SourceForge drops IE 6 support

SourceForge has changed its appearance more often in the past 6 months than Joan Rivers’ face.  Not in small ways either.  I host Tubecaster on SourceForge and recently it seemed that every time I logged into the site they had completely re-themed.

Yesterday I was at work and trying to track down an Open Source hex editor so I thought I’d pop into SourceForge and browse their extensive software database.  Even though other Open Source project hosting services have been gaining a lot of momentum lately SourceForge is still the first place I turn to when looking for Open Source apps.  It still has the largest legacy range of software of any similar site.  Anyway, I happened to be using IE 6 because it was part of the particular build on the PC I was using and, to my surprise, up popped a little information bar at the top of the screen, stating:

Your browser isn’t supported, so some things might not work as expected.  Please upgrade to a newer version of IE, or to Firefox.

The web developer in me shrieked with joy, but the objective observer quickly overruled and made me think of all the corporates out there still on IE6.  I can certainly speak for most of the clients I’ve worked with at the company I work for.  Browser usage is a reasonably difficult metric to measure accurately in a big-picture sense, but I think it’s fair to say that we should still make some attempt at supporting it.  It seems that the good folks at SourceForge quite literally haven’t even tried their site in IE6, even once:

SourceForge.net in IE6 - Click to enlarge

SourceForge.net in IE6 - Click to enlarge

Compare that to IE 7 & 8 (it looks the same in both):

sourceforge_ie7_thumb

SourceForge.net in IE7 - Click to enlarge

I should point out that it is somewhat hypocritical of me to condemn this sort of behaviour, since I explicitly do not support any version of IE lower than 7 on the new Tubecaster site, but I would only do that on my own personal sites and never for a business or any other client.

Believe me when I say that I understand the pain of developing for IE6 – the constant hair pulling, beating and maiming of web standards, and horrors such as HasLayout – but I really believe that with the tools and knowledge available to us now, like these sites[1], which detail common known IE bugs and layout quirks, to Microsoft’s free Virtual PC 2007 and their free Virtual PC Windows XP IE images[2], there is little excuse for web developers to not make at least some effort to get their sites behaving reasonably well in IE6.

I’m not talking about getting everything pixel-perfect.  Nobody that uses your websites for their intended purposes is going to notice the 2px misalignment on that floating image, or slightly overweight sidebar.  As much as those extra pixels will scream at you, taunt you, every time you see them in IE6, just spare a thought for those users who, for one reason or another, cannot yet upgrade.

Don’t despair – Microsoft is well on the way to giving IE6 the boot, once and for all.

[1]:

[2]:

These images expire every few months, after which new ones are released.  They seem to be valid for about 3-4 months at a time.

Server Fault Private Beta

Following on from the wildly successful Stack Overflow programming questions and answers website, Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky have launched Server Fault, a questions and answers site following the same format but now for “system administrators and IT professionals” (currently in Private Beta, click here for sign-up instructions).

stackoverflow_logo

serverfault_logo

I’ve been using Stack Overflow for about 5 months and I absolutely love it. It has become the definitive, and I dare say de facto standard, questions and answers one-stop-shop for programmers. You can post a question for just about any programming topic and receive an answer within minutes, sometimes even seconds. This removes an old hassle with posting questions on Web 1.0-style forums where you had to wait impractically long lengths of time to receive answers.

These sites don’t just follow any standard Q&A format either.  Just take a look at the diagram on the about page of either site and you’ll see that they’re a deliciously freakish Wiki/Blog/Forum blend.

One of the things I love about boths sites is their innovative karma and badge system, where users are rewarded by the community for making valuable contributions.  This gives users a reputation score which appears next to their name wherever it appears on the site.  This can be used as an assessment of someone’s overall standing in the community.  Badges are awarded for special achievements like providing an especially highly-rated answer or for being recognised as an expert in a particular technology.

Of course possibly the most important feature of boths sites is that you don’t need to be logged in to ask or answer questions.  This removes yet another annoying hurdle for the casual help-seeker.

I encourage everyone in IT, be it programming or otherwise, to sign up to at least one of these – you won’t look back.

-Wayne