Does the backwards compatibility of your website extend decades?

19 September 2023

I hate to think exactly how backwards compatible disassociated is. In the past I strived to work with web standards which ensured some uniformity of visual display, regardless of the web browser, or operating platform, being used to view the website. For the most part, but not quite always, disassociated generally worked as intended.

But in my cross-browser testing I really only used a small selection of better known, and recent release, browsers. I always hoped readers were mostly using these, while also keeping them reasonably up to date. As such, I’ve never given any thought as to how disassociated might present in legacy browsers. When I say lagacy, I’m talking apps that were available close to thirty years ago.

Netscape. Internet Explorer 1. Or Lynx, a browser that rendered websites as text only. While it turns out some of these ancient browsers are still available for download, I doubt few people would use them for regular web browsing. And that’s what my limited cross-browser testing regime is based on.

However, in a fascinating experiment, Anthony, a Sydney based software engineer, recently decided to see how far back in time he could take his website, using some of these legacy browsers:

Between pruning container divs and removing collapsed margins the thought occurred to me that my site —with its spartan design and low-tech philosophy— could have remained pretty much identical since the internet’s early days. This raised an interesting question: Exactly how far back in time could my site’s design have remained the same? How far in the past could this site’s current design have originated? 5 years? 10 years? more?

This all sounds like going down a veritable rabbit hole to me. If I saw a display problem with disassociated, on a browser virtually no one was using, I’d probably be tempted to fix the issue, knowing it might take hours to effect. Therefore I’d probably not attempt the exercise in the first place. And even though Anthony ran into a few rendering issues, some of which he found fixes for, overall his website held up well.


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