Test in many browsers

Published 2022-05-12 category: thoughts

I use Firefox as my main browser, both for development and for just regular… browsing. Increasingly, core functionality of websites breaks for me, as, presumably, not all developers test in Firefox anymore.

Yesterday, for instance. I signed up for a conference and their signup form wouldn't submit. It relied on JavaScript, which borked in Firefox. Some ES feature was used that isn't supported in Firefox yet, with no feature checks or fallbacks. As forms have been part of the web for decades, in all browsers, my primary response was ‘hey this shouldn't have to be broken!’

Testing your work in Firefox matters. Right? Well, it does to me, like testing in lots of browsers and assistive tech does. When I shared this on Twitter, realising a little late that this point is controversial, I saw some themes in the responses.

Some said Firefox should test with their websites. They do, actually… Mozilla hosts and sponsors the web compat community which helps debug sites that work in one browser and not another and feeds into improving those browsers. This is really hard and complex work, I remember from hanging out some of the people working on this when I was at Mozilla (the stories…). I recommend Mike Taylor's talk about web compat at View Source 2019.

Others signalled they found it too much work. For a large part of my career, front-end development was all about making stuff work across browsers, because they weren't as well aligned as they are today. I, for one, am so happy to be past the years of needing multiple VMs to test versions of Internet Explorer. With tools like Browserstack and Browsersync, we've come a long way.

Lastly, some said it's ‘not worth it’ given Firefox's marketshare. To be honest, I hadn't checked Firefox's market share before I tweeted and did not realise how small it is today 😢. The percentage is small.

I guess I can understand the idea that organisations prioritise browser support by browser market share. But shouldn't we want browser diversity and browser engine diversity? (This nuance is nicely explained in Brian Kardell's What is actually a web browser?).

Yes, some of the web's smartest and nicest minds work on Chrome and Chromium, I have see them do great work improving the web and prioritise (mostly) the right things over and over. Increasingly so now that the Edge people are also working on making Chromium better. I'm a fan of their work and most of the time Google push the web forward in ways it would simply not have without them. But, as Tim Kadlec mentions in a blog post, they don't always.

It's in everyone's interest to not give one company a near monopoly over what the web can do through their browser, or a handful of companies through their engine (Microsoft Edge, Samsung Internet, Brave and many others also use Chromium). Various people wrote about this when Edge announced they would use Chromium. “No single company, let alone a user-tracking advertising giant, should control the internet”, said Jeffrey Zeldman in Browser diversity starts with us. Competition is about growing, wrote Rachel Nabors, in a post where she compares the browser ecoystem with the world's ecosystem. Hurting engine diversity hurts the web, explains Andre Garzia.

Less browser engines doesn't necessarily mean that all decision making power lies with one company, though. In Beyond Browser Vendors, Brian Kardell mentions the origin story of CSS Grid as an example: originally conceived by CSS co-inventors Bert Bos and Håkon Wium Lie, further worked on years later by Bert Bos, then picked up by Microsoft and ultimately paid for by Bloomberg to be implemented in Webkit and Chromium by teams from Igalia, a company that works on all major browsers and JavaScript engines. This is also how potential futures of the web can be decided.

In any case… I'm curious how thinking may have shifted over the last years. How do you think about browser testing in 2022?

Comments, likes & shares (21)

Sim0n, Bernard Nijenhuis, Chris(topher) Allan Perry 🇪🇺, Kẹ́hìndé Adélékè, Tim Kraut, Johnny Taylor, Stephan , ., Meagan Eller, Daniel Ehniss and トビアス バルト liked this

Chris(topher) Allan Perry 🇪🇺, Daniel Ehniss and Mikie Etlinger reposted this

I guess the problem with browser share is that the smaller it gets, the less likely it is to get the effort applied to it to allow it to keep up, or even get the vital feedback it needs to highlight where there is an issue. 😞
Testing x-browser is important, but with common automated tools some people aren’t even testing IN browsers, that’s why I love modern-web.dev/docs/test-runn… from @modern_web_dev pair it with @playwrightweb to test in WebKit, Firefox and Chrome, which has saved me a number of times.
" I signed up for a conference and their signup form wouldn't submit. It relied on JavaScript, which borked in Firefox."— @hdv⁩ — But hey progressive enhancement is unecessary because everyone has JavaScript all the time and JavaScript always works.🙃 hidde.blog/test-in-many-b…
Can’t get my head around people not testing their work in as many browsers as possible. As you mentioned, core functionality should be available widely as in «open web».
Yes to everything in this. To be honest, I think Mozilla might need to restructure itself into something so corporately-driven to actually stand a chance. It's frustrating. hidde.blog/test-in-many-b… (jacky.wtf/2022/5/QbVv)
I couldn’t deal anymore and switched to Edge completely. I’m still frustrated about it because I want to use Firefox, but nobody will let me.

@jalcine Google positions itself here as owning the patent on cups when we all need to drink water. No matter how many taps there are, most people would rather have a cup than suck on the faucet. It's functioning more like a utility company now than anything else, and I think, unrealistic as it may be, that they should be held to much stricter standards, rather than having the competitors adopt Google's practices. Thanks for sharing!