3 April 2008

Future proofing

With updates to some of the most popular and widely used browsers soon to appear - namely IE 8 and Firefox 3 - the question has to be posed about how and when to support them.

It is a fairly simple matter to test your websites in the new versions of these browsers as there are beta versions of both available, however, it can be very time-consuming to fix issues and clients can find it a bitter pill to swallow.

The biggest problem here is a lack of overall transparency about how and when these browsers will be released. This issue is much much greater where IE is concerned.

We know that Firefox is slated for a June release and it is likely that the automatic update system will offer users the new version. It is therefore reasonable to suppose that there will be a fairly rapid surge in the number of users for Firefox 3.

As far as IE is concerned, we cannot be sure of a release date or the mechanism by which the update will be delivered. It is possible that there will be a split between IE 7 and IE 8 users for some time until IE 8 is pushed through automatic updates as a high priority update. This in a way is what has happened with the IE 6 to IE 7 transition.

I think it is reasonable for an interface developer to support 2 versions of a popular web browser (perhaps at different levels of support), but I do not like the idea of having to support 3 versions at any level, particularly when one of those is IE 6!

So, the question is, what to do? I am unsure at the moment, though I am considering testing my websites in Firefox 3 as of now and attempting a good level of support. As far as IE 8 goes, if its IE 7 mode works well, then that is a very good reason to not support IE 8 until it is actually released.

If Microsoft released a road map with release dates for IE 8 and the version afterwards, then I could plan my browser support strategy much more easily. So come on Microsoft, talk to me....

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