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Microsoft helps web developers support old browsers

Internet Explorer

By Barry Collins

Posted on 31 Jan 2013 at 11:29

Microsoft is providing a free set of resources for web developers to help them create websites that work with any browser.

The modern.IE website provides a selection of site-checking tools, utilities and advice for developers to ensure that their websites work with both desktop and mobile browsers, new and old. The issue is particularly relevant to Microsoft, which has fought a long-running battle to convince users to stop using older versions of Internet Explorer, while rivals such as Chrome and Firefox automatically roll users to the latest version of their browsers.

We want people to build for IE9 and 10, and not to spend all their time having to hack for old sites

The tools on offer include a site scanner, which scours websites for potential problems such as plugins that are incompatible with old browsers or issues that might prevent a website rendering properly in older versions of Internet Explorer.

Microsoft has also teamed up with the BrowserStack website, which allows developers to see how their websites look and perform on any OS, browser or screen resolution. Developers who visit BrowserStack via modern.IE will get three months of free access, and Microsoft has created plugins for Chrome and Firefox for developers who would prefer to access BrowserStack via browsers other than Internet Explorer.

Finally, Microsoft is providing 20 cross-browser compatibility tips for developers, which are written by Dave Methvin, president of the jQuery foundation, and Rey Bango, Microsoft’s technical evangelist.

The inherent contradiction of Microsoft offering such a site is that, by giving developers advice on how to code for old browsers, it’s making life easier for people using outdated versions of Internet Explorer – the very people Microsoft has been trying to convince to upgrade.

"We definitely do want people off IE6," Microsoft’s product manager, Ian Moulster, told PC Pro. "We’re doing a lot of work to get people off but there are still people on it. We need to help web developers. We want to make it as painless as possible."

Moulster said the advice concentrates on techniques that allow developers to make their sites compatible with older browsers, without having to rewrite the entire site for each browser. "We want people to build for IE9 and 10, and not to spend all their time having to hack for old sites," he said. "No matter what you do, you can’t make a website work as well on IE6 as you can on IE10."

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User comments

Allow the latest IE on older WinOS

If MS really wanted people of IE6.... why not allow all users of Windows to upgrade to the latest version of IE... It make's sense...

By KryptosSol on 31 Jan 2013

Err no it doesn't...

I presume you mean users of Windows XP. But come on, XP is old hat now and it reaches end of support mid next year. It will hopefully die out as old XP machines bite the dust and then no more IE6.

By rjp2000 on 31 Jan 2013

Err no it doesn't...

I presume you mean users of Windows XP. But come on, XP is old hat now and it reaches end of support mid next year. It will hopefully die out as old XP machines bite the dust and then no more IE6.

By rjp2000 on 31 Jan 2013

@rjp2000

I'm afraid not.

Your friendly local council will buy a new Windows 8 machine and wipe it and re-install Windows XP SP1 (not SP2 even!) on it with IE5 or IE6.

You'll be hard-pressed to find a local authority IT department or contractor who doesn't do this. Machines dying are replaced with identical machines. Those that aren't are now using centrally located visualised Windows XP installs - complete with IE6.

I've not yet heard a single government user say "oh, I'm running Windows 7".

None are running any form of Windows Update either, so the chances of Microsoft getting these people onto another browser is a work of years, if not decades.

By cheysuli on 31 Jan 2013

Oh yes we do

Hi there. Local government town hall user here currently using Windows 7, IE9 with regular WSUS controlled updates.

By rifinlay on 31 Jan 2013

Tried it but not helpful

Pasted in a web page url and the feedback provided wasn't consistent to what I know to be the truth. Therefore the tool is a complete waste of time and so I'll continue to develop then test on

PC IE10
PC IE in compatibility mode
PC Firefox
PC Chrome
PC VirtualBox Windows XP with IE8
PC VirtualBox Windows XP with IE7
iPad
Samsung Galaxy
Windows Phone

By SparkyHD on 1 Feb 2013

The problem with Internet Explorers...

...is that they are integrated with Windows operating system...unlike the other browsers which they are independant of any OS.

By barnettgs on 2 Feb 2013

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