Link: Chrome-Only Sites are a Problem

Via the Verge, Chrome is turning into the new Internet Explorer 6. I’ve been saying this for a while, and often get poo-pooed by folks who really like Chrome. Let me expand on that a bit and explain what I mean. (First, go read the article, it lays some good groundwork.)

The big response I hear is “Chrome is standards compliant, so if only Chrome is supported then the others need to catch up!” There are several browsers that claim to be standards-compliant. This is fine, and a good aspiration, but is also a bit of a half-truth: in reality browsers are partially compliant. This is because standards continue to evolve, and it takes time to implement those standards, and literally no browser is actually 100% compliant with current standards. Further, different developers are going to prioritize different parts of the standard, so while Chrome might have one feature implemented, Firefox implemented one Chrome doesn’t have, and Safari might have a different feature than either of them. Each of those features are standards compliant.

Part of the issue, and why articles like the one linked above are starting to crop up, is developers look at the new shiny in Chrome specifically, and develop around that, ignoring all other users and browsers. While there’s room for experimentation and trying out new features, putting sites into production without considering the impact on users that don’t have the features Chrome chose to implement first is bad for the web (and frankly bad for business). This isn’t specifically Chrome’s fault, mind you — the same could be said for sites using features only Firefox or Edge or Safari support, without including a fallback. However, since Chrome has the marketshare, the issue becomes much more prevalent with Chrome.

The other response that comes up is “if it works in Chrome then it’s the others that are broken.” Sometimes that’s the case, I’ll happily concede, but frankly not as often as people make it out to be. There are no shortage of bugs in all browsers, and Chrome is no exception (just in the Chromium public bug tracker, bug IDs are about to crest 800k, of which 57k are still open and active). This means you are going to work around quirks and issues in their implementation of a particular feature, even longstanding parts of CSS or HTML. This is an unfortunate but unavoidable part of web development. The issue (again) is when you only fix the issues around Chrome, or assume Chrome’s incorrect behavior is what should be expected, and leave a broken experience for all other users.

This all leads to a result of sites saying “Best used in Chrome!” or having broken functionality in other browsers without even a note, or even just blocking use with other browsers. That is what people are talking about with Chrome becoming the new IE6. It isn’t really Chrome’s fault it’s turning into IE6, but it doesn’t change the fact that as long as developers treat it as the gold standard and ignore other browsers, that’s what it will become.

(This, of course, isn’t even getting into the shift at Google to start making their newer services Chrome-ONLY, which is the next phase of IE6-ification. Some have received claims of eventual compatibility with other browsers, but others have not. While as a company they’re entitled to make those sorts of decisions, there’s nothing “standards compliant” about that sort of behavior, and earns them every bit of IE6-comparisons they receive.)