Web development, project costs and user experience impacted by old browser… again
Software architect and Microsoft MVP Troy Hunt has written about the impending crisis that is Windows XP and IE 8. Internet Explorer has long been a thorn in the side of web designers and developers, historically due to its scant regard for web standards; IE has since at least version 5 also caused development issues through widespread lagging upgrade cycles, particularly in corporate environments.
Some agencies plough ahead regardless—nearly a year ago, 37signals stated it would no longer develop for IE8; however, Hunt inferred that version of Microsoft’s browser will this year cause havoc online, through being the most recent IE Windows XP users can run, despite having been released in 2009.
For many, XP might seem like a distant memory, but Hunt pointed out StatCounter figures estimate around one in four PCs still runs that operating system, and in some locales (for example, China), its share rises significantly. With Microsoft unable or unwilling to enable XP to run IE9 or later, this means IE8 will likely have a very long tail in terms of usage, not least due to, as Hunt notes, many organisations having a ‘standard’ OS environment that doesn’t allow more modern XP-compatible browsers to be installed alongside the ageing IE8.
Peter-Paul Koch recently revealed 92 per cent of developers he surveyed were “required to support IE8”, and so it’s reasonable to assume most developers still consider it just something they have to deal with by default. However, Hunt remarked that IE8’s issues result in “hacks all over the place,” and that “supporting IE8 from the outset adds cost,” not just in development but also legacy cost that you’ll “continue to pay throughout the life of the app many years after IE 8 has eventually faded into obscurity”.
Because of these issues, Hunt sees 2013 as a “perfect storm”, with IE8 support being dropped by developers, XP users being left in the lurch, the costs of building software increasing, and tough decisions having to be made by everyone, from corporations through to web developers.