Im going on a browser hunt, Im not scared

Google recently made the decision to end support for Microsoft Internet Explorer version 6 for its online office based applications. What wasn’t shouted quite so loudly was the ending of support for Firefox 2 and Chrome 3.

In an online world where technologies evolve on a daily basis, should we worry about when old technology standards die or should we embrace in a lemming like state anything Google or Microsoft choose to throw at us?

It’s alive
With the invention of the internet as we know it today it wouldn’t be long before tools to view this brave new world became available. The pioneers were Microsoft and Netscape, but these were not the only ones, but due to Microsoft bundling its browser with its operating system Windows, it quickly became the browser of convenience for all but the very determined.

But Microsoft was never going to have its own way and when Firefox was first released no one could have predicted how this would affect Microsoft browser share of the market. Not only did Firefox show how a browser should be, being open sourced meant anyone with some time could improve it.

With people being shown for the first time that there was not just one internet browser, others soon started to gather market share as well.

From chaos came standards
Web Standards was an idea from the birth of the first browser and became more important as new browsers were released. In short Web Standards is a term given to a set of rules web browsers need to follow to display a web page correctly.

Up until recently Microsoft just did not do a good job at this, which is probably the main reason other niche browser gained a better foot hold in the whole web browser market.

The idea was simple; create a set of standards that all browsers follow and all websites should work well for everyone.

The only trouble was no web browser followed all the standards all the time. When Microsoft started to lose ground to browsers who did this better, they created better and better standards compatible browsers, which today has lead to 4 main players in the browser market, Microsoft, Mozilla, Google and Apple.

When good browsers go bad
The latest crop of Web Browsers is better than ever before with little to choose between them. This is fine when everyone uses the latest browsers. But we all know people running older operating systems that cannot upgrade to these new web browsers due to their operating system.

The question for many web designers has often been how to address these issues with older web browsers, with work rounds to handle any given situation.

When taking on a new brief only the bravest web designer does not worry about backwards compatibility, after all the web browser is the one thing as a web designer you have no control over.

Google’s final solution
Google has taken the brave step of removing support for older browsers for its online applications, but where does it leave users?

With up to 20% of web users being affected by this it’s not as smaller issue as you would like to think.

For those users who cannot upgrade their browser, and cannot upgrade their operating system, the only solution would seem to buy a new computer.

But for old redundant kit why is this important?

With Google relentless move to cloud computing the day where all our processing is done online is maybe not that far away. When this happens one day Google may just decide you have to have the latest Google PC to use its services.

If all your data, photos, home movies, music, accounts, email, you life is up there, it takes a brave person to say, I won’t buy Google.

If the government told us what computers we could use, or what sites we could see, there would be a mass uprising all shouting human rights.

So why does everyone go googly eyed over Google?

1984 anyone?