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the web log of Simon Jessey

Sunday, January 5th, 2003

Your browser sucks. Get a real one!

In December, fellow Englishman, Richard Rutter, made an entry in his web log about browser upgrade messages. Many web sites, including my own, display a message on each page that targets users of older browsers and tries to encourage them to upgrade. By using Cascading Style Sheets, these messages are hidden from modern web browsers such as Internet Explorer 6.0 and Mozilla 1.1. My own site displays the following message:

If you are viewing this page within a web browser, you will probably want to consider upgrading it to one with better support for CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and other internet technologies. I recommend Mozilla or Internet Explorer. Both of these browsers feature good support for the web standards created by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). Please disregard this suggestion if you have used your browser mechanism to view the page without style sheets, or if you are using a text/non-visual browser.

Richard has pointed out a serious problem with this approach. Many new forms of web browsers can be found on handheld devices, such as telephones and personal digital assistants. The MSN TV device is also becoming more common. Users of such browsers are rarely able to upgrade their browsers and so such upgrade messages are inappropriate for them. I had already considered the problem of non-visual browsers by making sure the message appeared at the end of any document's markup - an imperfect solution, but better than sticking it at the top of the document like most other upgrade messages.

I agree that the message is no longer appropriate and I will alter or remove it from the new design of this site. I refuse to use any kind of browser sniffing to try and deliver targetted messages. Browser sniffing seems like too much of a hack. It is a shame that the manufacturers of handheld devices rarely provide proper support for media="handheld" - saving us all much bother. TV-based web browsers should be made to recognize media="tv" as well.

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