Web browser popularity has shifted over the years from one popular choice to another repeatedly. There is always greener grass and users want to be there. Sadly those old browsers have to die at some point, and they are all sent the same graveyard as Netscape Navigator.
Two things cause web browsers to die:
If it’s not popular, then there is no need to spend time on developing it further or providing support for it. Internet Explorer is an excellent example of this. They have continued to lose market share over the past five years. Previously being the number one contender and pushing other browsers out it is now one of the least popular browsers out there.
The below chart shows the popularity of newer browsers such as Chrome and Safari and the demise of others such as Firefox and Internet Explorer. This chart shows the browser market share between 2017-2018.
With only 5.45% of the market share, Internet Explorer is losing a long fought battle. This little slice of the pie is adding all versions of internet explorer together. Below is another chart detailing the market share of IE.
2. Operating systems
Some Operating Systems (OS) cannot support newer technologies and therefore cannot support the more modern browsers. OS providers such as Microsoft and Apple always want their customers on the latest version of their OS for support and security reasons. This means that they must say goodbye to older browsers and herald in the new.
Microsoft has done this already with browsers such as Internet Explorer 6 and 7. Support for both of these was dropped when Microsoft moved onto newer OS’.
With both of these factors at play, some browsers have fallen by the wayside and more will do the same in the future.
The death of Internet Explorer 8, 9 and 10
Microsoft announced that support for IE 8, 9 and 10 would end on January 12th, 2016. They would continue to add security patches to particular versions of these browsers on Windows servers but all consumer browsers would no longer be supported and would most likely be a security risk for large companies.
The removal of these old browsers was shortly followed by the release of their new browser Edge. This new browser is a total rebuild and moves away from IE and will be the default browser on Windows 10, Windows 10 mobile and Xbox one. Moving away from the old ways of doing things Microsoft now wished to keep the standard of their browsers on par with others such as Chrome, Safari and Firefox.
IE 11 is the final product in the line of Internet Explorer, and currently, there is no date set to end support.
Continuous development and hidden deprecation
Some browsers such as Chrome and Firefox are continually updating. Every so often you will see a small notification to upgrade your browser, or it will automatically do it once you restart your computer or browser. This is known as Continuous Development.
You may not realise it, but as of writing, this year Chrome has already discontinued one version of their browser. It wasn’t a browser with a different name but a version number, 64.0.3282. Since its launch in 2008 Chrome has discontinued over 60 versions of its browser and rewrote its entire rendering engine in 2013. IE rewrote their rendering engine and rebranded it as Edge, but Chrome has so much of the market share that doing this could mean a loss of some ground to Safari and Edge.
Firefox also uses the continuous development approach to updating their offering but on a less frequent basis. Chrome updates their browser on an average of eight times a year without users realising, but Firefox only does it on average of 6 times a year.
With this style of updating and removing support for older browsers, it is easy to see why there can be different bugs in different browsers and even within the same browser with a slightly different version number.
So what browsers will be leaving us this year? The current version of Chrome, Firefox and Safari will most likely be updated with new features, and even Microsoft Edge might get an update or two. IE 11 looks like it will still be here for a few more years but we can finally move away from IE 8, 9 and 10 as they are no longer officially supported by Microsoft except in particular cases and only for security reasons.
What browsers do Gecko support?
In the office, we mostly use Chrome as the tools available for development are best on that browser, and they usually have the new and shiny features first. We do use other browsers for testing and have access to any browser you would like us to develop for.
If you need your new site to work on IE8 because that is the browser used for your legacy systems we can do that. If you need your site to work on IE9 because you know your customers are using that browser, we can do that.
When we build a site we ensure that it works in IE9 and above but it may not always have all of the nice design elements such as rounded corners on buttons, but it won’t look broken or hinder the user from using the site.
Give us a shout if you need a hand with your site. We are always happy to help!
- Pete, @wearegecko!