March 16, 2012

Why You Should Update Your Browser

First things first, what is a browser. A browser (AKA web browser, internet browser or internet thingy) is software that allows you to access the internet. If you don’t know what a browser is you’re probably using Internet Explorer (IE) or Safari if you’re on a Mac. They are the default browsers that come with their respective operating systems. People often mistake IE as ‘the internet’, this is not the case, it is simply a way to access the internet. Just as you can open jpegs with a bunch of different programs you can also access the internet with other browsers.

Now I think you will agree that the internet has come a long way over the last ten years, and so has the browser. However there are still people using browsers that were released over ten years ago, such as Internet Explorer 6 (IE6). Even Microsoft, the creator of IE6, is trying persuade people to upgrade and stop using IE6. Lots of internet based compaines, such as Google, have dropped support for older versions of IE.

The reason it’s difficult to support older browsers is because lots of modern web technologies (such as HTML5 and CSS3) were not around when they where developed. Even with all the hype around HTML5 IE9 has only limited support for it. Web standards, rules that dictate how a browser should render sites, have also come a long way. For a website to fully work in older browsers you need to add ‘hacks’ to it. This increases the development time and it adds to the ‘weight’, slowing the site down for everyone. Because of this we only test sites in IE8 and newer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome. Most of the site will still work in older browsers however it may not look the same. Older browsers are only used by a small percentage now days so the extra development time needed to support them is simply not worth it.

My browser of choice is Google Chrome, it’s lightwight, fast plus it updates itself automatically. My second choice would be Mozilla Firefox. Firefox was instrumental in chipping away at IE’s dominance of the 90’s by offering a free viable alternative. Then probably Opera (not to be mistaken with Oprah) and lastly IE. The main reason I put IE last is due to the pain and suffering IE6 has put me though over the years. Though I will admit that IE9 is a heck of a lot better than IE6 and IE10 is looking to be even better.

At the end of the day the browser you choose is up to you. I simply implore that you keep it up to date. So if you still using an old version of IE (if you don’t know, assume you are) try one of the browsers I mention above or download the latest version now! If everyone was running up to date browsers it would make website development cheaper and the uptake of new web technologies would be a lot quicker and smother.