Old Browsers Are Holding Back The Web

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Because of how far certain Web technologies like HTML5 and CSS3 have brought us, many would say that—from a Web platform perspective—the future is now. Sounds like a cliché, I know. At the very least, it feels like the future is starting to bubble up to the surface… but it’s just not quite there yet.

When we use new DOM features, HTML5 APIs and the latest in CSS3, the possibilities that open up are astounding. These new technologies help us easily build Web applications with less reliance on hacks, plugins, images, and bloated scripts. This makes life easier not only for Web developers (for both building and maintaining these projects) but also for the end user who gets a faster and stronger overall experience.

But there is a huge road block preventing our “future” from truly becoming the now. What is this roadblock? It’s old browsers. Let’s delve into this topic a little bit so we can see why this is a problem and what we can do to help it.

Internet Explorer’s Usage Share Link

According to StatCounter estimates1, even with the recent mobile explosion, desktop usage still trumps mobile by a large margin. 90% of internet activity worldwide occurs on the desktop. Granted, some reports have mobile shares higher than the current 10% shown by StatCounter. Whatever the case is, the fact remains that a lot of people are accessing our websites and Web apps by using a desktop browser.

Which desktop browsers? Well, let’s look at StatCounter’s usage share for desktop browsers for May 20122, with a specific focus on Internet Explorer:

Stats for desktop browsers in May 20123

As shown above—to the joy of developers everywhere—worldwide stats for versions of Internet Explorer prior to IE8 are very low. IE6 is so low that it’s not even showing up in some of StatCounter’s charts anymore. If you find similar stats for your own projects, then, depending on the overall traffic numbers, you may be able to drop support for IE6 and IE7 and start using a number of features that those browsers don’t support. But what about IE8 and IE9?

As you can see from the image and link above, worldwide usage for IE8 and IE9 is just about 30%, combined. But that might not be the full story. Compare those numbers to the ones taken from two other websites.

First, Net Applications, from April of this year4:

Net Applications browser stats5

Their stats show a whopping 38% of users still on IE6-8, with more than two thirds of those on IE8. In addition, IE9 holds another 16% share. That’s more than 50% of users on IE6-9.

Now look at StatOwl’s April 2012 report6:

StatOwl browser stats7
Large preview8.

Like Net Applications, StatOwl places IE8’s and IE9’s shares significantly higher than StatCounter’s—this time about 20% for each. Combined with the 8% on IE6 and IE7, that’s almost 50% on IE.

The debate about why these different browser usage stats are showing higher numbers for IE6-9 is something that’s been in industry news of late. These details are certainly beyond the scope of this article, but you can check out the links below for more info:

Why Does This Discussion Include IE9? Link

IE9 is a huge step forward from previous versions of Internet Explorer. But it’s over a year old, and does not auto-update like other popular browsers do.

Thus, although IE9 is a much more stable and feature-rich browser, it’s already starting to show its age. With each passing month, browsers like Chrome and Firefox continue to roll out new features automatically, and IE9 gets closer to becoming obsolete.

Why Is The Old Browser Problem Such A Big Deal? Link

Some people might be thinking “What’s the big deal? Use progressive enhancement and you’ll just give old browsers a lesser experience and the users won’t know what they’re missing12”. This might be true with certain CSS3 and HTML5 features for which it’s easy to provide fallbacks and even some lightweight polyfills. But other more complex features are not that simple.

Let’s first take a look at IE8. To give you an idea of how many features IE8 lacks, here’s a list of what you gain as a developer when you stop supporting IE8:

  • Media Queries
  • opacity (without IE filters)
  • border-radius
  • box-shadow
  • RGBA, HSL/HSLA colors
  • HTML5 elements (that don’t need the html5shiv)
  • Data URLs
  • getElementsByClassName
  • CSS Transforms
  • <canvas>
  • Cross­origin Resource Sharing
  • Lots of CSS3 selectors (:nth-child(), :target, :enabled, etc)
  • matchesSelector
  • Navigation Timing API (performance.timing)
  • Multiple backgrounds
  • background-clip, background-origin, background-size
  • Real HTML5 Video/Audio with no messy fallbacks
  • WOFF Fonts
  • SVG images, inline SVG, SVG in CSS backgrounds
  • Geolocation
  • Server ­Sent Events

Also, this list doesn’t take into consideration the number of bugs and performance problems that occur in IE8. So when you consider all of the features above, along with bugs and performance issues, a high number of users still on IE8 becomes a major roadblock to progress on the Web.

Of course, this is not to say that support for these features is perfect in new browsers. Many of these features are still in flux in the spec. But a very high percentage of in-use browsers outside of IE8 have pretty good support for everything listed above.

What About IE9? Link

The problem, however, doesn’t end with IE8. As mentioned, IE9 is likewise starting to fall behind the other browsers. Here’s a list of the features you gain if you don’t have to support IE9:

  • text-shadow
  • Linear and Radial Gradients
  • CSS Transitions
  • Keyframe Animations
  • Web Sockets
  • 3D Transforms
  • flexbox layout
  • Multiple Columns
  • The <datalist> element
  • SVG Filters
  • Application Cache
  • pushState, replaceState
  • indexedDB
  • ECMAScript 5 Strict Mode
  • FileReader API
  • requestAnimationFrame
  • The async attribute for <script> elements
  • Many HTML5 form features
  • Native form validation
  • The <progress> element
  • Web Workers
  • XMLHttpRequestLevel 2
  • Typed Arrays
  • matchMedia
  • Blob URLs

As you can see from the two lists above, the old browser problem is a significant one. These new features (although still in progress) have the potential to help designers and developers innovate and push the Web forward in amazing ways.

Is IE[x] The New IE6? Link

The notion that “IE[x] is the new IE6” has been discussed13 before14, but it deserves more attention here. As of writing this, IE9 (the latest stable version of Internet Explorer), cannot be installed on Windows XP15 and, according to StatCounter16, about 31% of desktop internet usage is on that operating system.

Since a large number of IE8 users are essentially “trapped” in XP, there is no hope that those users are going to upgrade to a newer version of Internet Explorer unless they upgrade their OS.

For your own projects, I hope the stats for older browsers are much better. After all, the only stats that really matter are your own17. Also, the worldwide stats showing high numbers for IE6-8 are probably a little skewed by some densely populated geographic areas18. Nonetheless, usage stats for IE6-9 are still a factor for many projects and may thus be holding back a lot of developers (due to client or corporate pressure) from using many new features.

The point here is that if the usage stats for browsers like IE8 and IE9 linger for anywhere nearly as long as IE6 did, then those of us who are building websites and Web apps for a larger and more diverse audience could be in for a long wait (before using dozens of new features).

IE
Usage stats for IE6–9 are still a factor for many projects and may thus be holding back a lot of developers.

Microsoft Provides A Glimmer Of Hope—Or Do They? Link

One positive development in this area is the recent announcement by Microsoft19 that XP, Vista, and Windows 7 users will be automatically upgraded to the latest version of Internet Explorer available for their operating system.

Unfortunately, while this news is better than nothing, it is not the ideal solution. A similar announcement20 was made back in 2008 regarding a so-called “auto-update” from IE6 to IE7. That 2008 update would only take place if a system was set to auto-approve Update Rollup packages. But a default setting in XP prevents this from happening—so this barely made a ripple in the IE6 problem at that time (as seen from the fact that IE6 usage was at 23% in January of 2009)21.

Similarly, this time around, users will be upgraded to a newer version of Internet Explorer only if they have turned on automatic updating via Windows Update. Also, the auto-update began in January and only for users in certain geographic regions. So again, although this is certainly good news, it’s not the ideal solution.

What Real Options Are There For Users Of Older Browsers? Link

Aside from people that are on systems that, for security or compatibility reasons, cannot upgrade their browsers, everyone that is using IE8 (or lower) has one of two options to help alleviate this problem—even if they’re on Windows XP. They are:

  • Don’t use Internet Explorer22; unlike IE9, all the latest versions of the other major browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera) will run on Windows XP or later.
  • Install Chrome Frame23; it’s easy to install and it makes IE function like Google Chrome.

With those two options there is no excuse for the high numbers of users still on older versions of Internet Explorer. Theoretically, everyone who is not on a locked-down system can upgrade to a non-IE browser or install Chrome Frame. This would likely bring the usage shares for older browsers down to a bare minimum, and would allow developers to bring even more of the latest technologies into common use.

A Note on Tracking IE with Chrome Frame Link

Some of the users still on old versions of Internet Explorer could have Chrome Frame installed, but in the browser usage stats referred to earlier in this post, those are still counted as Internet Explorer. It would be good to see Chrome Frame stats reflected in those applications.

Google Analytics, however, does include “IE with Chrome Frame” as a separate browser, and developers can check out the Chrome Frame developer documentation24 for info on how to detect Chrome Frame usage.

What Else Can We Do To Help? Link

If you have any friends or colleagues using an older version of Internet Explorer (or any old browser), help them upgrade to the latest version of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Opera. You might even want to show them a CSS3-rich or HTML5-rich website in a modern browser and compare it to IE8.

In other words, prove to them that their browser is an out-of-date, unstable, slow piece of software. You might even have a little fun25 trying to show them why non-IE browsers are better.

Display a Message to Users on Old Browsers Link

Another thing you can do is display a message to users if they’re visiting your website in an older browser like IE8. Don’t assume this is too intrusive. A couple of years ago, YouTube started phasing out support for many older browsers26. The message shown below is now displayed to users visiting the website with IE6:

YouTube's message for IE6 users

You could display a subtle yet noticeable message to encourage users to install Chrome Frame27 and make sure to include the necessary code28 that will enable Chrome Frame on pages that are being viewed with it. [However, also provide an option to close the message bar so that users who are stuck in a locked-down system (and have to use your website) can actually use it. —Editorial]

Tomorrow: A Message For Non-Developers Link

Most people reading this article are probably thinking “Yeah, that’s all fine and good, but you’re preaching to the choir, dude.” Many developers already know a lot of this stuff. And we also know that developers and designers are not the ones using older browsers like IE8 for everyday browsing. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Web developer that uses IE9.

That’s why tomorrow Smashing Magazine will be publishing a special post (the article is published now29) that will be targeted towards users who are not designers or developers, and who are not very tech savvy. We encourage everyone to share that article with as many people as possible so we can do everything we can to get the usage stats for old browsers as low as possible.

(jvb)

Footnotes Link

  1. 1 http://gs.statcounter.com/#mobile_vs_desktop-ww-monthly-201204-201204-bar
  2. 2 http://gs.statcounter.com/#browser_version-ww-monthly-201205-201205-bar
  3. 3 http://gs.statcounter.com/#browser_version-ww-monthly-201205-201205-bar
  4. 4 http://marketshare.hitslink.com/browser-market-share.aspx?qprid=2&qpcustomd=0&qptimeframe=M
  5. 5 http://marketshare.hitslink.com/browser-market-share.aspx?qprid=2&qpcustomd=0&qptimeframe=M
  6. 6 http://www.statowl.com/web_browser_usage_by_version.php?1=1&timeframe=last_6&interval=month&chart_id=4&fltr_br=&fltr_os=&fltr_se=&fltr_cn=&limit%5B%5D=ie&limit%5B%5D=firefox&limit%5B%5D=safari&limit%5B%5D=chrome&limit%5B%5D=opera&limit%5B%5D=netscape&timeframe=last_month
  7. 7 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/ie-large-view.png
  8. 8 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/ie-large-view.png
  9. 9 http://windowsteamblog.com/ie/b/ie/archive/2012/03/18/understanding-browser-usage-share-data.aspx
  10. 10 http://blogs.computerworld.com/19925/microsoft_says_chrome_didnt_top_internet_explorer_last_weekend
  11. 11 http://blogs.computerworld.com/19927/statcounter_to_microsoft_youre_wrong_chrome_beat_internet_explorer_last_weekend
  12. 12 http://24ways.org/2009/ignorance-is-bliss
  13. 13 http://infrequently.org/2010/10/ie-8-is-the-new-ie-6/
  14. 14 http://paulirish.com/2011/browser-market-pollution-iex-is-the-new-ie6/
  15. 15 http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/ie/forum/ie9-windows_other/ie9-for-xp-why-doesnt-internet-explorer-9-work-on/e8113f20-b149-4763-b4d4-562d1da524b6
  16. 16 http://gs.statcounter.com/#os-ww-monthly-201205-201205-bar
  17. 17 http://css-tricks.com/the-stats-that-matter-your-sites-stats/
  18. 18 http://gs.statcounter.com/?PHPSESSID=40nvmolpmg8d460oc4mf66c5g0#browser_version-CN-monthly-201205-201205-bar
  19. 19 http://windowsteamblog.com/ie/b/ie/archive/2011/12/15/ie-to-start-automatic-upgrades-across-windows-xp-windows-vista-and-windows-7.aspx
  20. 20 http://www.infoworld.com/t/applications/microsoft-warns-businesses-impending-autoupdate-ie7-628
  21. 21 http://gs.statcounter.com/#browser_version-ww-monthly-200901-200901-bar
  22. 22 http://browsingbetter.com/
  23. 23 https://developers.google.com/chrome/chrome-frame/
  24. 24 http://www.chromium.org/developers/how-tos/chrome-frame-getting-started/chrome-frame-faq#TOC-For-Developers
  25. 25 http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2011/05/how-do-you-convince-the-average-web-user-to-switch-to-a-non-ie-browser/
  26. 26 http://support.google.com/youtube/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=175292
  27. 27 http://www.google.com/chromeframe
  28. 28 http://www.chromium.org/developers/how-tos/chrome-frame-getting-started#TOC-Making-Your-Pages-Work-With-Google-Chrome-Frame
  29. 29 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012/07/10/dear-web-user-please-upgrade-your-browser/

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Louis Lazaris is a freelance web developer and author based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs about front-end code on Impressive Webs and curates Web Tools Weekly, a weekly newsletter for front-end developers.

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  1. 1

    There is one more problem: Some companies i know are still on XP and IE7 is installed on theirs machine and nobody has admin permission so they can’t install another browser. So i think we have at least another year or two before we get rid of IE7 for good :(

    2
    • 2

      True. But from what I understand, they can install Chrome Frame without admin privileges.

      14
      • 3

        Thats true, but like most of us, you are assuming that those people would have the skills and savvy to know how to go about installing chrome in that manner. Also, the majority of those companies don’t allow individual desktops but push from a master image.

        2
      • 4

        no you can’t, at least I can’t. Im a software engineer, btw. But in my work laptop I dont have any type of access. Ive tried to install the chrome frame but no luck. It sucks

        1
        • 5

          Then it must be different on a case by case basis, because Paul Irish told me that you don’t need admin privileges to install it.

          1
          • 6

            No you can’t always do that. At at&t they had their systems locked down to XP/IE6 and I couldn’t install chrome frame.

            0
          • 7

            Federico Brigante

            July 10, 2012 2:12 am

            I believe that Chrome Frame does not require admin privilege, however, admins can still whitelist applications so you won’t even be able to launch a “portable” version of your browser.

            0
          • 8

            Tried installing Chrome Frame on work machines with no luck. Funny enough Chrome installs with no issues.

            0
      • 9

        It’s true that corporate policies often do not allow users to upgrade their browsers, but the intended use is the internal intranet. Obviously, staff are browsing the web when maybe they shouldn’t (public sector, *cough*), but this should not be such an issue for us.

        Maybe we should start a corporate campaign to encourage organisations to at least install chrome frame?

        I think the article is a great idea, and will plaster it over Facebook (probably the biggest IE population).

        -2
      • 10

        The 40+ years old backoffice lady wont install anything^^
        The greed of Microsoft is just too huge. They sell the modern Browser ONLY with their latest OS and thats a shame.

        -1
      • 11

        You can install Chrome as a full browser with out privileged on most locked down systems.

        0
    • 12

      Just an FYI, depending on how exactly permissions are set, you may be able to install Chrome without an admin. Other programs can do this also (VLC Portable). So, you can try that.

      0
    • 13

      The note about some companies still installing Windows XP is still a big issue. I work for a large state agency, and I couldn’t believe the amount of user internally that are still on IE 7 and 8. Nothing can be done to fix this, so it prevents us from using the great new toys html5 and css3 bring.

      Someone please make IE7 & 8 die so we can move on.

      0
    • 14

      I think what you mean is that they have integrated their internal system with IE7. I worked with huge companies that still were locked with that few months a go.. (Can’t remember the name of the framework… anybody help me out here)

      0
  2. 15

    Well said, my friend. Well said.

    0
  3. 16

    Denny Dzulkarnaen

    July 9, 2012 5:40 pm

    Remember the time when flash based websites would present you with a download link to the flash plugin if flash wasn’t installed in your system, and you couldn’t progress any further until you have it installed? Let’s do the same with Chrome Frame.

    0
    • 17

      OMG Please NO. That sucked

      3
    • 18

      Lets think about it. Would you install a Software called “Chrome Frame” on your PC, if you are not a developer or internet known guy?

      In the daily news you hear about viruses, trojans and all the “the internet is evil” things. there must be a better solution

      2
  4. 19

    While its very easy to agree theoretically … the harsh reality is that many clients (the one paying agencies) are still forced by their Enterprise IT department to use certain browsers – mostly IE in its older forms.

    It’s nearly impossible to convince a client that their browser is the extreme minority. They pay the bills – and they want it to work in their browser. period.

    14
  5. 20

    I totally agree with most of the points in this article. Older versions of IE seems to be the biggest pain in my ass. I decided to take a stand a while back and not accept or seek any gigs that require IE8 (or prior) support. I don’t want my efforts to contribute toward “enabling” the problem to continue. IE9 is a huge leap forward but of course there’s more work to be done. It’s obvious MS is finally paying attention, and i’m excited to see what IE10 might offer. It seems that being knocked off the top will keep you honest, grounded, and humbled.

    I hope that a good chunk of this will be resolved once support for XP expires, and those people either upgrade or move on to another platform, but we can contribute to moving this along too. The more we freelancers and businesses continue to “support” or “enable” issues like these, the longer our nightmares live on.

    http://theusg.me

    0
  6. 21

    I wish someone would just develop a virus/trojan that installs Chrome Frame in the background :)

    71
    • 22

      That would only encourge people to continue to use IE.

      0
      • 23

        What do I care what their browser looks like ? As long as they’re actually using Chrome, I’m perfectly fine with their IE6 :). Thats what Chrome Frame was developed for!

        0
    • 24

      That’s the best idea I’ve heard in a long time.

      Hopefully you’ve just sparked the idea in someone capable.

      1
  7. 25

    While I agree with Greg, its the IT departments job to make sure they are doing everything they can to increase security and to decrease the chance of CPI theft and corruption. Keeping users on outdated software, especially IE, is a severe oversight and a failure to the companies infrastructure. More often than not, it comes down to the IT department not wanting to deal with the older culture of the company which comes with any major software update. It’s usually laziness.

    On a developers stand point, So much time and money is wasted on dealing with CSS/JS bugs that always arise in IE7/8. If we as developers could spend more time moving forward instead of working backwards, the web would be a much different place today.

    1
    • 26

      A little late to the party her but…

      Having worked for the MOD, I can safely say it’s not always or even usually laziness on the part of the IT department. At my time of leaving there in 2008, they were just beginning to bring in Windows XP on users workstations, after a very lengthy review process making sure that all software & security was going to play nice with it. Luckily, they skipped straight to IE7, but I know for a fact that where I was, they haven’t been able to move forward from that. And it’s not for lack of enthusiasm on the part of the IT guys, their hands are just tied. It’s the same the world over for any large entity, it’s a time consuming and costly process.

      I think people who surf the web in their lunch breaks still deserve a fairly decent experience, so saying we’ll just drop support seems very unfair to them, it is after all not their fault.

      It’s all very well us developers saying we want to use the latest tech. and ‘stuff you’ if you can’t view our sites properly, but what’s the point in producing sites that only half the people visiting are able to see properly (depending on your target audience of course..). I’d love to just be using HTML 5 and css3 without any fall-backs or hacks, but it’s not the world we live in, we just have to deal with it. Perhaps we all need to learn a little more patience? Food for thought..

      3
  8. 27

    YouTube should impose ie7-ie8-ie9 to be unsupported. It’ll obligate most older browser users to upgrade.

    32
  9. 29

    Henrique Alves

    July 9, 2012 6:24 pm

    Great topic Louis!

    If you think globally the problem is bigger. I’m wondering if part of the problem is also because part of the population just can’t afford to buy a new pc/laptop/gadget every six months?

    For example Brazil has more than 50 million of internet users and most of them still using an old computer/laptop running windows XP.

    Anyway this is not a simple issue to solve and IMO Microsoft should do a bit more for move the web forward.

    H.

    1
  10. 30

    If *everyone* simply stopped developing and/or taking into account the old browsers, then the stubborn hangers-on will give up and update their browsers once all the sites they visit don’t look/function correctly anymore (I hope!) and if not.. if think it’s time to adopt a ‘screw you’ attitude towards them! ; )

    0
  11. 31

    We as developers are sort of guilty since we’re still developing and implementing cool stuff trying to compensate old browsers (ie only), what i generally do it’s i make them look ok, not amazing, and kind of implement a little bit of what you see on ( firefox, chrome) using jquery that being because if we keep trying to compensate and making your site look stunning on ie that will encourage then not to move forward getting a new browser (that’s why i said we spoiled them), i think that google do a terrific job letting them know that they can have a better browser /faster and with more features, also what we can do is start doing alerts with javascript / or another mild approach on our own projects or sites to let them know that there is life out there.

    I know that somehow where are doing that the clients want and they ask you for (ie support) and we can no say NO! right? but letting them know. This is how the sites behaves on modern browsers and this is IE and letting them know that is what, sometimes we miss or completely forget. So we can start educating clients, honestly how long it’s going to take for them downloading chrome the most 5 – 10 mins or as an alternative installing chrome frame, witch is great and they keep using the same crap that the are use to which i think that’s the main problem that some old folks just know that if the want to go to internet just push the E on the bottom and that’s all that they ever need.

    6
  12. 32

    It’s more than a browser issue. Many small businesses and PC owners invested in XP, which can no longer update past already-outdated browser versions. The investment to get a new OS can be prohibitive, so they’re hanging in there as long as they can.

    1
    • 33

      That’s only true for IE. Any XP users can upgrade to the newest version of a different browser, or they can install Chrome Frame.

      2
      • 34

        I am fully satisfied with Louis Lazaris. I have window xp in my pc and I upgrade my browser time to time. I have not face any problem in it even yet.

        0
  13. 35

    jamie paterson

    July 9, 2012 5:42 pm

    I use a little gracefull degredation – just a little. If they want a better view they will have to upgrade, simple as that. I see many sites when testing in IE7 that look completely different almost devoid of colour and style – that works for me too. Let’s keep moving forward…

    7
  14. 36

    Nicholas C. Zakas

    July 9, 2012 6:44 pm

    I think it’s unfair to say that old browsers are holding back the web. That would imply that old browsers represent the majority, which you have already shown is not true. The real problem is the development mindset. Just because older browsers are around doesn’t mean you don’t get to use new features, it just means you need to think a little bit more carefully about how to implement things.

    No one is holding you back from using newer features that the now-majority of users can experience. This is exactly what progressive enhancement is all about. There are plenty of resources out there with guidance on how to build beautiful, useful web experiences that don’t leave older browsers hanging.

    The web development community as a whole needs to stop blaming old browsers and start thinking differently about how we’re doing things. As long as there are new browsers, there will always be old browsers. Instead of waiting for that situation to change, we can get a head start by changing the way that we think about web development.

    10
    • 37

      Good points, Nicholas.

      Here’s the way I look at it, though:

      Old browsers don’t have to be in the majority to disrupt your workflow or prevent you from using certain new features. I don’t think anyone can say that they’re supporting IE8 and they’re using all the features listed in this article. Thus, to me, that amounts to holding back the web.

      Also, if you (or any developer) could choose not to have to support IE8, would you do it? I’m not saying that’s a realistic choice for everyone, but hypothetically speaking, if you had the choice, which would you prefer? Obviously, everyone would rather not support IE8. So if that’s the case, then it’s true: old browsers are holding back the web, because they’re disrupting our workflow and our ability to confidently use many new features.

      And on the progressive enhancement point: Yes, of course, I think all good developers do that. However, some features are just impossible to use if you have to support 20-30% of users on IE8. You either end up polyfilling (which causes big performance and maintenance problems) or else you avoid certain features altogether. As I mention in the article, progressive enhancement works for stuff like CSS3, but not so much for some of the new APIs.

      Anyhow, I agree with your point about the mindset of developers, we definitely have to just get down to solving problems, which I think we’ve done reasonably well now for over a decade.

      6
      • 38

        Most developers I know already have this mindset, however the problem is the additional overhead required to develop the same site in IE. I my opinion, that is the biggest issue. And it’s not a ‘laziness’ thing – developers I know would rather spend their time moving forward on their projects rather than trying to figure out why something does not work in IE.

        0
  15. 39

    Kevinjohn Gallagher

    July 9, 2012 5:45 pm

    Aside from the fact that you are, as you say, “Preaching to the Choir”; we also must realise why the average person or organisation simply won’t care about any of this.

    To use your own argument:

    “Here’s a list of what you gain as a developer when you stop supporting IE8:
    – Media Queries
    – opacity (without IE filters)
    – border-radius
    – box-shadow
    – RGBA, HSL/HSLA colors”

    – Media Queries are rarely used for desktop sites to the point that it’s almost non-existent.
    – Opacity works fine on IE8, it just requires different code, in the same way that webkit browsers require different code than opera and firefox.
    – border radius and box-shadow. If this is what we consider to be “holding back the web”, by not allowing shadows on things, then lets turn the lights off and go home. It’s a nice to have. It’s simply not going to convince anyone that there’s anything wrong.
    – RGBA colours. you mean i have to use normal/been-around-for-years and still work fine hex colours? Oh the humanity !! Call Bob Geldof, lets set up a fundraiser!! Quickly, everyone upgrade, so we can output the same colour but written a different way.

    etc.

    If we want people to upgrade their browsers, and we do, then we need to give them a good reason!!

    There needs to be a carrot and a stick. The positive for people and organisations has to be more than superficial, (there needs to be a net benefit for any change to be considered an upgrade) and as an industry our constant claiming that HTML5/CSS3/super-kittens are going to save the web and that everyone must upgrade to the latest nightly isn’t going to do it.

    We need to be able to show people that there is a real benefit to THEM, not a benefit to US because we get to write cooler or slightly less code, and that needs to be tailored against OUR expectation that a 1 year old browser (IE9) is close to obsolete. People in the real world can’t keep up with that rate of change, even with “auto-updates”.

    Constantly bashing IE, even when accurate, just comes across as childish and having a sneering superiority complex. “oh, you’re using THAT. ha. WE people in the know use something new and cooler.”.

    Changing from one piece of software to another requires a great deal of investment. Time, money, support, resistance to change, testing, deployment, loss in productivity. Thats not just in organisations or big business, but for each and every user, on every change in software. The hope is that the net gain is worth it. If we want people to undertake that for us, our argument can’t have “text-shadow” anywhere near it. We have to start talking in the language that USERS understand.

    Respectfully, we all need to come up with a better argument.

    25
    • 40

      Kevinjohn, thanks for your comment. The thrust of this post was not just about the fluffy new CSS3 stuff; it’s the APIs and other big features that hold us back, really. The CSS3 stuff is just adding to that. You said:

      We need to be able to show people that there is a real benefit to THEM, not a benefit to US because we get to write cooler or slightly less code

      This article was for developers, tomorrow’s article will address those issues. :)

      5
      • 41

        Looking forward to that article!

        Furthermore, I think that it’s also about convincing corporate managers. My guess is that most outdated machines can be found at large companies that don’t want to spend money on testing and rolling out new software for all work stations. You’ll often hear: “Why? The current software does it’s job, doesn’t it?”

        You’ll only convince these people when you prove that updating browsers can actually save money. The amount of reasons for that can be vast, but there need to be some kind of proof.

        0
    • 42

      It’s true, a feature list doesn’t convince users or managers.

      We could link to some incredible demo collections like …
      https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/demos
      http://www.chromeexperiments.com/
      http://shinydemos.com/

      … and indicate that the experience for these incredible experiences in IE8 is close to nonexistent.

      Or we could try to tell a story about adding a attachment to your email, or uploading a photo to a website. In older browsers you need to deal with the pesky “Choose File” dialog, navigating your folders in a tiny window; but in newer browsers you can just drag and drop all files into a big target dropzone and the browser does the rest.

      Now, that’s a very feature based upgrade, and speed is another huge difference. And comparing modern day IE and Chrome to IE8 is just a huge stark difference, but I don’t think many folks think differently than the linear version numbers would suggest small improvements.

      4
    • 43

      I’ve grown tired of all the fancy tricks in the webpages and wish a lot of that stuff designers find so wonderful could just be turned off. Lightboxes… hate them, hover over menus, I just want to click to pop them up, too many times I slid my pointer and accidentally selected something there and lot a huge comment. Slideouts…I’m trying to read the story…go away. Jquery… on a slower computer, it times out and you get a blank page…. can’t you just render the page on the server and send me the result? Excessive javascript… can freeze a slower computer and make it impossible to even scroll.

      Pretty much… I want the content and not all the flare… things that designers find crucial…I plain find annoying

      0
  16. 44

    Newer versions of IE will always become the next IE6, untill IE gets auto-update.
    Personally, I completely ignore ie6 now, but still try to make websites look as nice as they can be, in ie7 (and up).
    I’m not a big fan including a lot of javascript libraries to make stuff work in lower IE versions, so the only script I use for that is mediaqueries.js.
    I wish we could simply ignore IE all together, but I think it’s our job to to make the web look nice for everyone.

    3
  17. 45

    Shashikant Arya

    July 9, 2012 8:02 pm

    World’s first IE7 “tax”

    Online retailer Kogan has instituted the world’s first Internet Explorer 7 tax. When customers make a purchase from the e-commerce store using IE7, they’ll be charged an additional 6.8% “tax” on their purchase to offset the additional cost of supporting IE7. To avoid the surcharge, shoppers need only switch to Chrome, Firefox, Opera, or Safari to make their purchase. Imagine how much tax would be for IE 6?

    http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-18440979

    0
    • 46

      I would fire the developers, and hire a couple that knew how to code. I seriously don’t understand the big deal supporting IE7 & 8. If you have trouble coding for older browsers and modern browsers, you don’t know what you are doing. If I dropped support for IE6 and 7, I would loose millions a month.

      -6
      • 47

        I completely agree. Unless you’re doing something really cutting edge, it’s not a big deal to support IE7 and 8; every web developer should be well versed with techniques for supporting them. Also, Microsoft makes it really easy to test on older versions of IE with tools like SuperPreview … man I wish we had tools like these back in the early 2000s.

        5
    • 48

      I believe this was a joke/marketing stunt :> Buyers didn’t actually have to pay it in the end.
      See: http://www.neowin.net/news/ie7-tax-is-a-marketing-stunt-nothing-to-see-here

      1
  18. 49

    We should create a world movement, to get rid of ie7-8, so I can use that 20% of the time I spend fixing issues for ie to do something else. This will also increase productivity on companies like the one I work for, who are launching products every week, it is really a PITA.

    0
  19. 50

    I wrote about IE and modern browsers on my own blog not too long ago. A central point I think is sometimes missed is the incentive for the browser makers. Microsoft doesn’t make money off of Internet Explorer, it makes money off of the OS. They simply don’t have a strong drive to make an awesome browser.

    The problem, as you’ve said, really is the OS. IE7 is dying off pretty fast, but we’ll be stuck with IE8 for a while.

    The real issue isn’t with the end-users; it’s with the clients. We need to create incentives for our clients to stop requiring websites to look and even perform the same in all browsers. If we would track our dev hours on a per-browser basis so our clients could quantify what IE[x] actually costs, they’ll make decisions that benefit their bottom line (and our web).

    0
    • 51

      I like it. Add an IE tax to any quote and see them quickly turnaround and say supporting IE so strictly may not be a priority if it saves them money.

      -1
  20. 52

    Old browsers aren’t real problem, new browsers and new web developer expectations are. Some tutorials are pushing the limits of World Wide Web far beyond the standard user demand. Users don’t really need RGBA colors, opacity without filters, animations made through CSS instead of JavaScript… these are pure technical problems and it’s the job of web developer to calmly deal with them. Annoying or attacking the users of old or unpopular browsers is not a solution. It’s spam. Nothing more.

    As I see last thirteen years: Browsers are getting better and better and web developers are whinning more and more… it’s insane. When dealing with the old and the new, the old is the base, and the new is investment, never vice versa. Remember Postel’s law? “Be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others.”

    Even I sometimes use Internet Explorer 7. That browser does match my humble needs. It’s my personal choice. When I see broken website in it, I blame lazy author, not my browser. All I want is to read some article or buy some stuff, maybe post a comment — do I really need one of those five new browsers to do that? Am I holding back the web? Are my demands too old or too marginal? I don’t think so.

    0
  21. 53

    I’m a developer, and while in my professional life i strive for browser compatibility in my personal sites and fun projects can anyone give me a real reason why I should care about anyone on ie6/7/8/9 or other outdated browsers. These people are likely not the type to “browse” the web for high functioning websites anyway. So why go the extra mile, when in fact we as developers are slowing ourselves down by being compatible.

    5
  22. 54

    Your article is well done and do not take this comment in poor taste, however we really need to stop writing these IE7/8/9 articles. The topic has been beaten to death. Nearly every web design/development blog on the planet has at least one of these articles stashed in its’ archives.

    You’re either on board to quit supporting IE7/8 and educating your colleagues and clients or you’re not. More of these articles discussing the pitfalls of supporting or not supporting are going to change anymore minds.

    Again, Louis, this is not aimed at you, your article is well written and I have read some other articles written by you and all are well done. This is directed towards the community as a whole.

    More fresh content please Smashing team.

    0
  23. 55

    If we all started making web 1.0 versions of our websites for IE, then maybe, just maybe the people using those evil browsers would get the idea to upgrade.

    “Look here, in IE you get text, links, and images, and in Chrome you get aaalllll of this.”

    -2
  24. 56

    Some shops put additional prize for users who uses IE6/7. This is very good idea :)

    -5
  25. 57

    The lack of auto-update for IE is deadly. In an industry that moves so fast where new technologies are being leveraged all the time, static browsers like this just go stale so quick. And the average user who uses IE is usually not the sort of user that is likely to be comfortable installing newer versions themselves, and is also unlikely to even know what they are missing out on by using such a backward browser.

    -1
  26. 58

    I think IE is there for a reason so that us slow folks can catch up with all the new cool web design/development technologies that get released on monthly basis. IE kind of says to the development industry, “Hold your horses”; IE doesn’t want anybody running loose in all kinds of direction causing havoc and introducing potential vulnerabilities and holes in the process that no one would ever catch if the industry is trending too fast.

    -4
  27. 59

    I think browser vendors should provide “portable” versions of their browsers by default. This way those working in companies with strict security policies could run something else than IE6-8, without the need for an administrator to install new software.

    I successfully “installed” a portable version of Chrome at school. It was a bit of a hassle to get working smoothly but I’d rather use the latest Chrome than the 3.2 version of Firefox or IE7 the school has locked down to. :)

    0
  28. 60

    Joop Dorresteijn

    July 10, 2012 9:59 am

    Most internet users are based in China, and here something terrible is happening: Evil, evil 360 browser (looks like IE8 logo, identifies as IE8) is installing itself with virus scanner, and uninstalls chrome and other browsers form the system. Growth is exponential over last months, so 360 is or will become the biggest browser in this nation.

    0
    • 61

      After reading more about this browser, it sounds like the whole company is pretty much evil incarnate.

      Thankfully we don’t have customers in China.

      0
      • 62

        Some how we feel we need to educate our users, but since it doesnt’ identify properly, (IE8) we can’t tell who is using this browser. It’s quite frustrating actually, bad for innovation

        0
  29. 63

    A great way to tell visitors that they use an old browser is http://www.browser-update.org. This give a nice notification bar with a clear message what users can do to upgrade and why they should.

    -2
    • 64

      But those messages look like “Hey! Here I am! Download now! (Oh and I’m a tiny virus)”.
      And I know lots of people which are scared by those messages and would ignore them.

      0
  30. 65

    Thank you Louis for this article and the latest statistics reviewed. I think displaying messages to those people who still browse using old browsers or even punish the usage of them, is a good way to draw their attention to the IE misery and get people support the progress of the web. A lot of them don’t see WHY they should use another browser. They can surf the websites they are used to, they don’t realize that there’s a huge difference in Functionality and Design. We as Designers and Developers know it, IE is such a pain. We should push this more to get people rethink their browsing habits.

    -3
  31. 66

    Supporting IE 9 still allows you to use linear and radial gradients as it, as well as every other major browser, supports SVG background gradients.

    I’ve written 2 extensions to help developers use them. One, CSS Professionalzr for Adobe Fireworks, http://www.mattstow.com/css-professionalzr.html converts linear gradients on objects to CSS and the other, Easy CSS3 for Dreamweaver allows you to add all kinds of gradients to your CSS: http://www.mattstow.com/easy-css3.html

    Microsoft also have an SVG Gradient Background Maker: http://ie.microsoft.com/testdrive/graphics/svggradientbackgroundmaker/default.html

    Please, start using SVG for IE9!

    1
  32. 67

    First of all, I’m all for moving forward and use the latest and shiniest tools and toys but Kevinjohn Gallagher’s reply is right on the money… end users simply don’t care.

    Not everyone cares about having the latest iPad, LED-TV or 3D Blue-ray player – heck I know people who don’t even own a dolby surround set and I’m fairly sure you know people who still own a old-fashion Nokia phone as well. Why don’t they upgrade? Because it still works for them.

    Not unless there’s a functional benefit will the average person upgrade or switch browsers, not unless their Facebook, Amazon or internet banking stops working will they upgrade. And guess what? Businesses like that aren’t in the market of alienating average clients or building obstacles that forces potential new customers.

    We’ve progressively enhanced from Mosaic, to Netscape, to Internet Explorer to Firefox and Chrome and that’s the beauty of the web – progressive enhancement in a constantly evolving technical environment. We’ve always used ‘polyfills’ to stop legacy gaps and they’ve always worked for us and modern technologies just makes it that much easier to use them.

    People who are using old browsers are either locked-in or not interested, so respect them as it is their choice to experience the web they’d like to.

    It is our job as a design & development community to give them the best experience from their point-of-view – not ours. None of us are doing poly-fills and IE-hacks in their spare time, we’re all getting paid and no proverbial kittens or dolphins get hurt while doing so.

    We’re in the business of problem solving and story telling. If you can only tell your story in dts 1080p high-def 3D you’re simply doing it wrong…

    6
  33. 68

    “you’d be hard-pressed to find a Web developer that uses IE9” … ouch … I consider myself to be a pretty good web developer and I actually started using IE9 (switched from Chrome) a couple years ago as a personal experiment. I’ve kinda stuck with it, mostly because of its leaner memory footprint and great integration with the Windows 7 taskbar.

    That said, I really hope Microsoft starts auto-updating IEs from 10 onwards, since they’re really lagging behind in HTML5/CSS3 support.

    1
  34. 69

    Yeah, the problem is heavy. A big number of large corporations / governmental organizations in Germany are still on the WinXP + IE6 with JavaScript being disabled (for security reasons). And the changes are not to be expected in the next 8-10 years, as all the rest of the their software is made for this configuration only. From their point of view, it’s quite logical: the systems are proved to work, HTML5 is not officially released until 2022, budgets (as always) short – so why should big organizations even bother to upgrade? The reason is missing.

    0
  35. 70

    Newer browsers tend to be painfully slow on old computers, and not everyone can afford to buy new computers. Old browsers always have been part of web development. Dealing with it is part of the profession.

    5
  36. 71

    Nice article.IE does not have all the plugin.Therefore it is difficult to load every pages.Thank you.

    0
  37. 72

    The problem is that of us with a tech-savvy frame of mind forget that the majority of internet users are scared to upgrade or change browsers as they like what they know and worry they won’t understand how to use the ‘new’ system. Many of them wouldn’t know how to upgrade even with very simple instructions and in fact don’t even understand what ‘upgrade’ is (my own parents spring to mind in this!) To say that Auto Update would solve it is also flawed as it causes lots of problems with older systems as they’re just not compatible with the newer updates. In an ideal world everyone would be fully tech-minded with a new computer or whatever every year but that doesn’t happen.
    On top of that since the world economies nose-dived ordinary people are unable to afford to replace older equipment so are less likely to have the more up-to-date browsers and OS. For example my elderly neighbours have a pc that’s 7 years old and they just can’t afford to replace it! Admittedly they probably don’t use the fancier websites but there are huge numbers of people in similar situations.
    For most ordinary folk IE is the least problematic browser to use for general browsing. FF causes many older systems to go into overdrive even without add-ons and with Chrome it’s pot luck which updates work – often there are major problems with each new version causing failures with Flash etc – and many major websites still aren’t fully compatible with Chrome (frustrating as I prefer Chrome!)
    For me the biggest bugbear is lack of highspeed internet of which I have particular experience – at home in our UK village we get around 1mb on a good day, whichever ISP you use, so even with the best browsers some websites are unusable – at peak times and in poor weather it’s a nightmare! The nearby town is much faster but it’s a ridiculous situation that you should have to drive to a different place just to access some websites.
    So to my mind it’s users’ financial constraints combined with a lack of universally good internet connections that’s holding us back the most.

    4
  38. 73

    I know a lot of people who have completely stopped supporting IE6 and IE7. They get to play with all of the new toys, develop fast, and not get the usual headaches. But they could be alienating a lot of people. Right?

    I also know quite a few people who vehemently support both, swear up and down that you’re a disgrace to the industry if you don’t, and relish spending extra hours after making something with CSS3+HTML5 to make it again with jQuery or something older. ‘Cause new people should be able to taste the new flavor, and old people basically get the same thing (leaving many to wonder why they don’t just do it the old way to get the exact same results in half the time – but then people cry that progressive enhancements and heralding in the future make this double-layer duty a necessary evil).

    I say base it on each case. Are you making something a lot of people at some company will visit? People stuck in some Microsoft intranet where IE6 is all they can use? Or are you making an online store for a local car decal shop that would be fine and dandy without IE6 support? In the end, it depends. It depends more on the site, whom it’s for, and who will be visiting it most.

    4
  39. 74

    What an absolute pointless waste of time trying to share articles and convince you pals their browsers are out of date. No one cares!

    Displaying the message on site load is a good idea, if people don’t care simple force them…

    0
  40. 75

    And for the necessary bit of irony: these days I spend more time fixing obscure Chrome and Safari iOS bugs than I spend time fixing stuff for old IEs.

    I’m pretty sure that time will fix the “old browsers” annoyance, let’s find the time to make sure that “new browsers” learn to act according to their reputation. To be honest, many modern browsers show behavior that would even put IE6 to shame.

    2
    • 76

      But the difference is that Chrome (for example) will automatically roll out a new update to fix that problem within 6 months or so, and in a short time nobody will have that problem anymore.

      That’s not the same as dealing with IE6 issues for 7+ years. :)

      And if you happen to find a bug in IE9 *today*, you’ll have the same problem 5 years from now — because IE9 won’t auto-update.

      0
      • 77

        Then again, if you fix an IE9 bug today it will still work in IE9 5 years from now. If you make something in Chrome today, it could be broken with the next release, without you ever realizing it. That’s not just theoretical situation mind, it happened to us before.

        Not that I’m a fan of IE6, but I still believe the “popularity” of IE6 is a direct result of bad web design leading to an unwillingness to upgrade.

        1
      • 78

        Moreover, auto-update forces you to trust the browser manufacturer. In case of Google Chrome it is self-murder, because tomorrow Google will rollout some kind of “ActiveX”/NCl/other proprietary, insecure technology, effectively exposing all your private data, making your computer vulnerable.

        How can one trust a company, which makes money on exploring your preferences to feed you with the ad-stream?

        1
  41. 79

    Old browsers dont hold back the web. It is old attitudes to technology that holds it back. People and enterprises that are used to multi-year upgrade cycles and happy with static content cannot be expected to see value right away.

    Stop serving content to old browsers, instead of bending over backwards that should help. I have been involved in supporting these legacy browsers and cant explain how much pain they cause.

    0
  42. 80

    I think this article should have been titled “Why IE is holding back the web” because it seems that is certainly the case and always has been so. I cannot count how many times I’ve designed a wonderful website, though, and a client has told me it doesn’t appear correctly in their version of IE.

    I would personally like to see IE banned from the web, but that’s just me.

    0
  43. 81

    Christopher Masiello

    July 10, 2012 3:02 pm

    Time for some Tough Love. Move ahead with your plans and leave the laggards behind.
    Some people will take the hint and upgrade and the real knuckleheads will just leave. Seriously, they are customers that you probably don’t want.
    There’s a saying in business “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have”.
    Build a destination for the customers you want and leave the others behind.

    -1
  44. 82

    Simply put, it’s not old browsers holding back the web, it’s Microsoft and their browser, they are always playing catch up with their buggy browser, I don’t understand why they even bother anymore.

    It’s almost like Internet Explorer has become a “bad word” you don’t speak of.

    1
  45. 83

    Yes and No.

    I am old enough to remember when yesterday’s browsers were the new hotness. I am worried that people are so caught up with playing with new toys (before they are even finished with at the W3C) that we are missing the big picture.

    Right now for the perhaps the first time since they came out we can write HTML 4 and CSS 2 without fear of it not working without hacks for 95%+ ish of of people browsing.

    It took 10 years to get here.

    People whining about supporting old browsers should get some perspective. This is what makes the Internet. Everyone is invited, there is no dress code. We tried the locked in method with Compuserve/AOL, Internet Explorer’s custom Filter/behaviour CSS (which looks like a menu for CSS3) and Flash. I am sorry people want freedom more.

    Do you know why aren’t happy that we finally got the support we wanted for HTML 4 and CSS 2, it’s easy now so it doesn’t matter. Just like rounded corners. I don’t need a cloud of DIVs anymore, I just need to gracefully degrade for IE9 or below. So no one wants them anymore.

    The same is true with browsers, once IE6 died, we have to kill IE7 or marginal browsers that don’t meet the designer’s personal preference.

    Well stuff that.

    The web will always be moving and the real culprit here isn’t MS who have two pretty good HTML 4 + CSS 2 browsers, it’s that the W3C still haven’t gotten their stuff together so we at least know what is final and what is not.

    I do use HTML 5 and CSS 3 when I feel it can degrade gracefully, because I know that if the W3C make some last minute changes it shouldn’t muck up all my sites like it did when they fell out with MS last time.

    9
    • 84

      Exactly! It seems to me that MS is doing us all a favor by adding in the CSS3 and HTML5 features later than all the others, so they can see how it is done by the industry, and thus have a more standard way of doing things. They got bit before for innovating, and now that they are playing by the “rules” we are yelling at them again? Seriously, we developers sound like a finicky bunch of two year olds.

      2
  46. 85

    Some of the big companies should just stop support for old Browsers.

    Youtube, Facebook, Amazon, etc.

    -1
  47. 86

    Can there be any web-related news older than this tired rant? Quit whining and get over it. You can talk tough and fantasize about forcing people to upgrade browsers all you want, but if the vast majority of your clients’ customers can’t use the web sites you create, you should be fired.

    The web business is not about satisfying your artistic and technical aspirations – save that for your portfolio site. It’s about delivering value to the people paying for the work – and they get their money from customers who use any browser they choose. Businesses that thought they could dictate to their customers have a common characteristic: they no longer exist.

    It took years to effectively kill off IE6, so don’t plan on killing off later versions any time soon. If managing cross-browser compatibility (which has been part of the job description since the beginning) is just too hard or too inconvenient for you, find an easier job. Your replacements are lined up behind you, ready to do the hard work you’re whining about.

    3
  48. 87

    And gravity is holding us to the ground.

    1
  49. 88

    I would like to create a website that provides some very simple steps for those who need to update their browsers. For the web developers, it would have snippets for displaying a message that the user’s browser is old so that every web developer could easily plug in this option to any website. The user could then follow the link to the site where they are given the option to download only the latest version of Firefox or Chrome, or possibly just Chrome so as not to confuse them too much if they’re in the dark over what a browser is anyway.

    There would be details and fun graphics to explain a browser in simple terms and why they should upgrade (speed, better visuals, security especially would hit home, and, at least with Chrome, never having to worry about updating). Finally, it would explain how to transfer their bookmarks (info they may not know how to search for), and this I think would provide all that the “basic” user needs to know and would provide a great way for them to upgrade and gain a little knowledge in the process.

    Being a small-time intranet developer myself, I’ve dealt repeatedly with the frustrations of tweaking for IE. I’d build this website tomorrow if I could. Anybody interested in partnering?

    0
  50. 89

    Hi Louis, i agree 100% with you. Designing web with html5 and css3 could be so creative … without ie7-8-and 9.

    But what are you telling a client, that needs support for ie7, 8, 9 because of his clients? In this case, i have to compromise – but on my own pages, i think, i will go the you-tube way!

    Thanks for your article

    Johannes

    0

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