The Web Browser Botheration

I read Wil Wheaton’s blog regularly and he had a questionable experience with a software vendor which he describes here. I started to write a reply, which I couldn’t post as I’m not logged-in but it got me to thinking …

The window on the world for many of our customers is their web-browser. We write software that looks through those windows. You can see where this is going, can’t you? Internet Explorer – and all browsers – once installed, periodically call the mother-ship to check for those pesky automatic updates. We have tried and trusted software that has been running for years suddenly stop working or behave unexpectedly because the customers’ window on the world just cracked in front of them. We’ve not touched a line of code and yet it’s broken. Who pays for the fix? Case in point; it recently took us several days to fix a site that had been broken by IE 10 but had been live for 6 years and we’re not alone in the havoc caused by the latest incarnation of this browser.  I can let the other browser developers off the automatically updated new-version merry-go-round because it’s IE that “seems” to be the worst offender as it picks and chooses which web standards to support and you’re going to get it whether you like or want it or not if you’re using the default Operating System settings for Windows.

It’s never possible for us to test software against future browser versions (IE11 you know who you are) – unless we exceed Warp Factor 9 – as it doesn’t exist yet and if we’re generally paid a one-off price to deliver websites, applications tend to involve a support contract and can be fixed within that. Once you test against new versions as they appear how do you then “suggest” to your customers that they will have to pay-up simply to keep their site flying? It takes us time and for a company that’s moolah!

Over to you internet …

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