Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Browser Wars Continue


The battle for the best web browser is alive and well. Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 is in beta as well as Firefox 3.0 (beta 4) and Safari has released 3.1 today. What does this mean for the Software as a Service provider who delivers their content purely through the browser to their customers like we do at DigitalChalk?
I can tell you that I am torn. I love the standards that Microsoft claims they are committed to delivering on this time (haven't we heard that before?), Safari boasts to support, and Firefox has always been the best at delivering on. However, I can tell you that it is a major effort to ensure that your application looks and acts the same on all of these platforms. We spent countless hours making sure that our pages render in IE6, IE7, Firefox 2.0 and Safari 3.0. Now, we are faced again with another round of browsers. We can all cross our fingers and just hope that we see HTML/CSS/JavaScript work the same in all of them, but unfortunately I am a pessimist here.
The trends are also that users of Firefox upgrade quickly to the latest and greatest, while the users of Internet Explorer really lag behind. We are still seeing a mass of users, especially in the corporations, lagging behind and using Internet Explorer 6. I imagine that while Microsoft is boasting about their HTML5 and CSS 2.1 standards compliance that the world will shrug "so what" for another 2 years. There are some great features that they boast, that many developers will enjoy, such as the Developer Tools for CSS and an integrated JavaScript debugger, but it will not do much good if the user base is still on IE6. I did see an "Emulate IE7" button, which may prove handy and gives me some hope.
I love seeing software evolve and become better, but it certainly can be painful. I have a feeling that instead of just moving forward, we are going to just have to cast a bigger net in the SaaS delivery supporting IE6, IE7, IE8, Firefox 2.0, Firefox 3.0, Safari 3.0/3.1.,
So, I guess that I am still torn... If the browsers from Microsoft and Apple deliver on what they have promised, then a Thank You is in order... I just wish they would have listened and done the right thing 5 years ago.
What platforms do you plan on supporting in the near future?