A lot of people have asked us why we don’t support certain web browsers or why we recommend certain web browsers over others. To explain that, we need to talk about web standards. To explain those, let’s take a train ride.
Working on the railroad
I come from a family of railroaders; most of the men on my dad’s side of the family worked long days building and repairing lines throughout northern Maine. It’s safe to say that I’ve heard my share of railroad stories and talks about railroad history.
One of my favorite pieces of railway trivia has to do with track gauges. Before the Civil War, trains in different parts of the country used different track gauges – that is, the width between the two rails of the track. If you wanted something moved a long distance, there was a good chance you’d need to stop, change locomotives, change cars, and start again on a track with a different width. As time moved on, railroads changed and widely adopted the standard gauge in use today, allowing the same car to move from one side of the country to the other. (If you’d like to see an example of a railroad with a different gauge, visit the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad; it’s still in use in Portland.)
From the train engine to the search engine: why are web standards awesome?
The web’s a lot like the early days of railroads. When people started using the web, every web browser would do things a different way. (I’d show you the code, but I don’t want to scare you with geekery.) Over time, web developers and browser companies have worked together to develop the equivalent of the standard gauge in railroad track. Those standardized rules are called web standards: a set of rules all browers aim to use across the board. (Two examples of web standards are CSS3 and HTML5.)
Why are standards good for us as web developers (and you as a business owner)? Developing a site takes a lot less time (and money) if we can use a standard set of rules for development. To add more advanced styles and functionality for browsers that are too old to include some of the latest web standards (like Internet Explorer 6 and 7, for example), we need to spend more time to build other versions of the code that will apply to those older versions. Think back to the railroad example; two sets of tracks, two locomotives, and two sets of cars will cost a lot more than if you could use a single set wherever you go.
We love web standards because they can save us time – and save you money. That’s why we recommend newer browsers that support these standards and why we think these recommendations are so important. The bottom line: if you use a standards-compliant web browser, you’ll have a better experience browsing the web!