Can New Browsers Read Your Old Web Site?

The browser wars aren’t going anywhere for a long, long time – and they directly impact your web site.In the olden days (you know…the nineties), life was simpler. You turned on your computer and surfed the web with Internet Explorer. Sure there was Netscape, but they were never a real threat to Microsoft’s web browsing juggernaut (let’s just say that Netscape’s users were loyal but “unique”). Mac also shipped with Netscape, but many users (including me) chose an Apple-specific version of IE instead. Besides, even today Mac users are a super cool, super conspicuous, super small minority of computer users. So Microsoft ruled the internet with IE – and the tech community hated it, being the natural anarchists that they (we) are.

Things are a lot different in 2011. Today, the seeds planted in the 1990’s by everyone that hated Microsoft are coming to fruition. The consequent browser war has been excellent for users, but inconvenient (to say the least) for anybody with a web site. Today, there are regular people (meaning not technology geeks) who will view your web site with IE6 (an ancient browser that messes with modern code something fierce and is thankfully going away), IE7, IE8, IE9, Firefox (which aptly rose from the ashes of Netscape), Chrome (Google’s own baby), Safari and more.

And that doesn’t include mobile! People on their mobile devices are using Android (another of Google’s babies), the iPhone browser, the iPad browser, the Blackberry browser, Opera, Windows Mobile and more.

All of these look at your web site differently and display it as such. Most of them are “consistent” but none are exactly the same. Even subtle differences between versions of a browser (such as IE8.1 and IE 8.2) can be significant – and that’s especially critical when you consider the sheer speed of innovation that some developers move at (download Firefox or Chrome and you’ll get an update weekly – daily sometimes!).

So what does all this mean for a business that just want its web site to act as a solid storefront to the world? It means that if your web site is four years old, you really need an update. And that’s not just to take advantage of new technology (maybe it’s time to reconsider that Flash-only web site you built in 2005), but to ensure that new browsers display your web site correctly. To put things simply: not all new browsers are backward compatible – or at least not completely backward compatible. At some point they simply throw out support for technology that they deem too old, too clunky or too hackable (Apple vs Adobe anyone?). This is especially true on mobile devices.

All is not lost. Anchor can help. We spend a lot of time staying on top of things like browser usage statistics so that our clients don’t have to. When you work with us, you have a fighting chance of staying current in the 100mph world of the information superhighway. Give us a call and let’s talk about it today.