From 1 August this year, Google will discontinue support for Firefox 3.5, Internet Explorer 7, Safari 3 and their predecessors. Is it about time we are forced to upgrade our browsers, or will it leave some in the dark?
Google’s phasing out support for old internet browsers – which (according to Google) means IE7, Safari 3, Firefox 3.5 and anything before them.
What does this mean in practise? Well, you’ll struggle to use certain features in Google’s Gmail, Calendar, Talk, Docs and maybe even its flagship search site (though the latter is unlikely). Some of these services may stop working altogether.
Web technology needs to move on
Why the drastic action? Modern browsers feature a lot of new tech that companies want to exploit. The modern introduction of HTML5 in particular is used by Google for desktop notifications in Gmail and drag-and-drop file uploading in Google Docs.
In Google’s own words, ‘older browsers just don’t have the chops to provide you with the same high-quality experience’.
Will this mean that Google.co.uk will suddenly stop working on your archaic browser? Not necessarily. By ‘dropping support’ Google means it will only check whether its services work on modern browsers. If some of its new features stop functioning in IE6 – tough luck, Google ain’t going to fix it. So although you might be able to access Google’s sites on your antiquated browser, there’s no guarantee they’ll work.
How many need to upgrade?
Google’s move may have quite a significant effect on those who have yet to upgrade – around 17% of worldwide web users will need to download a new browser according to Statcounter.
Thankfully it looks like Which? Conversation readers are ahead of the curve. After having a quick gander at our site’s stats, I’ve found that only 10% of you are accessing it from browsers Google will no longer support. Plus, everyone who’s responded to our straw poll on Twitter is up-to-date. Nay bad.
But will Google’s decision actually make a difference? Both Mozilla and Microsoft have been trying to get people to upgrade for years, either with pop-up adverts or automatic updates. They’ve had limited success – Microsoft says there are still a sorry 11% of worldwide internet users on IE6.
What’s stopping you from updating?
Personally I think Google’s move is a brilliant one – web technology won’t move forward if companies are forced to spend their time and resources on old, incapable browsers.
I can, however, see it being a slight problem for businesses, where upgrading browsers is more than just a case of ‘click to install’. But maybe this is the nudge they need to do it? Fat Sam called out the company he works for when he struggled to view Which? Convo on IE6:
‘The PC I was using only has IE6 – our company makes a big song and dance about its online services yet for the vast majority it’s an ancient version of a pee-poor browser.’
Ultimately, if you have access to the web, you have the ability to upgrade your browser – why not just do it? In fact, if you’re still on an ageing browser I’ll make it easy for you – get the latest Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari or Opera by following their respective links.
Do you think Google’s move is unfair, or a required step to get people off their old browsers?