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Andrea Di Clemente's picture
By Andrea Di Clemente
Friday, February 11, 2011 - 12:28

Creating a universal nag message for people using old browsers

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.

Or, when you use Apollo, you get something very similar, except that Apollo goes further: in this case we don't offer a simple invitation to upgrade, but a nag you can't get rid of.

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

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!

The code

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's pretty basic Javascript, but it's tricky: it needs to work pretty much with any browser (including IE6!), and needs to look "OK" (like a small band at the top of the page) so that the site displaying it doesn't get crippled; it should also be easy enough to customise it so that it blends well with the hosting site's look.

It would only be a few lines, but they need to be very carefully crafted to perfection.

Please spread the word!

We absolutely need to get the javascript ready, and get as many sites as possible to use this code. Users need to be nagged: a significant number of people using IE or old Firefox versions makes developing for the web a nightmare. Unfortunately, even a small 2% here means millions of people.

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.

12 comments so far

Valerio's picture


Wed, 02/16/2011 - 02:44


I agree. IE sucks. Web services like Apollo and the web in general, deserves better standards to offer high level of quality and usability.
I already place nag messages on some critical sites of mine.

Tipografo's picture


Thu, 02/17/2011 - 08:42


Definitively one of the biggest 'plagues' nowadays. IE and old browsers are slowing down both the app-development and the natural progress of server-side languages as HTML5 and CSS3. Will pop back here soon to check for the code :)

Joram van den Boezem's picture

Joram van den Boezem

Tue, 02/22/2011 - 11:13


I think there's definitely a need for such a thing. It should be highly customizable though. For example, I wouldn't want to confuse users of some of my sites using IE with links to other browsers out there.
Then, I would want to choose recommended browsers, as personally I prefer Opera over Firefox, and would like to recommend that to users on some other sites.
Also, an option to altogether replace an entire site with a nag screen (or BSoD for that record) for users of IE6, if the particular website is not compatible at all with that MS fossil.
A universal warning - if wide-spread enough - would be a strong message to those still using old browsers. I would use it on all my sites, that's for sure.
I will gladly help you guys on developing and testing this, keep us posted!

applicomhq's picture


Tue, 02/22/2011 - 15:54


We will! We are still waiting to see some of the feedback...!

Joram van den Boezem's picture

Joram van den Boezem

Wed, 02/23/2011 - 23:02


I posted a comment earlier, but it has still to appear (moderated comments)? Or shall I repost?

Joram van den Boezem's picture

Joram van den Boezem

Wed, 03/23/2011 - 07:03


Have you guys seen this? It's great, now we even get help from Microsoft itself:

Is it an idea to start a project site, maybe on Google Code or Github to start a discussion on how this should be implemented and widely accepted among developers. I think the discussion and ultimately development of such code should take place in an open and independent environment.

Google comes up with several such projects, but the majority seems to be outdated and not actively maintained anymore, written for a particular framework, favor a particular browser (mainly Firefox) or lack discussion about it's interface and code.

Those pitfalls should definitely be avoided!

Tony Mobily's picture

Tony Mobily

Wed, 03/23/2011 - 09:07



Interesting site!
I must say, we didn't get the interest we had hoped for when we published this article. But I think you are right, creating a Google Code project would be the way to go.

Would you be able to do the "management" side of things, if we contribute with code?


Joram van den Boezem's picture

Joram van den Boezem

Wed, 03/23/2011 - 22:17


I will try to create an environment in the following weeks. Started with a Google Code project, see Please let me know anybody who'd like to contribute, so I can add them to the project.
Next could be some kind of project style and website? We could put that in the project repository so all users can collaborate on it, too.

applicomhq's picture


Wed, 03/23/2011 - 22:49



OK thanks!
please add to the list of users.
For the web site, I'd stick with something simple -- I think there's a simple site that comes with Google Code's projects?


Hoffmann from Stuttgart's picture

Hoffmann from Stuttgart

Tue, 04/05/2011 - 22:43


Dear team,

I love that idea and since I'm developing a solution for a client at the moment which relies on the use of modern techniques heavily I'm going to implement such a warning into the website.

Here is a page I just found (german language only), but maybe you'll understand or can use Google Translate:


Tony Mobily's picture

Tony Mobily

Wed, 04/06/2011 - 17:42


Thanks for the pointer Philipp! I sent them an email...!

Fabiano F. Scalco's picture

Fabiano F. Scalco

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 21:59


I agree. IE sucks[2]

is so much painful work around with ie's =|

some time ago, i try to used this site! works great, but my chief didn't like that =/