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Time to update your web browser?

Time to upgrade your web browser

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.

It takes just minutes, too – do it now for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome or Safari.

 

6 comments

  1. Mark says:

    Facebook was launched in 2004, and YouTube in 2005. They both certainly did exist six years ago…

  2. Louise Moran says:

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for commenting – we saw your comment on Facebook too.

    The blog has been updated with the correct dates – thanks for bringing that to our attention.

    Kind regards,

    Louise Moran
    Blog editor

  3. Misty says:

    I would imagine that if I hadn’t changed my mum’s browser to Firefox myself, she would still be using IE. I’ve now been wanting to upgrade her to Chrome since I discovered it. It uses less memory and I can’t get enough of being able to search Google just by typing into the address bar.

    Every workplace I’ve been in has only ever allowed IE though, and it drives me bonkers. That sector is yet to be cracked with alternate browser use, and it desperately needs it!

  4. Geoff says:

    Misty is right. Most workplaces only provide IE for browsing which can sometimes be version 6 or 7. Until IT departments deploy alternative browsers it won’t change.

  5. John says:

    Having worked in many web development teams I can see the argument both in a security standpoint and page design perspectives put forward by Kogan and web designers to insist on the latest & greatest browser. Having also seen the flipside of this stance in my own, part time business servicing many of these old clunker PCs/iMacs/thrown away notebooks etc for elderly or govt assistance receiver folk simply because many cannot afford on their govt payments & even less so with these illogical carbon taxes which hurt them further, the latest & greatest PC/Browser & also just because the major software companies decide to stop updating their OS & browsers, it simply hasnt reduced demand for the uptake of these old clunkers & both MS & Apple are guilty of this practice, ie go try loading OSX Lion or greater on those old white coloured MA199/MA200 core duo Intel macs or W7 on a dual core/P4 PC with 1GB!. Sure one can load Mozilla and Chrome but I find Chrome on these old clunkers seems to always time out badly on e-commerce & other SSL sites making it useless for sites like these & IE9 even on W7 always seems to hang up & do that dim screen (what on earth for!) & says “site not responding” when a site is taking a bit too longer to load & I get constant calls about it & its a wonder why web devs dont complain to get these bugs fixed. I understand the web devs crusade on this matter but not everyone needs the latest PC to play games, only to surf the net & to chat to their grandkids/mates. Maybe we can come up with a good & easy to use tech solution so that these “supported” browsers run on these clunkers & although one can look at Ubuntu, it too has its limitations & invariably many go back to Win/OSX. Not everyone appreciates or really needs the whiz bang screen frou frou of the latest PCs. Its easy to criticise others when u have cash but please put yourself in these peoples shoes and ull quickly see why if u leave PCs out on the nature strip that they dont last long & are quickly snapped up by hoarders. Govts and computer manufacturers seem to think that everyone has cash to burn on the latest & greatest but what they dont realise in their quest to ever increasing profit margins on the NASDAQ is this global economic crisis hit folk who can least afford it, hence the take-up of these old clunker PCs by these folk & more and more businesses are offering discounts for online payments & although its only a few bucks, when u earn bugger all in the 1st place, a few bucks is a massively attractive alternative plus these folk think why would hackers hit on an old dude/gal like me?. Still, glad to see its awareness level raised & best O luck with it

  6. Aman says:

    Great to see businesses educating their customers to update their browsers.

    I agree with Kogan in regards to development costs that are associated with making sites compatible with such old browsers. Its better to educate consumers so that they secure their own pc’s rather than making sites compatible with older browsers.

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