. If someone decides to use IE6, and it mixes things up a bit... the site may not work, but it should at least be displayed. It's the user's responsibility to get a right web 'viewer'. What if they were using something like Netscape or Konquerer/KMeleon or other such strange browsers? I'd expect IE6 would be more supported than some of those weirder ones, even.

aviel: Re: Browser Bigotry
2009-01-09 11:19:43

Michael @Teagan thanks to both of you. I went ahead and pulled the ie6 redirect code.


Michael Bissell (in reply to crunchysue): Re: Browser Bigotry
2009-01-09 12:34:28

Although I mentioned Flash being okay, I would never recommend doing an entire site in Flash, nor the navigation, nor anything critical to the site. I admit, we have used Flash for graphs at times, but even there I'd rather use some sort of server side image generator than force someone to install Flash.

The goal is to get things to work in as wide a range of browsers as you can. If the site is readable in a text-only browser (like Lynx), then you're golden. Balancing the look and feel with project requirements is tricky at best, and we all have to compromise on standards in the world of commercial development, but the best case is never to leave any browser behind.

landinn: Re: Browser Bigotry
2009-01-09 14:34:52

Interesting thread; I was just following another elsewhere on Flash vs. Silverlight.

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