postheadericon Are You Using the Wrong Browser?

Imagine wearing a pair of special sunglasses that only allow you to see in black and white.  You can see everything, but you don’t see all of the colors and shades.  You don’t see the shadows, because they blend in too much, and the picture of the world in front of you isn’t as clear as it should be because the shades are dirty and smudged from years of use.  Now imagine that you never take those shades off and eventually begin believing that what you are seeing is what the world really looks like.  This is what happens when you use a browser that is out of date.

A couple of months ago, I mentioned the growing competition of Google Chrome and Firefox over Internet Explorer.  While different sources disagree over who holds the current title of the most popular browser, it is clear that Chrome and Firefox have made big strides in catching up with, and possibly surpassing, the success of Internet Explorer.  What you may not realize, if you are not immersed in some of the internet technology based discussions, is that not all browsers show the same site.

Each browser, by its very definition, shows a webpage in its own way.  Many things will remain constant between them.  Red will still be red, and large text will still be bigger than small text.  However, how images, videos, and general pieces of a website are displayed differ from browser to browser.  Each browser has its own rendering features, which internet website developers have learned to account for.  Putting something as simple as a shadow onto a colored box requires a separate code for Firefox, Chrome and IE.  Plus, not all features are supported by all browsers.

For instance, in Chrome and Firefox, you can have a multi-stop gradient, that is, a gradient that fades from one  color to a second color to a third color, at pre-programmed spacing.  Internet Explorer does not support this feature.  There are work-a-rounds, such as creating an image from the gradient and using that image, not the colors themselves, as the background.  Of course, this is terribly inefficient and adding text to the website, which would make the site taller, would disrupt the background.  In many ways, these work-a-rounds force the developer back to the stone age of web development where everything had to fit in a neat little box.

Unfortunately, there are also websites that were developed, for one reason or another, to utilize only Internet Explorer and will not work with any of the other browsers.  As a developer, I find these to make very little sense, since anyone who has checked these statistics will find that less and less people are using internet explorer so websites that force them to use a browser they don’t want to use may suffer the fate of being ignored by those who would take offense at having to use something they don’t like because it makes the programmer’s life easier.  With the amount of technology and computer languages that are supported on every browser, I find it hard to believe that the websites that are only available on IE could not be duplicated onto the other browsers.

This having been said, it seems that the trend of designing websites that are supported on only IE is diminishing and I firmly believe will fade away within a short amount of time.  Until that time, we all need to keep a copy of internet explorer loaded on our computers, just in case.  I personally only use it once or twice a week, if that.  Otherwise, it may behoove you to try out one of the other browsers for a bit.

If you are scared of changing, because you are so used to how internet explorer works, and you worry that it will take a long time to get used to a new browser, consider this: when you buy a new car, do you immediately know how to drive it perfectly?  Unless you are a professional driver, probably you do not.  Each car has a gas pedal that works a little different and a brake pedal that works a little stronger than your last.  You have to get used to a center console transmission instead of it being on your steering wheel.  It takes a little bit of time, but that does not mean you shouldn’t buy a new car when your old one has trouble keeping up with the other cars on the road.

Plus, changing browsers is free.  There are no internet browsers out there that cost money to download, except perhaps IE9, which requires Windows Vista or higher and so would need an upgrade, worth a couple hundred of dollars, from anyone still using XP, which is still approximately 30% of the population.  However, those same XP users are free to use either Firefox or Chrome in the latest versions without paying anything for an upgrade.

Who knows, you may even like the new browser better than the one you are using.  You would most certainly not be the first to do so.

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