危 wēi danger
When deciding what language a platform should be built in and which types of browsers or platforms the service should be compatible with, developers are often the primary decision makers. When thinking this through, Microsoft Internet Explorer is the browser that haunts them most, not because it represents over 50% of the worldwide installed browsers but because there are so many different versions in use. The oldest commonly used version, IE6, launched in 2001 and is still used by 6% of us. It gives developers a real headache – its users need to be supported and it’s tough to test new sites’ compatibility with it, often involving legally questionable installations of Windows XP. This is a nightmare to develop for and cannot do the Microsoft brand any good with developers, who we already identified as influencers – surely Microsoft is a victim of its own success and is rapidly losing its remaining goodwill?
机 jī opportunity
Microsoft has actually done two things that I think have tackled this risk head on, buying them a little more favour with developers and potentially turning this challenge into an opportunity. Firstly, they launched http://www.ie6countdown.com/: a site dedicated to watching Internet Explorer 6 usage drop to less than 1% worldwide, “so more websites can choose to drop support for Internet Explorer 6, saving hours of work for web developers.“ Then, earlier this year they launched http://www.modern.ie/: free tools & resources – built so developers can spend less time testing for the various versions of Internet Explorer and more time building what matters on the modern web. Both are clearly targeted at the developer audience, perhaps buying back some of that lost goodwill. As developers are increasingly involved in the design process, contributing their creativity and understanding of technical constraints this goodwill may just benefit Microsoft…
- Identifying the areas of inconvenience for your customer / influencer and developing free tools to assist them?
- Creating a site, talking directly to users, explaining how you’re tackling those issues?
Thanks to Nathan for sharing this with me when we were working through this compatibility issue recently