Fortes

Updated Pareto Browser Filter

Which browsers cause 80% of the development pain in 2014? Dropping support for older browsers makes development much simpler.

Smoky Lake TahoeSouth Lake Tahoe, California

Three years ago, I created the Pareto Browser Filter, a simple method for avoiding problematic browsers. Back then, it mostly just excluded IE7 and below, which had less than 20% combined usage but definitely accounted for more than 80% of cross-browser authoring pain.

The worst offenders with measurable market share today are IE9 and below and Android pre 4.3, which both have about 5% global share (sadly, IE numbers are much higher in a few Asian countries including China). Opera Mini (about 4%) is also missing some key features; however, its usage is mostly international, which means many US-centric developers were never testing on it anyway.

With those numbers in mind, we can construct a new filter aimed at reducing development pain:

if ('requestAnimationFrame' in window) {
  // Passes for:
  // Chrome
  // IE 10+
  // Firefox
  // Safari 6.1+
  // iOS 7.1+
  // Chrome Android
  // Android 4.4+
}

The new test is much simpler, however it is slightly over-aggressive, covering just under 77% of browsers based on global share. Naturally, usage numbers can vary greatly by site, so the actual number depends on the audience. Fortunately, this percentage will only increase, and should increase to 80% in less than a year.

Back in 2011, even if with the filter you still had to worry about the old IE event model. You also needed hacky scripts in order to create decent responsive designs. In 2014, once you get over the pain of dropping a fifth of your worldwide audience, there are a bunch of fun browser features you can use without guilt (or polyfills):

  • Web workers
  • requestAnimationFrame
  • Canvas
  • IndexedDB
  • Web sockets
  • Audio & Video elements
  • CSS Transforms (including 3D)
  • HTML5 History
  • IFrame sandboxing
  • Tons more…

It’s tough to predict what the next version of this filter will be, since it depends heavily on future market share. Auto-updates in Chrome and Firefox mean new features can hit 50% very quickly. However, they’re held back by the much slower release cycles of IE and iOS.