Tag Archives: firefox

Browser Support

A couple of weeks ago, Google announced that from 1 August 2011 they will be changing the way they support web browsers for their Google Apps products including Gmail. Their blog post gives a little more information:

For web applications to spring even farther ahead of traditional software, our teams need to make use of new capabilities available in modern browsers. For example, desktop notifications for Gmail and drag-and-drop file upload in Google Docs require advanced browsers that support HTML5. Older browsers just don’t have the chops to provide you with the same high-quality experience.

For this reason, soon Google Apps will only support modern browsers. Beginning August 1st, we’ll support the current and prior major release of Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari on a rolling basis. Each time a new version is released, we’ll begin supporting the update and stop supporting the third-oldest version.

As of August 1st, we will discontinue support for the following browsers and their predecessors: Firefox 3.5, Internet Explorer 7, and Safari 3. In these older browsers you may have trouble using certain features in Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, Google Docs and Google Sites, and eventually these apps may stop working entirely.

This came at an interesting time for us as we were readying to launch our new website design. We’ve been forced to make decisions about which browser versions to support and which to ditch. Unlike Google, we’re still supporting Internet Explorer 7, though some subtle design elements may not work, but we too have the problem of not being able to take advantage of features in more modern browsers.

IE7 is five years old yet is still being used by over 20% of visitors to GO. Some of these will be machines on campus and colleagues are working to upgrade these but others are beyond our direct control.

We will however no longer support IE6. Use of this is around 2.5% yet to develop for it would consume a disproportionate amount of time. It’s also 10 years old and even Microsoft want rid of it!

More generally we’ve seen use of Internet Explorer drop by around 15% since January 2010 while Chrome is up by 10% and Safari up by 4%. Firefox and Opera have both maintained their position.

Browser share - www.edgehill.ac.uk

Browser share - go.edgehill.ac.uk

The adoption of modern browsers is important for the web to keep developing. Just as things start to go wrong if you don’t service or MOT your car, when using an out of date web browser, not everything will function as designed and there are potential security risks too. So I’d encourage everyone to make sure they’re running the latest version of a browser – then we can start to innovate rather than always struggling to cater for the lowest denominator.

Browser stats

Phil Wilson from the University of Bath has just published a summary of browser statistics so I thought it might be interesting to do a comparison.

We also use Google Analytics and it covers virtually every page on the site.  We don’t distinguish internal visitors so I’ll give figures for external and total.

External visitors:

Browser Visits Breakdown
Internet Explorer 79.65% IE6: 18.5%; IE7: 68.5%; IE8: 13%
Firefox 14.05%
Safari 3.78%
Chrome 1.89%
Opera 0.25%

All visitors:

Browser Visits Breakdown
Internet Explorer 80.30% IE6: 17%; IE7: 71%; IE8: 11.8%
Firefox 13.77% FX2: 6%; FX3: ~90%
Safari 3.55%
Chrome 1.80%
Opera 0.23%

Still far too many IE6 users both inside and outside the University. I will be very glad when it stops being a significant problem but browser share is dropping very slowly and none of the various proposals for encouraging people to upgrade seem very attractive to me.

Interestingly, looking at the stats for blogs.edgehill.ac.uk, Firefox usage jumps to 33.5% with IE at 56%.

What microformats can do for you

I didn’t intend talking about this, I’ve mentioned it before.  I intended talking about something else, but since this is an integral part of that something else, I’ll talk about that another time.

The best tool for utilising microformats, is the Operator add-on.  Other people have tried creating tools for other browsers, but for minimal pain and quick results the Firefox/Operator combo is still the best.

After installing the add-on you will notice a new toolbar.  Many web pages fail to take advantage of microformats, so to save browser real-estate you can autohide the toolbar by clicking the Options button and checking the Auto-hide-the toolbar option, clever.

auto-hide-operator

To see what it can do; Go to Edge Hill University’s events. If you auto-hid the toolbar, it should magically appear, and if you didn’t you should see Contents, Events, Locations and Tagspaces all lit up. That tells us we’ve got microformats on the page, and this is where Operator earns its corn;  Clicking on one of the highlighted icons, we can see a number of services on offer.

Tagspaces

Tagspaces

Click the Tagspaces button, navigate to Education->Upcoming.  This takes you to Yahoo’s Upcoming site, and shows a list of similarly tagged events.  Nursing->YouTube lists videos related to Nursing.

The Edge Hill Events page also picks up a single location (Edge Hill University, which it gets from the information at the foot of every page) and dispays it under the Locations button.  We should really add the location data to each of the listed events too (note to self).  By clicking the button, we can see the exact location of Edge Hill through Google Maps (best), Yahoo maps and MapQuest.  You could export to a KML file to import into Google Earth too.

The Events button will show each event and allow us to add it to any iCal supported application.  Groupwise has a problem with this but if you use Google Calendar or Yahoo it will pre-populate a “new event” screen ready for submission.   If you don’t know what 30Boxes is, give it a try, its a very slick web-based calendar, I still prefer Google’s though.

It isn’t all roses in the Microformats garden.  Contacts, are not easy to import into Groupwise or Google.  For Groupwise its a two step process:

  1. Contacts->Export All or Contacts->Edge Hill University->Export Contact.
  2. Double click the exported hcard file and select the Contacts list you prefer to use.

With Google:

  1. You will need the “Get this to gmail” bookmarklet
  2. Click the bookmarklet when Contacts on the Operator toolbar is highlighted.
  3. From the Google Mail Contacts page, click import and import the downloaded file.

Oh yes, and clicking the Google Maps link from here is screwed up too.  This is either an Google Maps  or Operator problem as the contact information is impecably marked up, I’ve checked 😉

The import to Yahoo contacts works like a dream though.

For anybody who is determined to stick with IE and Safari users, you might want to try Left Logic’s bookmarklet, although I’ve not tested it in either of those browsers myself.  Finally if you’d like to add microformatted contact details on your own site, you can create the code easily using the hCard creator.

An Apple a Day

Apple recently released the latest version of Safari and it’s really impressive. It’s blisteringly fast compared to Firefox 2 and IE (Firefox 3 – currently in testing – is set to be pretty fast as well). In the last couple of days Apple has started pushing this out along side updates to Quicktime and iTunes.

This comes as absolutely no surprise to me, in fact I predicted it when Apple first announced Safari was coming to Windows:

It will be interesting to see how much market share they can get from IE, Firefox and Opera, and I suspect that as soon as it comes out of beta they’ll be pushing it out along side QuickTime and iTunes.

Quite a few people are upset about this. Seriously, get over it. If it reduces the number of people using criminally bad web browsers like IE 6 then that’s a good thing.

Firefox on the rise

Usage statsIn one of my occasional trawls through our usage statistics I noticed that Firefox usage has been rising quite slowly over the last six months but shot up in the last month or so. Firefox usage is now over 10% compared with 8.3% just a month ago. Safari usage has also crept up and is now over 2%.

These figures are for the main website and it’s interesting to see how it’s different for specific sites. The Hi Applicant Community has over 20% Firefox usage (although this has dropped a little over the last month – at one point it was 28%) showing that adoption of alternative browsers amongst college students is higher. The Edge Hill Job Vacancies site is lower than the rest of the corporate site.

For Internet Explorer, Microsoft can be glad that adoption of IE 7 has increased 5% in the last month which goes a little way to compensate for the fact Firefox and Safari are eating away at their lead. Usage of IE 7 should overtake IE6 in the next month.

What does all this mean? Well, not a huge amount really. Only a tiny proportion of users aren’t using A-grade browsers and even then, our sites are designed to degrade gracefully. More interesting is the general trend that more people are prepared to look for alternatives to the default installed IE and hopefully in doing so will speed up the adoption of things like RSS feeds and Microformats, when they get built into the browsers.

Microformats ready for mainstream use?

Continuing my Google Groupie status, it’s interesting to see that Google is following Yahoo’s lead in adopting microformats. I’ve thought for a while that microformats would be really useful but without a good way of using them then adoption would be very low. It’s a chicken and egg situation where browsers won’t be motivated to support them without a critical mass of content providers using them. Now an increasing number of sites support them and Firefox 3 looks set to support them too. Now all we need it better tools to create them for our own sites – I suspect it’s not something that can be done easily in Contribute!

And then there were four

Safari LogoApple made the surprise announcement yesterday that they’re releasing Safari for Windows. First impressions are that it’s fast, with some neat features – check out the article length slider when you view an RSS feed and search as you type – but it’s got the iTunes grey interface which I don’t particularly like.

The browser wars are really hotting up again. It will be interesting to see how much market share they can get from IE, Firefox and Opera, and I suspect that as soon as it comes out of beta they’ll be pushing it out along side QuickTime and iTunes.

As web developers, the major benefit will be if rendering is the same as Safari for Mac OS X which would allow us to more easily test compatibility. If it’s another slight variation then it’ll just be a pain!

Overcoming Information Overload

I imagine that most people who’ve been using the internet for a while have at some point suffered from “Information Overload”. Andrew Sackville, at his inaugural lecture mentioned wilfing – surfing the web without any real purpose – and that can be a problem too. In fact I spent most of my time at University in one of these two states. Visiting the BBC News website every twenty minutes is a sure sign that you’re suffering. I’m here to tell you that there is a way to escape getting trapped by the internet like this and the answer is RSS.

RSS lets websites, bloggers and content producers provide a constantly updated feed of information for interested parties to subscribe to. It’s been around for years but it’s really starting to gain momentum and with Firefox or Internet Explorer 7 it’s built right into the browser – just look for the little orange feed icon in the address bar or elsewhere on the page. Most large websites and virtually all blogs provide feeds and over the coming weeks and months more and more services offered by Edge Hill will have RSS feeds available.

There’s many ways of subscribing to a feed – if you have Firefox or IE7 just click on the feed icon to get started. Subscribed feeds show up like bookmarks that update themselves. The LTD blog mentioned an add-on for Groupwise which integrates RSS and ways to add RSS to WebCT. You can also get standalone software that installs on your PC and sits in the background checking for updates.

I prefer to keep track of my feeds online using Google Reader (other web-based feed readers are available). The major advantage of online services such as this is that it follows you to whichever PC you’re logged in on – you can even read your feeds through a mobile phone. Google Reader lists your subscribed feeds down the left and shows the content of them on the right. You can “star” interesting articles so you know to come back to them later or share them with other people (either through a web page or, predictably, via RSS!). Google Reader has allowed me to spend less time wilfing and more time reading articles that are actually interesting.

If you’re wanting to give a news reader a try and want some feeds to test then check out some of the feeds related to Edge Hill:

As I said, even more services will provide RSS feeds in the near future – one of the first will be the Edge Hill jobs website – and RSS will be used behind the scenes for many sites so there’s no getting away from it!

Technology terminology is stupid. RSS (which may or may not stand for “Really Simple Syndication” depending on who you speak to) is just one name for this idea. You may also hear them referred to as Atom, news feeds, feeds, XML feeds and probably many other names. In most cases, it’s not worth worrying – news readers are generally compatible with all formats and most websites and web browsers have standardised on the orange feed icon – that’s the one we’ll be putting on our websites!