Google announced their plans to remove support for everything except the latest version of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari at the beginning of this month on the Gmail blog (which was also cross-posted on the Google Enterprise Blog and Google Docs Blog). This is obviously an interesting development for all those users of Google products (especially those on, as of August 1st, unsupported browsers) but what does it mean for the web at large?
Google’s place in the web has long been cemented as a leader; a company to look to for best practice and how to Do Good On The Web. This tactic, therefore, could likely be adopted by other web companies in their wake. It could also be used as an anecdotal case study by web developers, designers and marketing firms to convince their clients to take the same tack.
Here’s where we stand; Mehta Web have always supported all versions from Firefox 3.5 and Internet Explorer 7. We also support the latest version of Chrome and Safari but are usually happy to answer support issues to do with slightly older versions of these browsers if provided with enough information. We feel this is a happy medium; supporting browsers that are very old (for example, the venerable Internet Explorer 6 which even Microsoft are trying to eradicate) makes our websites worse (an army only marches as fast as it’s slowest man, after all) and the web as a whole a worse place but equally, supporting only those who keep all their software up to date means our customers would likely offer a poor experience to the majority of their customers.
Here’s what it comes down to; use what you know about your market to gauge what areas it’s worth ploughing your hard earned resources into. If you’ve got Google Analytics installed you know which browser and version the majority of your audience uses; support that version upwards. If not, ask around (good old-fashioned market research). Ask potential users what browser and version they use or, better still, ask to look at their machine and find out.
At the end of the day I’d love to promote a web where we all use the latest version of everything. Unfortunately that’s not the case for the majority of us; let’s just be pragmatic about it.