Support browser support by supporting your browser

I was going to write about browser support policies today. But instead I’m going to write about a different kind of browser support.

There are unconfirmed reports that Microsoft have given up on maintaining their own EdgeHTML rendering engine and are creating a new browser based around Chromium as a replacement.

If this turns out to be true, it’s disappointing but unsurprising. Browser diversity and competition helped to foster early innovation on the web. The Web Standards Project (WaSP) succeeded only with the (eventual) cooperation of major browser vendors. And continued choice ensures that the web platform is evolved in the open.

But Microsoft won’t just keep flogging a dead horse. Edge hasn’t had the penetration they had hoped for. The running joke is that people use Edge only to download Chrome.

The dominant browser is a cross-platform browser. That’s no surprise, and is presumably part of the motivation behind Microsoft’s reported switch. Safari is only really propped up by Apple’s restriction of other rendering engines on iOS.

We’re entering a potentially dangerous time where the dominance of Chrome might tempt developers to avoid developing for other browsers in mind.

But we’ve been here before. Even when Internet Explorer reached 98% penetration (by some measures) around 15 years ago, there was enough room for an upstart like Firefox to gain ground based on performance and usability. The worrying difference now is that mobile platforms make it harder to choose a non-default browser.

Don’t fall into the temptation of building and testing only on Chrome. Those browser support and testing policies are still important. Just click around different parts of the world in StatCounter’s global browser stats, for example.

You might even consider donating to Mozilla so they can continue keeping up with the big G.

All the best,

– Jim

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