Capability, not Popularity

10 Sep 2008

Bruce Lawson recently brought to our attention the UK government’s Browser Standards Draft 0.13. Basically, the draft recommends using browser popularity (2% or more usage), rather than capability, as the criteria for choosing which one to support. I really hope they rethink this for future drafts. As a user of ‘minority’ browsers (definitely plural) I hate being dictated to about what I should use – if my browser is capable, that should be enough.

It isn’t clear how the supported browser list would be enforced, but I’m concerned that this approach will encourage browser sniffing, a move that will exclude browsers like Omniweb, Shiira and iCab, simply because their name isn’t ‘Safari’. They share the exact same rendering engine, and therefore require no further testing. You can be more inclusive without spending any extra resources, just by taking a different approach – one that isn’t based on statistics. Inclusivity is very important for the public sector, the draft itself says so!

To me, Yahoo got it spot on with their Graded Browser Support guidelines. The draft links to that article, but seems to ignore it for the most part.

If you only support certain browsers, then your website statistics will only enforce that, and not tell the true story of people trying to use the sites concerned. After all if a site only supports IE for example, then the ‘statistics’ are bound to show that to be the dominant browser.

If you feel the same way, please send polite feedback. After all, we are being consulted on this, and hopefully will be listened to.

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