Nobody seems to talk about the "war of the browsers" anymore. Let's go back in time: First Netscape won, then Internet Explorer won, and then Firefox arrived and got half the market back, while Safari got its sizeable slice, Opera always stuck at 2%, and now it's Google Chrome on the rising -- so, in the end, and thank goodness, nobody won.
Today, it's not about winning the war of the browsers: it's about winning the war to kill old browsers, which are seriously slowing innovation down to a crawl. As Apollo's developers, we know this very well: we battle problems with old browsers every day.
Chrome auto-updates itself. Pretty much every Chrome user is now using Chrome 8, regardless of their OS policy to software upgrades. Firefox is following Chrome's steps, doing an auto-update to its latest version automatically. Internet Explorer users, on the other hand, are less lucky: there are tons of IE 6 users, lots of IE7 and a small army of IE8 users. There are also people using old versions of Firefox, Safari or Opera (although they are a minority).
It's time to stop this. Here is my proposal.
Warnings and warnings
I remember trying to use Internet Banking with HSBC a few years back. I had opened an account earlier that day, and was quite excited about finally having an account without paying monthly fees (which are common in Australia). I tried to log on, only to discover that HSBC's web site wouldn't let me use the system because I didn't have Internet Explorer! I wrote a complaint letter to them, they replied that IE had 98% of the market and I should install Windows, the "industry standard". They didn't give me a warning; they didn't suggest me a possible path (what about Mac users for example? Should they use the latest IE for Mac, dated 2003?). They just locked me -- and a whole lot of people -- out.
I closed my account with them and never went back -- and missed out on a fee-free bank account.
Today, this would in inconceivable.
Fast-forwarding to today: when you use Youtube, and are using Explorer, they suggest you try Chrome and even offer a link to it. The main difference here is that Chrome is available for any operating system, and that using it is not a strict requirement to use Youtube.
This is all great, but I think we need to go one step further. More people need to give very loud warnings -- in fact, everybody should do it. And everybody should do it right.
My proposal is very simple: every web site should have a clear warning every time a user loads a page using an old browser. It should be possible to close the warning, but it should basically come back within one hour.
The warning should work like this:
If they are using an old browser, then the warning should tell them so, and offer them to upgrade to either the new version of their browser, or to the latest Chrome or Firefox.
If they use an "unrecognised" browser, it should be silent.
Why Chrome or Firefox? Simple: because they are the only browsers that will update themselves quietly and automatically. Getting users to install one of them will guarantee that they will be up-to-date for life.
So, if they are using for example Internet Explorer 8, they should get a message like this:
You are using Internet Explorer 8. Your browser is old. Your internet experience is greatly affected by this problem. Upgrade to [IE 9], or [Chrome] or [Firefox]: it will help you, and the Internet as a whole!
I don't think people should maintain their own code. I think we should have one version of the code, loaded by everybody. The code should reside on a public server with a lot of bandwidth (probably hosted by Google or AOL), and its use should be simple and universal.
It would only be a few lines, but they need to be very carefully crafted to perfection.
Please spread the word!
If we get enough interest out there, we will release a sample code. Or maybe such code already exists... let us know your take on this! We are happy to put work into it.