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 security

My web browser of choice is Firefox. One of the appeals is the pile of add-ons that you can use to personalise the way you view the web. If I were recommending a browser, that’s the one I’d go for.

Opera Stay SecureAs a web developer, I also need to test how pages look in other browsers so I tend to have the most up-to-date versions of the common ones, IE, Safari, Chrome and Opera.

Yesterday I was looking at Opera’s widgets and noticed “Stay Secure”. Useful for very quickly displaying the current vulnerabilities of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Safari and Konqueror in an unobtrusive graphic on your desktop.

The information is provided by Secunia and by clicking on any of the browser icons on the the graphic the detailed report from Secunia is accessed.

So now, if you were to ask me to recommend a browser, I’d say Firefox, but use Opera (and the Stay Secure widget) for your secure transactions (if the site works in Opera ).

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.

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!

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