Microsoft helps web developers support old browsers

modern.IE web resource provides tools that help web developers offer maximum browser compatibility

Barry Collins
31 Jan 2013

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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