Online Electronics retailer Kogan generated some buzz in the blogosphere a few weeks ago when it was announced they would be charging a 6.8 percent tax to any purchases made from the Internet Explorer 7 browser. Kogan cited the development costs associated with making their website look acceptable on such an old browser as a justification.
Working in the iiNet web team myself, I thought it was great to see such a bold move by a relatively well-known name in the online retailer space. There is a lot to be said for making sure you are keeping your browser updated to the latest version.
Major issues with old browsers
Perhaps the biggest concern from a user perspective at least, is security. The big names in web browsers today, like Google, Mozilla, and Microsoft are constantly monitoring their web browsers for potential bugs and security flaws. Releasing new versions allows them to fix any small problems before they become big ones, and allow users to stay safe online.
Other than security for users, the other big issue for online businesses like us here at iiNet, is the issue of website development and maintenance in older browsers.
Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) for example, was released almost 6 years ago and even today, it remains one of the largest single contingents of browser visiting our website.
Six years might not sound like long, but back in 2006 Facebook had only been released to the general public and YouTube was less than a year old.
In fact, most of the websites we take for granted today didn’t even exist when IE7 was first released.
IE7 in particular, is very problematic for web developers because it doesn’t follow what are now widely accepted standards for displaying html websites, meaning that web developers like myself have to build two versions of a page, one for older browsers like IE7 and one for the more modern ones.
Quite often we will resort to removing features completely because they don’t work in older browsers. This whole process ultimately makes things more difficult for everyone since developers end up spending more time and effort building what is effectively, a less functional website for our customers using older browsers.
The Benefits of updating your browser
It’s not just that websites look and work better in newer browsers, either.
Updating your browser to the latest version may give you new features and improvements often specifically designed to make browsing the web more efficient than in previous versions.
As an example, a feature I absolutely love about Mozilla Firefox is the ability to search for websites in your history just by typing keywords in the address bar, rather than having to remember the exact URL.
It’s a feature that has since been implemented by most modern browsers, but I always notice missing whenever I do design work for older browsers, and it’s such a timesaver.
The Future of web browsers
Looking forward, the timeframes between major browser releases are getting shorter and shorter, as companies race to incorporate the newest features of HTML 5 and CSS3 both for users, and to get a competitive advantage over rivals.
Take Mozilla Firefox for example, one of the more popular browsers today. Version 1 was released on November 9 2004 followed by version 2 on October 24 2006 making it almost 2 years between the first two major releases. Today, Firefox is up to version 14 with a new version being released every four to six weeks.
This rapid release environment is great news, since browsers are getting more and more powerful almost by the week, it seems. But it also means those who don’t stay up to date run the risk of having a less than ideal experience on the web.
A few clicks away from a better browsing experience
Updating your browser is a quick and simple process and unlike servicing your car, or buying the latest iPod, it’s completely free. I really can’t recommend it strongly enough, its win-win for everyone involved.