Browse Crappy

For those who don’t know, Browse Happy was a website built by Matt Mullenweg (the same cool guy who build WordPress), that for years encouraged you to switch from a browser that you liked to a browser that the majority of web-geeks would prefer you to use.

If you happened to use a browser that Matt didn’t like (read: Anything built by Microsoft) it would gracefully put a message on your screen suggesting you go to BrowseHappy.com and choose another browser. I always thought it was a bit of a weird move but the link appearing on every page of the admin section was thankfully removed some years ago.

I thought it showed real class to remove it, as it was the small things such as this that kept WordPress being considered a “blogging platform” when it was becoming so much more. For those fanboys new to WordPress and who message me in support of every breath Matt takes, let me assure you that the whole Browse Happy thing looked very amateur.

In WordPress 3.2, the link has returned, except, its not quite as subtle…

 

Who the hell do you think you are?

I was going to phrase this nicely, but actually, why bother.

When did my, or anyone else’s, choosing to use and support WordPress give you the right to moan about MY choice of other software? Seriously, other software. Software you have nothing to do with. Software that is not WordPress.

It’s not up to you what browser I use, what mail client I use, what operating system I use, or what colour my fucking hair is. Actually, you see that, colour with a “u”. More things you’re not happy about. What next, you’ll be correcting my spelling against my will ??

Oh no wait, you already did that…

Capital_P_Dangit()

Yes that’s right folks, WordPress 3.0 came with its own additional secret function that was never submitted as a ticket to Trac to keep it hidden from you, that corrected the spelling of words that the good folks at Automattic didn’t like how all 50 million of you were spelling.

Just because this function took hundreds of thousands of websites offline and turns many websites in the middle east into being blasphemous, who are we to say anything bad about our overlords. I for one welcome our AutoMattic overlords.

Prime Exmaple

This is a great example of what’s stopping WordPress adoption from really exploding outwith the hobbyist, small website community.

Seriously, I spend a large portion of my working life pitching to Enterprise level clients who could really use WordPress’ usability, stability and extendability – but how can I do so when I don’t know what sort of Draconian nonsense will be thrown in next?

Can you, in good faith, suggest to a client that WordPress is good, friendly, usable and relatively future-proof given what has transpired in the last 3 releases (Capital_P, Mandatory Screen options, BrowseHappy, Admin bar, bbpress2)?

Why should anyone HAVE TO upgrade?

This is the problem that we as geeks have never managed to put into a succinct phrase.

Why should anyone upgrade their browser?

  • CSS3?
  • HTML5?
  • Responsive Web Design?
  • Filters?
  • JavaScript?
  • Magic Beans?
  • Seriously, Magic Beans? oh good! Quick, swap it for the cow Jack!!

We’re getting close to admitting that the reasons we have are all bullshit. They don’t exist in the real world. Lets be honest with each other for just second:

“If you upgrade and continue to upgrade your browser, then it makes my life as a web designer/developer easier”

That’s the real reason. That’s what you’re afraid to say, and you know what the general answer to that statement is: kindyl-fornicate-with-oneself. Whoever tells you that is right to do so, as the fundamental reason that we want people to be on the latest browsers is purely selfish. I know, I have those selfish thoughts too.

As someone who charges insanely ridiculous money to ensure that I put clients off supporting IE6 (or that I can pay off a year of my mortgage if they insist), I totally understand why we want it. But the web isn’t about us, its about empowering people – its their choice to make, and frankly given the selfish nature of our argument can you blame them for not agreeing??

 

See, here’s the problem…

  • Not everyone is technically savvy.
    • For people like you and me, installing software is second nature.
      This is not the case for many people who actually dread pop-up boxes with questions, and almost point blank refuse to install anything.
  • Not everyone either can or wants to update their browser.
    • If it’s not broken why fix it?
    • Can anyone tell me, in terms my Mum will understand, why she HAS to upgrade from Firefox4 to Firefox5?
  • Not everyone wants to update constantly
    • And then can you explain why she should upgrade to Firefox 6 in 5 weeks?
    • And then Firefox 7 in November?
  • Not everyone is on a compatible Operating System
    • Not one we like to admit, but the number of WindowsXP’s out there is still quite high.
    • Upgrading a browser may be simple and free; but upgrading your OS is not.
  • Not everyone has admin rights
    • I simply don’t let my gran have admin rights.
    • She watches too much porn
  • Not everyone wants to learn something new
    • You know what IE6 does well? big buttons, and easy to control.
    • You know what Chrome looks like to someone who is used to IE6 for 9 years?
  • Not everyone hates Microsoft
    • Seriously, my Mum loves Microsoft stuff. Office, IE, XP, MSN homepage, Bing.
    • We’ve spoken about it for hours, she has reasons for each one. I don’t have the same viewpoint, but I can see the way she makes her’s its not just a case of “its what I’m used to” – she likes them.

We treat everyone with the expectation that they have decided against upgrading their browser out of laziness or ignorance. We talk down to people like they are idiots, and then if they don’t agree with us someone gets on their high horse and pull stunts like this:

 

Just out of curiosity, when did talking to people in this way ever work?

 

IE6: The Elephant in the room

Lets be honest with each other, IE6′s continued existence is a pain for everyone, possibly even for people who are forced to use it. I understand the desire to not support it, I understand the amount of head shaking that goes on when it pops up on your browser usage report. I do, I genuinely empathize each and everyone one of you.

But you know what, and I’m sorry Mac fans… More people use IE6 to browse the web in US, UK, Canada and every country in Europe apart from Sweden and Finland than use iPhones and iPads combined.

I’d love to hear the panic and online bitchfest if someone was to place an equivalent hero panel on every iPhone and iPad user telling them to use a more popular browser like IE6. Seriously, can you imagine?

Who benefits from this?

I honestly feel that is the question that should be asked before any feature is added to software.

A great many people don’t update to the latest version of any software until the first the first bug release (I know I wont be upgrading to WordPress 3.2 until 3.2.1) – heck people on Windows XP can not update to IE9, they’re forced into an endless loop of being told to upgrade their browser when they are on the latest version of their browser on their OS.

Frankly, I can’t see this “feature” being of benefit to any user, nor of benefit to the software either.

Ssssh! Here’s what Automattic don’t want you to know…

The wordpress browser detect is badly coded.

It doesn’t check your browser version, it actually checks the hash of your browser application (something that can be easily changed by installed 3rd party Add-ons) – which means it returns many a false positive. We’re already seeing reports of beta testers using the latest version of their browser but being told to upgrade to… the browser they are already using. You’ll be shocked to hear, its only the people using a Microsoft browser that’s getting this false positive.

But there is more, and for me this is shocking.

The API call that tests for your browser (via the unreliable hash) also sends your installs’s URL and WordPress version. That is all the information needed for a plug-in to fire pre_http_filter() and send your admin cookie (to pretend its you) to another website/user. I can’t tell you how absolutely crazy this is.

You really have to question why anyone would consider opening up your WordPress install just to bully you into using a particular browser.

Thar she blows…

Still, Captain Ahab Matt has to go hunt his whale

“I’ll chase him round IE6, and round IE7, and round IE8, and round IE9′s flames before I give him up!”