IE 6, 7 and 8 and other browsers. Support them all.

As you can see I’m not one for short posts, but sometimes a great article needs to be pimped. Smashing imageMagazine has lots of those and whilst I’m mostly a Web Developer and not a Web Designer (I do have an iPhone so there may be hope for me) it’s good to keep an eye on the current design trends for web applications.

Smashing, super, great, well not so great with IE6.

Their current article “CSS Differences in Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8” is a change from the normal rant at Microsoft fare, but aims at understanding all the differences that occur in the Microsoft browser segment of the market around, in this case, their different handling of CSS. The main fact of importance is the imagecontinuing need to support all of the browser due to their market share, each browser holds almost an equal share of the 65%+ of the market (as seen on Market Share).

In fact if you break it down even more we see that IE8 compatibility mode beats Chrome and that really for public sites you should be testing for Safari as well.

Browser Market Share
Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 24.42%
Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0 19.39%
Microsoft Internet Explorer 8.0 16.84%
Firefox 3.5 12.65%
Firefox 3.0 9.62%
Safari 4 2.92%
Microsoft Internet Explorer 8.0 (Compatibility) 2.30%
Chrome 2.0 1.74%

Like any large company, Microsoft has a great deal of legacy to support, people who have brought their products, people unlike myself who don’t want to upgrade at the first opportunity, who are happy with the way something works (even if it is IE6). Especially where a browser still holds such a large part of the market within the enterprise space, the cost to upgrade all of the browsers (which work for all the applications they currently use by the way!) could be prohibitive in the current economic climate.

Testing Painimage

All this leaves is a massive amount of legacy testing pain for development teams, especially when developing applications for use within an enterprise environment. It’s all very well for people on the social side of web development to trumpet the call to the new, but when part of your market is stuck in 2001, so to a certain extent are you.

At this point it’s interesting to look at the support level of browser for ArcGIS Server here. The supported browsers are Firefox 2,3 and IE 6,7,8. That’s not to say stuff won’t work in Chrome (it’s does, I’ve tested it) or Opera (I don’t know, sorry), but the official line is what is shown on the site, so when developing applications for use with ArcGIS Server it’s always good to remember what’s official supported and choose that as a baseline.

In fact many people are tempted to throw the browser out completely and fall back into the loving arms of the plug-in. Flash and Silverlight take much of the worry about browser support of the nuances of CSS imageand JavaScript but providing a nice sandbox for the application to play in. Unfortunately they are no true panacea. Often the enterprises that are still on IE6 are probably on Flash 5, if they have Flash at all and might never have considered Silverlight (although Microsoft’s positioning gives Silverlight a more enterprise-y feel allowing it to make inroads sooner within the firewall). This leaves you back at the beginning needing to support your browser based application in IE6, there is no escape, accept it and test accordingly.

And finally.

One great quote from the comments is this “You could power every house on Earth for a few hours– just from the sheer RAGE MSIE elicits from Web Designers.”. It’s not just IE, the lack of standards amongst browser has always been a frustration, Microsoft might be the current football to be kicked around, but in its day Netscape was the villain. image

Whilst most people, probably even Microsoft, want IE6 to go away, it wont soon, people image like www.ie6nomore.com have a funny campaign, but the only thing that will change that is when all the big companies have gone through a technology refresh and the
re are only a few copies of IE6 lingering left. In the non-corporate world, well as Amy Barzdukas (Microsoft IE general manager) says "Friends do not let friends use IE6”.

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