Tobold's Blog
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Google+ lacks backward compatibility

So Google launched their Google+ social network in invite-only testing mode this week. And I got an invite from a fellow blogger. Only problem is that when I try to start Google+ on my work computer, I'm being told that my browser isn't supported. While I would agree with Google that the Internet Explorer 7 my company is using might not be the best choice, I don't actually have a say in that matter. If you are on a computer that doesn't belong to you, be that at work or in an internet café, you don't have total control over what browser you can use.

Thus right now I'm not impressed with Google+. One important feature of social networks is that they must be accessible from anywhere. Lacking backward compatibility with Internet Explorer is already a bad sign. And if the application is so picky, then how will it run on other platforms like iPads, tablet PCs, or non-Android smartphones?
Mobile browsers are actually decent now (read: score 100% on ACID tests), and G+ autodetects most smartphones and shows a smaller UI. There's also a native app for Android available.
Maybe they could release a paid for version that offers backward compatibility.

It seems that IE7 has a current market share of around 5%. I know Google is a massive company but I'm pretty sure they will still have a limit on developmental budgets. If they decided that developing for a relatively small platform segment isn't worth it, maybe they could recoup some costs by offering a paid for version compatible with more platforms.
I'd be irritated at your clealy inadequate and behind the times IT department(or more accurately, the root cause of that inadequacy) than Google on this one. IE7 is two versions out of date, and will likely have support axed soon if MS hasn't already.
I'd be shocked if they did fully support IE7. That would greatly reduce the amount of features possible in the system, blow up the code and create various entry points for bugs and hacks.

Frankly, there is no excuse for any system administrator to still allow IE7 on her devices. Might as well complain about modern games no longer be delivered on floppies (or CDs for that matter).
It is common practice that "Beta" products don't start off supporting every possible browser. I'm certain the scope of supported browsers will be increased as their secure and protect user information is confirmed. It's no good releasing a product that on some browsers leaks your personal information like a siev.
Proofreading ftl. Should read... As their ability to scure and protect....
IE7 is nearly five years old now, and two versions out of date. It's also, as far as I know, not actually possible to obtain any more (if I'm not mistaken, there is no version of Windows currently available for purchase that doesn't ship with IE8).

It's really not worth the pain of trying to develop cutting-edge applications on such an obsolete platform. Especially when, y'know, you have a commercial interest in persuading people to use your own (modern) browser.
If you have ever done any kind of web development, you have no doubt been often extremely frustrated at internet explorer. IE has always been the worst browser, only commonly used because it comes with the windows operating system.

A version of IE which is extremely old is not going to support cutting edge web applications.
Back around the start of the month, Google announced that as of August they would officially stop supporting IE 7 (and other old browser versions) across their product line.

So it doesn't seem surprising that new products don't support it.
I have no idea if it will ever amount to anything. Honestly, I think the Facebook juggernaut is too big and they'll get crushed. But this is an extremely early version of the site.
Isn't expecting Google+ to run on IE7 akin to wanting to run the newest game on a PIII with a Nvidia GeForce 2?
Google can't cater to every business that doesn't have a decent IT department can they...? I'd say that's your company's fault, not Google's.
I'm on Google's side on this one.

You and your company should be ashamed at using IE7 still.
Not that there's any love lost between IE7 and the undersigned or anything, but... great way to convince Tobold to turn commenting back on after his vacation by bashing his employer in a thread about Google+, guys.
I keep forgetting that the Browser Wars were even more fierce than the MMORPG Wars.

IT departments of big companies don't share this religious conviction of the superiority of this or that browser. They don't update their operating systems all that often (still running Vista at work) and just take the pre-installed browser that comes with the OS for convenience.
To those who disparage companies still using IE7 --

Large companies move very slowly. To top that off, many of them purchased web-based, or at least browser-based software that required certain versions of IE. Beyond that, if a company has the place on IE7 and everything works, they're very risk averse to making a huge change like a global SCCM push to upgrade everyone to IE8 or 9, so they'll leave well enough alone -- it's got nothing to do with "inadequacy."

Currently my company is doing a phased upgrade of Adobe Reader from 9.3 to 10.0. We've tested it heavily and thus we know it's a working program in our environment, and yet we're still having about a 3% failure rate on the install (including my own pc!), and we're spot-fixing a crapton of other issues that have popped up in spite of the extensive testing done beforehand. This is for a (mostly) non-critical-to-business application. Can you imagine the ****storm that would arise if we had this level of failure on an IE upgrade?

Hell, we just barely upgraded our HR software to a version that doesn't *require* Java (for which support lapsed in October of 2008). Even the current software *requires* Java, while the current java version is

Our inbound call control software wasn't Vista/Win7 compatible until the update last December and we get it from one of the premier software vendors for this type of software -- yet it still took them this long just to make it compatible with current OS's.

I could go on a lot farther than this, but I think this is enough examples to prove my point. Computer systems and software are much more complex than you think they are, and companies are slow to adopt change, especially if the change has a large known cost and further potential unknown costs associated with it.

I'd guess that Google is banking on the idea that most users will do so from home where they're got control of their system and people who want to use the "cutting edge social media" will likely have "cutting edge" browsers and OS's.

I wish I could find it now, but I read an article earlier this week wherein it was stated that approximately 15% of all internet traffic is done with IE6 still -- this was the browser that shipped with WinXP in 2001. Yeah... lotta "bad" computer users out there. Except if their computer works for what they want it to do, then there's no reason for them to make changes -- same for businesses. If it ain't broke, don't fix it -- that's not inadequate, that's smart.

Sorry for the Wall of Text.
In either case, Tobold's employer isn't responsible for updating the software on his computer just so he can use it for things other than work.
So you are saying that social networks can't be used for work? I'd say at least Linkedin would beg to differ. Google+ has "circles" which would allow you to keep your work stuff separated from your private stuff, and thus would make Google+ more suitable for work than Facebook.
Religious conviction has little to do with it. As far as I'm concerned, everyone won. My most recent project required no compatibility code to support the latest versions of all major browsers.

In a sense, the glacial upgrade rate is a self-perpetuating problem. Old versions generally have more bugs than the latest versions, so vendors targeting old software will have to add workarounds to mitigate the effect of those bugs. But when the software is updated, those workarounds become unnecessary and counterproductive and thus become bugs themselves.

Fortunately, the install rate of IE 6 has dropped close to 10%. Most of the world has actually moved on already. Only China and South Korea are lagging behind, and I suspect that it's the old pirated XP installations that cannot be updated.
If 10% of the world is still using IE6, then the number of people using either IE6 or IE7 is significant, and lack of backward compatibility is a problem for Google.
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