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Firefox on Windows XP/Vista If you’re still accessing our web based room booking and resource scheduling software MIDAS via a Windows XP or Windows Vista machine, you’ll want to read this!

As you should be aware, Windows XP and Vista are now considered obsolete operating systems which are no longer supported or maintained by Microsoft.

As a result, over the past few years major browser vendors have been slowly dropping support and updates for their products in these operating systems.

For instance, the most “recent” version of Internet Explorer that can be run on Windows XP is IE8 (MIDAS requires at least IE9). For a while this wasn’t a major issue as XP/Vista users could simply switch to either Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox instead (both of which were still being actively updated by the respective vendors on these operating systems).

However, Google announced back in November 2015 that Chrome would no longer be supported or receive updates on Windows XP or Windows Vista after April 2016.

Since then, Firefox has been the only major browser to continue supporting and providing updates on Windows XP and Vista.

This week, Mozilla have now announced that Firefox 52 (due for release in March 2017) will be the last version of their browser to receive updates on Windows XP and Vista.

Whilst Firefox 52 will still work on XP/Vista after March 2017, it will no longer receive updates. At this point, none of the modern major web browsers that are supported in MIDAS will continue to be updated on these operating systems.

We are therefore advising the handful of MIDAS users who currently still access their scheduling systems via Windows XP or Vista to upgrade their operating systems as soon as possible to ensure their web browser(s) are kept up-to-date and they’re able to continue using MIDAS in the future.

Web Browser Roundup – June 2013

It’s been a busy end to the month in the world of web browsers in June… So here’s our take on what’s been happening..

  • Internet Explorer – IE11 preview available & IE11 is to be available for Windows 7
  • Firefox – v22 released this week
  • Chrome – Now 5% faster on average
  • Opera – v15 preview available
  • Safari – Even the developers admit its gone quiet!

Internet Explorer:
Internet Explorer 11 Preview
This last week saw Microsoft release the first public preview of Windows 8.1, which contains the first glimpse of what IE11 will have in store for its users!

Microsoft believes that “the best experience of the web is on a Windows device with Internet Explorer 11“. We’ll let you decide!

However, one of the main focuses for IE11 is on better support, performance, and responsiveness for touch actions

Internet Explorer 11According to Microsoft’s corporate vice-president for Internet Explorer, Dean Hachamovitch, speaking at last week’s BUILD developer conference in San Francisco; “Most of the web wasn’t designed for touch, but users still expect it to just work“. An example given was that navigation and interaction within web pages or web apps often relies on “mouseovers”. This is where hovering the mouse over a particular region causes a menu or tooltip to open. The natural behavior for users with a touch screen is to tap the area. This is usually translated into a “click” event rather than a “hover” action, or if they tap and hold, seen as a “right click” event.

In IE11, Microsoft has integrated support for such scenarios, allowing users to touch a hover “hotspot” so that the menu/tooltip stays open rather than automatically clicking the element.

IE11 is also the first of the major browsers to offer HTML5 drag-and-drop support for touch interaction. These “hover” and “drag-and-drop” improvements for touch should offer users on tablets or other touch-screen devices a richer experience when using our web based scheduling software.

The great news too if you’re a Windows 7 user is that like IE10, IE11 will also be available to you! Whilst Microsoft have confirmed this however, there is no specific date for when IE11 may become available for Windows 7. If it’s anything like the delayed IE10 release for Windows 7, Windows 7 users may have to wait 4 months longer than Windows 8 users to get their hands on the next version of IE!

MIDAS is already supported in the preview version IE11, as well as in IE8-10. However, if you’re still an Internet Explorer 8 user, we will no longer be maintaining compatibility with this obsolete browser once IE11 becomes fully available. If this affects you please read this!


Mozilla Firefox:
Firefox 22
Also within the last week, Mozilla have released Firefox 22, bringing with it a number of improvements and new features. Some of these improvements, particularly those relating to core Javascript performance, should mean your MIDAS experience on Firefox is better than ever!

Firefox 22 also introduces support for new technologies and better compatibility with existing web standards. One of the exciting new technologies introduced with Firefox 22 is “Web Notifications”. This will allow websites/apps to display notification messages on your system (similar to new mail or new message notifications that other applications may display). Notifications are not widely supported by other browsers right now. At time of writing, only Opera 12 and Safari 5 currently support it. Once this becomes more widely adopted, you may see “web notifications” being introduced to MIDAS. For instance, it could be used to notify you of booking reminders as well as new watches or messages. Stay tuned for more in the future on this!

Firefox Logo Redesign 2013In other highly exciting(!) Firefox news, their logo has undergone a redesigned:

…and yes, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it looks virtually the same! In justifying the new logo, Mozilla explain, “Unlike previous versions, the updated logo was created specifically with mobile in mind. Although we think it looks great at any size, it’s been optimized to be crisper and cleaner on small screens and lower resolution devices. However, it also scales quite nicely for use in retina displays, and (unlike previous versions) can be accurately recreated in SVG so it’s more ‘of the Web’

MIDAS is currently supported in Firefox 4+ (v22+ recommended)


Google Chrome:
Chrome 27
We’re having a hard time keeping up with the latest stable version number for Chrome! For Windows, Max, and Chrome OS it’s currently version 27. However the current stable version of Chrome for Linux is 28. This is unusual, as Google tend to keep major version numbers in sync across all platforms!

So, what exciting new features have v27/28 brought? Well, not a great deal actually! Aside from a variety of fixes mainly for Flash-related exploits, the highlight of v27 is the claim that web pages load 5% faster on average!

MIDAS is currently supported in Chrome 9+ (v27+ recommended)


Opera:
Opera 15
If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll know that at the start of the year, Opera announced it was ditching its own Presto rendering engine. Instead it was essentially joining forces to use the same rendering engine to that of Google Chrome. Such a major change in the fundamental nature of the Opera browser was going to take time to emerge. After much confusion and changes, at the end of May, Opera lifted the lid on their “next generation” Opera 15 browser to mixed reviews.

As this was the first “preview” release, it was essentially just a shell of a browser. Many of Opera’s previous features were removed, to the anger of Opera’s loyal user base.

However, as June has progressed, so have the updates to Opera 15. These updates haven’t exactly been earth-shattering though. Essentially just offering a handful of fixes each time and a way to import data/settings from Opera 12.

Whilst understandably there’s a massive amount of work involved in changing rendering engines, Opera really need to start getting their act together. They need to remember what set Opera apart from other browsers in the first place if they really expect Opera 15 to complete with other major browsers. Right now, whilst Opera 15 hasn’t yet had a general release, it’s lacking a lot of features and functionality that Opera 12 offered.

That said, MIDAS is supported in Opera 15 (as well as Opera 9-12. v12+ recommended)


Safari:
Safari 7/6.1
Well, activity on the Safari front just seems to get quieter and quieter each time we post! In fact, on the Safari blog itself they admit they’ve been “quieter than usual” which they attribute to Apple developers being away at a conference(!)

Anyway, A small update to Safari, 6.0.5, was released at the start of the month for OS X and iOS.

At Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference this month, it was announced that Safari 7/6.1 would bring improvements in JavaScript performance and memory usage. There would also be a new look for Top Sites and the Sidebar, and a new Shared Links feature. Additionally, a new Power Saver feature pauses plugins which aren’t in use. Safari 7 for OS X Mavericks and Safari 6.1 (for Lion and Mountain Lion) is expected to be available this Autumn. Sadly, there’s still no sign of any more updates for Safari on Windows (which is still currently stuck at v5.1.7)

MIDAS is currently supported in Safari 4+ (v5+ recommended)

Browser Wars: “Version Number Supremacy”

web browser versionsSo, no sooner do we blog about the Release of Firefox 6, and go on to outline how we also test our online scheduling tool in the very latest “alpha” builds of Firefox 8.0 too.. Mozilla go and bump the “alpha” build version from 8.0 to 9.0 overnight!!

So we decided to look a little closer at just what’s going on with Mozilla’s rapidly increasing “versioning” of Firefox of late…

In its simplest form, a browser version is made up of two numbers separated by a decimal point (period). The first number would be the “Major” version number, representing a significant milestone release. The second number would be the “Minor” version number, reflecting subsequent “minor” changes since the “Major” version was released. Sometimes a “revision” number or “build date” was also tagged onto the end of the version string.

Back in the days when there was really only two main players in the browser market, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, browser versions incremented steadily and logically. For Internet Explorer, the release of significant versions went a little something like this:
IE1.0, IE2.0, IE3.0, IE4.0, IE5.0, IE5.5, IE6.0, IE6.1, IE7.0, IE8.0, IE9.0
..with IE10.0 expected to be ready to coincide with the release of Windows 8 next year

Firefox followed in a similar vain for their significant releases:
FF1.0, FF1.5, FF2.0, FF3.0, FF3.5…

But then something happened to shake up the Browser world… along came Google Chrome!
Starting with version “1.0”, Chrome’s developers decided to do away with traditional versioning of each minor update. Instead, they decided that EVERY update they released for Chrome would be a “major milestone”! Hence, why after just a year or two in development, Google Chrome has already jumped up to version 12.0 (with “alpha” builds available right now for version 15.0!)

For most people comparing two similar software products, “Version 12” of one browser sounds more impressive and stable than “Version 3” of another web browser. So, not wanting to be outdone, Mozilla has now followed suite and instead of releasing logical progressions of Firefox 3.6, 3.7, 3.8…etc, they’ve jumped from 3.6 to 4 to 5 to 6 in a matter of months!!

To make matter’s worse, Mozilla could well be doing away with visible version numbers altogether in the not too distant future! Explaining the reasoning, Mozilla’s Asa Dotzler wrote in a discussion forum:

We concluded that most people don’t need to know what version number they’re using and what they actually want to know is whether or not they’re running the latest version. For the few people who care whether it’s version 7 or version 2011-08-16 or version 1.8.0.0.1.77, they can get this information from about:troubleshooting which is available in the Firefox Help menu.”

Dotzler added:

“We have a goal to make version numbers irrelevant to our consumer audience.”

So what can we learn from all this?

A software version number these days carries very little merit!

A higher version number of one product no longer means any more development has gone into it than a similar product with a lower version number!

Whilst these version numbers may well be irrelevant to a “consumer audience” as Mozilla state, they do still provide essential information to developers who create web-based apps such as ourselves!

If ever a user experiences difficulty with our software, one of the first things we ask them is which browser and version they are using! Making it more difficult for a non-technical user to locate this information isn’t going to be helpful!

Where will it end!?

Well, unless rival web browser developers stop competing for “version number supremacy”, who knows! …maybe it won’t be long until we see Firefox v53 and Google Chrome v182!!

Right now, Microsoft and Apple seem to be the only ones still maintaining some degree of sanity in the versioning of their respective browsers, Internet Explorer and Safari.

You can see which browser versions our web based scheduling software supports here

We have no plans on changing the way we “version” each new release of our browser based room scheduling software – you’re not suddenly going to see “MIDAS v12”!!

We keep our versioning really simple and straight forward. For example, our last releases of MIDAS were 3.10, 3.11, 3.12, 3.13, and our next will almost certainly be 3.14! (Unless we decide to code name it “Pi”! hehe!)

In developing a web based app like MIDAS, we had to make some decisions as to which web browsers we were going to support. When we first started work on MIDAS back in 2005, there were at the time only really two main players in the browser market. These were Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, and we supported them both.

Today, there are now 5 key players in that same market; Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, and Apple Safari… all of which compete for a market share. There was a time when Internet Explorer dominated the market, with nearly a 90% share at its peak. Internet Explorer’s dominance however has been steadily declining in recent years, as evidenced from our own website visitors so far in 2011:

Current Browser Share
Current Browser Share
Current IE usage
Current IE usage

From our own statistics, we see that 6.96% of Internet Explorer users are still using IE6. This is surprising slightly more than are using the latest version, IE9 (only 6.92%)). Most Internet Explorer users currently use IE8 (67%) or IE7 (19%)

Current versions of our web based room booking system, MIDAS, will run in recent versions of all 5 main browsers. We did however finally drop support for Internet Explorer 6 last year.

Yet we know that many organizations around the world are still forcing employees to use Internet Explorer 6 on their corporate networks. Why is this? Why do companies insist on sticking with a browser that’s now a decade old, given how fast the Internet has evolved during that time!? We decided to try and find out why…

From IE6 to the present day..

Internet Explorer 6 logo Internet Explorer 6 was first released back in August 2001 just a year after the release of IE5.5. Since IE6’s release, Microsoft have subsequently released 3 major versions of their Internet Explorer software. IE7 was released in October 2006, IE8 in June 2009, and this year saw the release of Internet Explorer 9, with IE10 already well in development. But there was a long gap between the release of IE6 and IE7 (5 years in fact!). This allowed for widespread adoption of IE6 by IT departments the world over during this period.

The importance of keeping up to date

Now, any home user knows it’s important to keep their web browser up-to-date. This not only ensures the best possible viewing experience with the latest web technologies (which are moving at a very fast pace these days!), but also, and more importantly help keep their browser and computer protected from new security vulnerabilities and exploits. Browser updates are always provided free of charge and are readily available – some even automatically update themselves!… so why do corporate IT departments stick with IE6 and not keep their software infrastructure up to date?

Should Corporations & IT departments be doing more?

We’d always assumed a key reason why organizations haven’t updated from IE6 was down to laziness. We spoke though with one IT professional about her own experiences of a recent corporate roll-out of IE8, which paints a different picture:
“We went from (Internet Explorer) 6 to 8 and it’s a nightmare. It’s random things like some of our web based apps which use Windows authentication no longer work, others that use the “remember me” option now don’t log you out properly. We have issues retaining our proxy settings and to top it off it’s so slow! … (IE6) works better!”

So are corporations simply not upgrading due to usability and compatibility issues with their existing software infrastructure? At MIDAS, we ensure that our web based room scheduling app is compatible with the very latest versions (and development builds) of the 5 major browsers. Should other developers of web apps be doing the same? We believe so!! …but could Microsoft themselves be doing more too?

Should Microsoft be doing more?

Ditch Internet Explorer 6 Whilst Microsoft do provide some helpful resources for corporate IT departments looking to migrate from IE6, Microsoft have committed to continue support for IE6 until 2014 (coinciding with the “End of Life” of Windows XP), primarily because of this corporate sector! In our opinion, Microsoft should have ended support for IE6 a long time ago. If they had, it would force corporations and developers alike to upgrade and modernize their software. Ultimately, this benefits the wider Internet community! Developers can then utilize new and emerging web technologies, such as HTML5, CSS3. This in turn provides a better user experience, rather than developers having to instead spend time trying to make their modern software backwards compatible with a decade old obsolete browser!

The future for IE6

Google, YouTube, Hotmail, WordPress, and many other well known sites have already dropped support for IE6 in recent times. Here at MIDAS HQ we took the decision last year to no longer focus on ensuring IE6 compatibility for our web based app, MIDAS. Our main reason was because this was holding back development, preventing us from implementing new features, taking advantage of new and emerging web technologies.

Conclusions

Whilst we’re encouraged by Microsoft’s recent reinvigorated approach and commitment to further development of Internet Explorer, they should never have left IE6 to stagnate for as long as it did before releasing IE7. This has led to many corporations becoming too dependent on an outdated and vulnerable browser. Microsoft’s pledge in continuing to support IE6 until 2014 is, and will continue to hold back development of the web.

We would urge any organization or IT department still using IE6, not to wait until its “End of Life” but to upgrade as soon as you feasibly can! If there’s compatibility issues with your 3rd party apps or software, contact the publishers/developers of that software. If they are as committed to their software as we are to MIDAS, they’ll want to ensure full compatibility of their product with the latest web browsers. If they can’t do this, perhaps it’s time to start looking for alternatives now before it becomes too late!

We’re really excited about the future direction the web is taking, with new standards and technologies emerging. But we need corporations and business to help drive the web forward! This is currently hindered by the continued use of IE6!