Why support older browsers?

Why you have to care about old browsers?

Who use old browsers? Probably, users with old computers?

If they use old computers, they probably don’t have money to buy a new one.

If they don’t have money to buy a new computer, they probably will not buy anything from you as well.

If they will not buy anything from you, why you have to care about supporting their browsers?

To a business person, that’s a perfectly reasonable train of thought. But why do we developers still insist on supporting older browsers?

Let’s break it down

There are so many layers of assumptions on the original thought process.

"Who use old browsers? Probably, users with old computers? If they use old computers, they probably don’t have money to buy a new one".

While it’s true that people use old browsers because they old computers, we cannot assume that people cannot afford to buy new ones.

  • Maybe their company doesn’t want to buy them one.
  • Maybe they’re happy with their computer, and they don’t want to upgrade.
  • Maybe they don’t have the knowledge to upgrade their computers.
  • Maybe they don’t have access to new computers
  • Maybe they’re bound to mobile phones that don’t have good browsers

Don’t assume.

If they don’t have money to buy a new computer, they probably will not buy anything from you as well. If they will not buy anything from you, why you have to care about supporting their browsers?

We have to zoom out into other areas to talk about this point.

Wheelchair accessibility

If you’ve been around Singapore, you’ll notice there’s a ramp or an elevator next to (almost) every staircase.

But why? Why do the government and (even private corporations) spend money on elevators and ramps? Why build them when staircases are enough to bring people from a lower elevation to a higher one?

It turns out that some people aren’t fortunate like us. They can’t walk with their feet. They have to sit in wheelchairs, and they can’t wheel themselves up a staircase. The elevators and ramps serve these people.

And it turns out that more people benefit from elevators and ramps.

  1. People who have weaker knees
  2. People who have a bicycle or scooter with them
  3. Parents who’re pushing a baby trolley

If you find yourself pushing anything with wheels, you’ll use the ramp or elevator without thinking twice. You benefit too.

But the problem is: Nobody earns a single cent from operating the ramps or the elevators? So why build them?

Because it’s worth it.

And worth doesn’t always meanm money.

Consider global warming

You live on Earth. What do you feel about global warming?

Some people don’t care. It’s okay if forests get burned. It’s okay if companies pollute rivers and release tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air. It doesn’t affect them.

But there’s a group of people that care. They love the planet we’re living on. They want to give their children a better place to live in. There are lots of reasons why they care.

Where do you stand?

Would you give money to a company that destroys the Earth while it operates?

Maybe you will. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you don’t care. All three options are valid.

And once again, you see, it’s not always about the money.

The web is for everyone

The dream behind the Web is of a common information space in which we communicate by sharing information. — Tim Berners-Lee

We frontend developers are the custodians of the web. How the web turns out is up to us. We can’t force everyone to build ramps and elevators, but we can make sure we build them ourselves.

The choice is up to you, really.

You don’t have to care if you don’t want to.

Most good frontend developers I know? They care. They choose to be inclusive. It’s what makes us frontend developers.

We care.

But sometimes we also have constraints and limits. And we work with those limits.

Other articles in this series

  1. Part 1: Supporting older browsers
  2. Part 2: Supporting older browsers—Part 2: CSS
  3. Part 3: Supporting older browsers—Part 3: JS
  4. Part 4: This article

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