Of late, prominent industry figures have been encouraging developers to quit working hard to support old browsers. Aral Balkan revealed his one-version manifesto, and Peter-Paul Koch said we "have to start seriously thinking about dropping IE6/7 support altogether or we'll never get rid of them".
37signals has form in this area. In 2005, it ditched support for IE5, and a few years later IE6 support was phased out, with founder Jason Fried telling .net: "IE6 compatibility can take a lot of time and compromise the experience for people with modern browsers, because you have to make all sorts of sacrifices." He also argued that in budget-conscious times, it can be "more cost-effective to lose some customers, but save development time".
In a new blog post, 37signals reveals the company is staying true to its recent-browsers mantra, also echoing Balkan and Koch's thoughts. Partner David Heinemeier Hansson explained that automatic updates have ensured the vast majority of Chrome and Firefox users working with Basecamp are running modern versions, and "nearly all" Safari users are running "some version of 534.x or 533.x". Internet Explorer users are more troublesome: "IE represents just 11 per cent of our users on Basecamp, but the split across versions is large and depressing. 9 per cent of our IE users are running IE7 – a browser that's more than five years old! 54 per cent are running IE8, which is about three years old. But at least 36 per cent are running a modern browser in IE9."
The post summarises the situation by labelling about seven per cent of users as running an "undesirable version" of a browser, split between Firefox (one per cent of Basecamp users) and IE (six per cent). 37signals has therefore decided to "raise the browser bar for Basecamp Next and focus only on supporting Chrome 7+, Firefox 4+, Safari 4+, and, most crucially, Internet Explorer 9+," which it said will mean anyone running an undesirable version will have to upgrade, but, again, will enable the company to "offer the best Basecamp we can possibly make".
What are your thoughts on aggressively ditching support for old browsers, especially in light of auto-updating (including Microsoft's plans to do so)? Do you have any such baselines for sites you develop? Let us know in the comments!