WordPress 3.2: Browse Happy or Browse Crappy?

WordPress 3.2: Browse Happy or Browse Crappy?

I get anxious when I see a bill that needs paid, or a piece of software that needs updated, or I think of a phone call I have to make that I haven’t done yet. Anything that reminds me of something that I need to do, even if it’s not urgent or important, adds to a low level of anxiety and I’m now experiencing a itching feeling crawling over my skin when I test out WordPress 3.2 on IE 8. There is a big yellow box telling me that I have to update. What with Google now telling WordPress users to update their website, and WordPress telling their users to update their browser, a whole new level of anxiety has been added to my life – update, update, update!

Browse Happy is one of the new additions to WordPress with 3.2. Browse happy tells you that you’d better update your browser, the implication being that without updating you are browsing unhappily. I don’t know about you, but I was pretty happy not having a giant yellow button on my WordPress dashboard.

Let’s look at some of the issues.

Support Dropped for IE6

IE Countdown map

I’m so torn on this. On the one had I’m like “Yes! Great! Drop support for IE 6!” And this seems sensible to anyone working on the web. However, a quick look at Microsoft’s IE6 Countdown tells us that 33.9% of people in China are still using IE6. China has a population of around 1.4 billion people – so that’s a lot of people using IE6. The WordPress users amongst them are going to end up with a back end looking like this:

WordPress Dashboard in IE6 - looking ugly

I’m sure that WordPress have done their research and figure that there just aren’t enough people in China downloading WordPress to make it worth their while continuing support for IE6.

But the problem with IE6 is that some people have to use it because they are using legacy software, and not everyone can afford to upgrade. Not only that, but there are lots of people who have to use IE 6 at work. Yes, we should be encouraging big companies to finally make the switch, but I’m not sure if breaking the WordPress dashboard is the way to do it. It’s more likely that such companies considering using WordPress won’t use it, or that they will use older, more insecure versions of WordPress.

And so, I remain torn – I definitely support the loss of IE6 but I’m not sure if breaking the WordPress dashboard is the way to do it.

Browse Happy on the Dashboard

browse happy notice

Personally, I keep my browsers up to date. I just have IE 8 on my computer because I never use IE (except for the occasional testing) so haven’t bothered updating it. I’m quite happy pootling along, updating my browsers whenever they need it.

What I find annoying is a bright yellow button telling me that I should update my browser. It is incredibly intrusive. Yes, you can click the dismiss button but that doesn’t make it less annoying. I understand the logic of it – something is annoying so it encourages you to do something good which fixes the annoyance. I’m all for a bit of social engineering but I’m not sure if WordPress is the place to do it.

Scenarios in which I really have a problem with browse happy:

  1. Creating a site for a client – I don’t want to impose this upon them when they log in. I’m going to have to get rid of it with a plugin;
  2. Running a huge network, in education for example, where thousands of users are using browsers that aren’t up-to-date. IT Departments aren’t going to want a piece of software telling their users to update.

This isn’t the first time that browse happy has been a issue. It used to appear in the WordPress footer and caused this discussion of it on Trac.

Mark Jacquithasked this question way back in 2007

How does this improve WordPress and the WordPress experience?

And that, essentially, is the problem –  how does this improve WordPress and the WordPress experience? I’m not convinced that this latest change does. Plenty of people don’t want to use the most up-to-date version of a browser as it may have bugs or problems that need to be ironed out, others don’t upgrade because of software or work constraints, others because they like the version of the browser that they are using. The whole thing just feels a little bit patronizing.

Don’t get me wrong – I support the Browse Happy campaign in principle, I just don’t want it as a bright yellow lump on my WordPress dashboard, there for my clients and my network users. I think it’s the wrong way to go about things. What do you think?