Netscape 4.x Support

I was reading a bit of the ‘ol Inluminent weblog this evening and came across a post about Netscape 4.x support. Now anyone that knows me or the group I’m in (you know who you are) know there have been more than one mighty battle about this subject. Lately I’ve softened a bit, I think anyway. I’m going to put here what I put in comment form on the weblog, and hope that no one notices.

Anyway, I’m a bit split on the whole “support old browsers” issue. I agree that NS4.x sucks and the sooner it’s dead the better, but if get rid of it ONLY if the brain dead fucktard web developers stop doing checks for user agent in their code. I’m sick and tired of going to pages in Linux/mozilla and getting “you can’t view this page without IE, click here to download it!” messages, especially if the page renders just fine (found by changing the user agent or finding a direct link or something).

People who don’t bow down to MS or forget that there is a world out there that doesn’t suck off the teat of Microsoft, or think that there is only one OS (or who don’t know they have a choice) are used to being treated like second class citizens (ie: Linux, *nix, and Mac folks), and a bit of CSS that is slightly out of line or a missing plugin (not that I miss not having flash mind you) aren’t going to turn us screaming away.

What will turn us (read: me) away is getting “you can only view this site with…” pages. To those people I say “screw you asshat, I’ll go elsewhere”.

I used to be in the “support everything you nazi web designer bastards! No one gives a shit what you want it to look like, we’re interested in the content and we don’t want to have browser version x.y with plugins a,b,c and k installed to view it in all its perfect wonder, and if it doesn’t have content why the hell should we care!” camp. I’ve done more and more web development and if you’re doing something moderately complex, or think that CSS is the only way to go for everything, then supporting non gen-5 browsers sucks hairy sweaty, puss filled donkey balls. However, there are still people using the 4.x series of browsers, and if you want to alienate even 1% of your potential audience (and 1% of everyone with a web browser is still a pretty big number) go ahead. Easier still, don’t do any checks and be confident that either

  • they will see the page rendered properly, and rejoice
  • they will see the page rendered mostly properly, and rejoice
  • they will see the page rendered poorly, and missing huge chunks of functionality and think “hey, maybe I’d better upgrade my browser!”

In any of the three cases above, everyone wins. If you choose to give them a “you must use IE to view this page” message they will choose the last option

and no one wins in that situation, they for the cost of gas and a plane ride, and you to tell St. Peter at the Pearly Gates (insert joke here) exactly how and why you died, and how it could have been avoided if you’d just picked the first choice.

Of course, I’m not a web developer, nor do I care about excessive design (see this page for instance), so everything I say is suspect.

3 Comments on “Netscape 4.x Support”

  1. I don’t mind the “this page best viewed under …” comments, but I’m with you, I just say forget it, I wasn’t really interested in your page anyways. Also, if I have free time (ha ha), I will send them a nasty-gram to their webmaster explaining that I was going to buy countless thousands of dollars of stuff from you guy, but I can’t now. Yeah, it’s BS, but what the hey.

  2. The “this page best viewed with…” line is pretty much universally scoffed at by real web designers and developers too.
    Sometimes there is a need for browser detection — this comes most into play when you’re doing things with the DOM through javascript, or when you’re doing complicated CSS layout. A smart web developer will try to make this seamless, though.
    As for Netscape 4.0… yes, it should have been retired a long time ago. It was a buggy, hacked together browser that was showing its age. Making it so that scripts and CSS files don’t load in NS4 is relatively simple, however.
    Sadly, it looks like the same situtation will arise out of IE 6.0, since MS will no longer be releasing updates to the standalone browser.

  3. I say it comes down to analyzing who is going to be using it.
    If it’s for a public website (eg a company presence or online store) then definetly make it work with every browser… be it links or ie or mozilla or opera.
    If it’s for people on 14.4… then cut down on the graphics and extra HTML.
    If you’re building intranet tools in an organization where all 300+ are using Windows+IE6, then you can use IE6 specific features, provide a better user experience, developer quicker, and ignore the other browsers and platforms. (yes I’m doing this, with little remorse)