Dave Woods - Freelance Web Design Warwickshire

Web Browser News

Over the last couple of weeks Google have caused a bit of a stir in the world of web browsers. First they announced that they’d be dropping support for Internet Explorer 6 and that was shortly followed by news that Chrome 4.0 had been released. Microsoft have been patching IE after a security flaw was discovered and finally, Firefox 3.6 has been released, so what do these new web browser developments mean to us web designers.

Google drop support for IE6

This is probably the most significant piece of news and is likely to spell the end for Internet Explorer 6. From 1st March 2010, Google Apps (like Gmail and Google Docs) will no longer support IE6 which might finally force businesses to upgrade their out of date version of Internet Explorer. However, I wouldn’t expect Google Apps to suddenly stop working from 1st March as it’s more likely that any new functionality or Apps simply won’t be tested for IE6 so there’s no guarantee that they’ll continue to work.

Does this mean that all websites should now drop support for IE6? In my opinion there’s no fixed answer for this as it depends entirely on your audience. If you currently get 10%-15% of your visitors using IE6 then how would it affect your business if these users went to a competitor who did support IE6? Would your design agency use another freelancer or company if you no longer create code that works in IE6?

I think that these questions need asking on a case by case basis to determine whether you should consider Internet Explorer 6. Hopefully Google’s move will encourage users to upgrade and over the next year we’ll all be able to drop support for it but for the time being I’d be a little cautious about following Google’s lead blindly.

Google Chrome 4.0 Released

Google Chrome has been around for a while now and with the release of version 4.0, Google have made some significant improvements.

Improved HTML5 support, full ACID3 support and the addition of extensions are just some of the areas that they’ve made improvements but for me personally, I’m sticking with Firefox.

This isn’t to say that it’s not a good browser. For family and non-technical friends, I’d highly recommend that they switch from an IE browser to Google Chrome as it’s fast and easy to use however, the extensions for Firefox still means that it’s the number one browser for the majority of web developers (I can’t remember how we used to manage before Firebug came along.)

Microsoft Released Emergency Patch for IE

Microsoft received plenty of bad publicity at the end of January as a flaw was discovered within Internet Explorer which allowed Google’s Gmail to be targeted. The French and German governments even got involved and recommended that users stop using Internet Explorer.

Microsoft Security Response center released the following statement:

Given the significant level of attention this issue has generated, confusion about what customers can do to protect themselves and the escalating threat environment Microsoft will release a security update out-of-band for this vulnerability.

Personally I don’t think this will have much impact on Microsoft’s share of the browser market as the majority of people who would have heard this news would be people in the industry who know better than to use Internet Explorer anyway so the average IE user will continue to use it regardless of any security concerns.

Firefox 3.6 Released

I’ve not had chance to have a play around with Firefox 3.6 yet but the news that gradients and multiple backgrounds are now supported through CSS3 is fantastic. Speed and stability should also be improved which has probably been my only real complaint about the browser recently and is one of the reasons I tend to use Google Chrome when purely browsing the web so I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that things should have improved in that department too.

Summary

So what does all this news mean? At the moment probably nothing instant in terms of browser market share but I would expect Internet Explorer 6 to suffer a significant amount over the next year and it will be interesting to see what these users end up opting for. Google Chrome will probably continue to see an increase in market share due to the volume of users it gets via Google Apps but you’d also expect IE8 to continue to take the majority of users from IE6 as businesses upgrade their employees systems.

How do you think the browsers will fair in 2010? Will Microsoft bow to public pressure and start to push their browser forward in an attempt to keep up with Firefox and Safari? Can Opera come back into the battle? Please feel free to leave any comments below.

7 comments on “Web Browser News

  1. Peter Gasston

    I’d venture a guess that almost all of the people who could update IE6, already have. What we’ll wait for now is for systems to get updated. On the positive side, I’m seeing IE6 usage of less than 10% – in some cases, much less – on most websites we publish, so it is definitely a minority browser and should be treated as such.

    And a little niggle about Chrome; it’s not really version 4 in the way that Safari or Firefox would be; I would say at the most we should consider it 1.4.

  2. Dave Woods Post author

    I agree Peter, although this step might be what’s needed to force businesses to update, especially if they rely on Google Apps in any capacity.

    And I definitely agree about your Google Chrome point. The browser itself isn’t that much different to when they first released the beta so I’d also say it was more of a version 1.4 although maybe they’re looking to bring it in line with Safari 4 seeing as they’re both based on the same version of the Webkit engine.

  3. Brody

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say IE6 users either a) aren’t too web savvy or b) are forced to use it. It really is a sad thing for the former demographic that the web is changing for them, and they really have no idea. I recently decided to stop going out of my way in my personal web work to cater to IE, a rising trend it seems. I really don’t know what to say to IE users. They’ve been eating worms out of designers and developers beaks for so long and now they’re getting kicked out of the nest. Hopefully they land on Safari, FF or Chrome and not just IE8. But the more bitter I’ve-been-catering-for-IE-far-too-long-and-now-I’m-through! side of me is just thinking: I hope the door hits you in the ass on the way out!

  4. Dave Woods Post author

    @Brody: I think we’re at the stage now where your second assumption is mainly true and it’s companies that have so far refused to update their employees systems that is mainly the majority of IE6 users.

    For my personal work I have stopped supporting IE6 to a certain extent but developers should take a longer look at things than simply dropping support for it because total market share has dropped. Whilst web design is an art, I also believe that some decisions should be backed up by statistics so discovering how many IE6 users are currently visiting a site is fundamental in determining whether it should be supported or not.

  5. Ryan Barlow

    Good article as always Dave!

    I’ve personally switched to Chrome 4 at both home and work, and like nearly everything about it (with the exception of the loss of Visual Studio 2008 Javascript debugging that you get with IE). I’d always been one of the few developers to actually use IE8 before (never been a huge Firefox or Opera fan).

    On the IE6 issue, I think like you say, it strongly depends on your demographic. Unfortuantely one of our customers at work (a big, big American company) use IE6 internally and use it when demo-ing to other teams etc… so unfortuantely we have to support it. Works a lot better in the new browsers though!

  6. Dave Woods Post author

    Hi Ryan, most web developers use Firefox purely because of it’s extensions (Firebug was a bit of a game changer when that got added) and it’s always the best way to code when you build for a standards based browser and then try and fix errors that IE is causing rather than create bad code that IE understands and then try and fix it. (Whether you use Firefox, Chrome, Safari or Opera is probably irrelevant though as long as you code using web standards :))

    Completely agree with your IE6 comments, in a lot of cases it could probably be dropped but there are always occasions when IE6 might make up a bigger portion than you might expect.

    I’ve also got an article on IE6 bugs and fixes so it’s not always as hard to cater for IE6 as you might think:
    https://dave-woods.co.uk/index.php/ie6-css-bugs-and-fixes-explained/