Why You Should Upgrade Your Browser

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in Website Development

by Sage

For the web community, Microsoft’s announcement of Internet Explorer 10 last night might have overshadowed the demo version of Windows 8, as developers everywhere asked themselves, “will we finally see a version of Internet Explorer that passes the Acid3 test?” In a perfect world we’d all be using the latest version of Chrome, Safari, or any other Webkit-based browser, but even those stuck using Internet Explorer have more than enough reasons to upgrade.

If you’re reading this blog on Internet Explorer 6, go upgrade your browser right now. The browser derided as the “least secure software on the planet,” the browser PC World rated the 8th-worst tech product of all time, and the bane of every web developer’s existence is finally dying out: Google, Youtube and Facebook have all stopped supporting IE 6 in the past year. Even Microsoft is counting down to the time when IE 6 usage drops to less than 1% worldwide.  Still need to be convinced? You’re putting your security at risk by using IE 6, the primary reason Google dropped support for it. Unless you live in China (which accounts for more than half of IE 6’s usage share worldwide), or have a significant clientele there, you’re in good company dropping support for it.

Even if you’re using IE 7 or 8, there’s good reason to update. Browsers like IE 7 and 8 lack support for some of the most valuable tools in the modern web developer’s toolkit: things like :before and :after pseudo-elements, :last-child, :nth-child, :empty,  and other CSS3 selectors, and CSS3 properties like text-shadow, box-shadow, or linear-gradient that make designers’ jobs far easier. Tools like these won’t render properly in IE 7/8: to make them work, developers have to add modernizing scripts, likely CSS3PIE and/or Selectivizr, adding kilobytes of data and extra HTTP requests – slowing down your site or user experience.

The case for upgrading is less black-and-white if you’re using Firefox (at least, for relatively current versions – if you’re still using anything earlier than version 3.5, your browser won’t support basic CSS rules like @font-face), but Firefox 5 reportedly has “over 1,000 improvements” over version 4 while simultaneously announcing it will stop supporting earlier versions with privacy and security patches – a compelling reason to upgrade. Firefox 5 will also support more advanced CSS3 tricks like animations. Upgrades are less of an issue for Webkit users: Google automatically installs Chrome updates in the background, and browser stats indicate that pretty much every Mac user whose system supports Safari 4 or 5 has made the change from earlier versions.

Long story short: by neglecting or refusing to upgrade your browser, you’re missing out on a better user experience (new browsers are faster, lighter, and include loads of helpful features), faster-loading web sites, and seeing a site the way the designer intended it (especially if you’re using IE 6, in which case the entire layout is liable to break). If you’re using an older browser, do yourself a favour and upgrade today!