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Is it worth the trouble to support old browsers?

My comment isn't specific to CityDesk, but here you go anyway.

Some time ago, I decided that I just wasn't going to bother supporting Netscape 4, or earlier.  It was too much of a pain in the butt to sweat over 3% of web surfers.  Maybe I should have bothered.

I recently had someone approach me about designing a website for him.  He wanted to see some examples of my work.  I sent him links to two sites.  When I examined the server logs, I saw that he was using Netscape 4 on a Mac.

I shudder to think of what my sites looked like on his system.

Guess I won't be getting that contract.  Excuse me while I go pound my head against the wall.

Alex Chernavsky
Thursday, November 14, 2002

Alex -- if he always surfs with that combination, he's probably accustomed to mangled sites.

I'm interested to know where you got the 3% number. We have a far greater percentage than that of old browsers that hit my company's stuff. We even have people without the Winsock2 update for the original Windows 95! (We're a software company; the website is incidental).

Troy King
Thursday, November 14, 2002


Good point (paragraph 1).  I'm trying to decide now whether I should send him another e-mail, and explain the situation.  Actually, he might get slightly freaked out when he finds out that I can track his visits through my sites.  Dunno.  I'll probably just wait and see what happens.

The 3% figure is based on this article (which actually says 3.4%, but it seems to include newer versions of Netscape, too):,,t272-s2121436,00.html

The figures on this page suggest that Netscape 4 has a share of between 2.3 and 4.6%:

Alex Chernavsky
Thursday, November 14, 2002

I don't think it would freak him out. Give him more credit than that. :) I think it would impress him that you were on top of the situation.

Troy King
Thursday, November 14, 2002

Here's what we decided for FogBUGZ, for what it's worth:

* We will make it work with any web browser that makes up 1% or more of the hits to our web site. That includes Netscape 4 (about 3%) but not Opera, for example.

* We will conform to standards and degrade gracefully and hide style sheets from NS 4, which can't deal with them. Basically the "NYPL" or "Web Standards Project" approach.

* We will fix actual bugs for paying customers with up to date support contracts, even if they use wacky web browsers. By "bug" I don't mean appearance; I mean anything that actually prevents you from using the functionality of the app.

Joel Spolsky
Friday, November 15, 2002

Google's Zeitgeist shows you the percentage of browsers used to access google's site, which I guess roughly equals the actual use of those browsers.

Matthew Lock
Friday, November 15, 2002

I recognize 3-4% for netscape. My strategy is similar to Joels. Just check it using NS4 once in a while to see if your site makes sense. If you consider using client side scripting (like javascripts menu's) from a 3rd party, you can check them. If I have to write complex scripts, I will make a script-less version as well, and use this for NS4 (e.g. static menu rather than a nice popup roll over) since it is too much work to write scripts compatible with every browser unless it is your business.

Adriaan van den Brand
Friday, November 15, 2002

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