Browser support (was Re: state management plug-in idea)

Colin Clark colin.clark at utoronto.ca
Fri Aug 15 15:42:14 UTC 2008


Eli,

On 15-Aug-08, at 10:16 AM, Eli Cochran wrote:
> I can't speak for the Fluid project, but if Fluid's clients stopped  
> supporting IE6, I'd be lobbying for dropping support in a heart beat.
>
> <sandbox>
> This moment reminds me of the moment about 6 years back when the  
> vast number of web sites decided to drop support for Netscape 4 and  
> IE5, even when there were still a fair number of people using those  
> browsers. We (developers, managers, marketeers, decision-makers)  
> individually decided that dropping support was the best thing for  
> the web ecosystem as a whole even if it alienated and annoyed a  
> minority of browser users who hadn't or didn't want to upgrade.  
> Dropping support meant that we could increase our productivity and  
> deliver better designs and user experiences, while (not so subtly)  
> encouraging the last stragglers to upgrade their browsers. The last  
> time this happened it was controversial, and it took time. But  
> ultimately it only took a few big players saying that they no longer  
> supported those browsers for others to start piling on. And we're  
> beginning to see a few of big players stop supporting IE6. The  
> stakes are high, but the gain in productivity is huge. I think that  
> the time has come.
> </sandbox>


I certainly sympathize with your opinion, though I do think that  
interoperability is a huge goal of any open source community.

As of July 2008, IE6 still represents 26% of the market. That's more  
than Firefox! It might not be prudent to alienate a quarter of the  
market at this stage in the game.

In many cases, we may choose to put more pressure on a particular  
subset of modern browsers, allowing some IE6-related bugs to remain if  
they don't render our code unusable. Eventually, we'll want to let it  
go completely.

So, here's an idea for a more positive way to influence browser  
support: graceful degradation. It will let us more aggressively  
deprecate older, annoying browsers like IE6 without completely  
excluding their users. Uploader is a prime example of the potential  
for this approach. Let's put some energy there, instead of sweating  
the pain of supporting sucky Microsoft technology.

If you want a fairly cynical but very interesting picture of the  
current state of browser support, check out Alex Russell's recent blog  
posting on the subject:

http://alex.dojotoolkit.org/2008/08/a-little-perspective/

My two cents,

Colin

---
Colin Clark
Technical Lead, Fluid Project
Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, University of Toronto
http://fluidproject.org




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