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Whenever I read something or hear someone talking about HTML5, CSS and JavaScript support, they always refer to Internet Explorer with the version number such as Internet Explorer 6, and Internet Explorer 9. But they only refer to Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari and others without version numbers.

Shouldn't they also specify the version number in which certain web technologies are incompatible for other browsers instead of just Internet Explorer?

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Historically, this wasn't always true. The earlier versions of FF had big differences (and bugs), and versions mattered, then. –  MPD Oct 29 '13 at 12:53
    
And Opera. –  Peter Mortensen Oct 29 '13 at 19:21

5 Answers 5

up vote 40 down vote accepted

Well, that mainly has two reasons:

1. IE versions have major differences

While other browsers may have no (obvious) difference between versions, Internet Explorer, being the only browser pre-installed (and basically hard-coded) in Windows, has huge differences from version 6 to version 10. Version 10 is almost as good a browser as Chrome or Firefox, while version 6 is an unreliable, slow, good-for-nothing, over-customized browser still used by some non tech-savvy, and it is incompatible with thousands of features introduced after it was created (that was over a decade ago).
You can see some compatibility examples here.

2. Being pre-installed has an impact on the market

Since IE comes with Windows, and while other OS are gaining up publicity, Windows has been the default for thousands (if not millions) of people, for a long time. Since these people hire programmers to do stuff, like make their websites, programmers are forced to make it look good on the client's screen, even if that doesn't always target the largest audience.

Of course, most of us are trying to have a good result on both the client's screen and their clients' screens, but that isn't always easy, if our client has IE 6. (And believe me: some of them will think that you are not a good developer if you ask them to change their browser)

So, in conclusion, we tend to always refer to IE with its version, because it does mean something different for development.

P.S.: Here is a great blog article about the history of IE and why geeks hate it which does a great presentation on a once good browser.

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Thanks! Point #1 pretty much answered my question. –  Rue Leonheart Oct 29 '13 at 5:46
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Thank you. It was my dream to write some bad review for IE 6 somewhere, for quite a few years now :) –  mavrosxristoforos Oct 29 '13 at 5:50
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Additionally other browsers almost all automatically update to their most recent version where as Internet Explorer by default does not auto update. You have to manually update for example through Windows Update. See here how statistics look for browser groups: ranking.pl/en/rankings/web-browsers-details.html This spread in market share for IE also comes partially from the fact that XP support up to IE8 max where as other browser recent versions work on XP. –  Robert Niestroj Oct 29 '13 at 10:59
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On our office network, we are stuck with FireFox 3.5 because update networks are blocked. So saying generally that some new HTML5 features are supported by "FireFox" is an assumption that everyone is using the latest version of it. –  Rue Leonheart Oct 29 '13 at 13:00
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Heh, I actually liked IE4, I remember when I made my first sites, I would code them for IE4, period. But IE6 onward were just terrible, and before FireFox was launched I was hating the fact that I could not just keep my IE4 and had to use horrible IE6 :( –  speeder Oct 29 '13 at 15:49

One major reason not mentioned by mavrosxristoforos is that Firefox, Chrome and Safari are all auto-updated software. So their users all have the latest version installed (except those who are never online. But well ...).

So the market share for older version is so small that it is irrelevant to consider anything but the latest one when developing a web application.

With Internet Explorer, users have to manually upgrade when a new version is out, which slows things a lot. So in order to reach some users, web applications have to be tested on older versions of IE.

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It's not just the manual upgrades that slow IE upgrades: it's also that in many companies the policy (both organizational and technical, i.e. Domain Group Policy) is explicitly to stay with an old version, due to compatibility concerns with some (usually in-house) web applications that are equally old and don't work with newer IEs. –  Joachim Sauer Oct 29 '13 at 7:57
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@JoachimSauer - it's not only that, but the latest versions of IE are NOT AVAILABLE on all relevant platforms (as of this writing, XP is still in support for another few months, but IE 10 doesn't run on XP). –  Michael Kohne Oct 29 '13 at 12:53
    
And as @MichaelKohne said, 500 million PCs are still running Windows XP - which are PCs that can't run the latest IE browser. theregister.co.uk/2013/10/01/six_months_end_xp_support –  BrianDHall Oct 29 '13 at 16:51

The problem with Internet Explorer is that their major versions all require the at that time latest version of Windows.

  • The highest version on Windows XP is IE8
  • IE 9 requires Vista or Windows 7
  • IE 10 was initially only available for Windows 8 and is now also available for 7 but not for Vista.
  • IE 11 is preinstalled on Windows 8.1 only (there is a beta for 7, but you shouldn't expect normal users to use beta software)

Updating your Windows version costs money, time and sanity, so you can't blame the considerable amount of people who still use older versions of windows. That means they are also stuck with older versions of internet explorer.

But when it comes to other browsers which do not require a specific operating system, there is really no excuse to not use the latest version available.

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"Updating your Windows version costs money, time and sanity, so you can't blame the considerable amount of people who still use older versions of windows. That means they are also stuck with older versions of internet explorer." - wrong!!! tell them to use firefox! (or chrome) –  tryingToGetProgrammingStraight Oct 29 '13 at 12:53

If you take a look at a site like http://caniuse.com/ you can see a breakdown of support for various HTML/CSS/etc features by version number of all the browsers.
That might give you a better visual picture of why IE is generally referred to by number while the others aren't.
For example, here is a chart which shows support levels for Drag and Drop in various browsers:

enter image description here enter image description here

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would you mind explaining more on what it does and why do you recommend it as answering the question asked? "Link-only answers" are not quite welcome at Stack Exchange –  gnat Oct 29 '13 at 16:09
    
It is a website for web developers to see which HTML, CSS, and other related features work with which browsers. I have used it for development work. I think it gives a good visual picture of how different browser versions relate to each other and their features. I certainly did not mean it as a "link-only answer". –  Josh Oct 29 '13 at 16:33
    
your post doesn't explain how clicking this link might give one "better visual picture of why...", not even mentioning that if the linked site gets offline or blocked by some firewall, readers won't be able to find out anything about that –  gnat Oct 29 '13 at 16:45
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OK, I have added an image to illustrate my point. Is this better? –  Josh Oct 29 '13 at 16:52
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This is a bit misleading because some browsers change major version numbers a lot more often than others. IE 5.5 was released in 1999, before anything else on that chart. Chrome 4.0 was released about the same time as IE 8.0. There is definite truth to what you are trying to get at, but this chart is a lousy way to show it. For instance, Firefox 3.5 is older than Chrome 4.0, but this chart makes it look like it got the feature first. –  Steven Burnap Oct 29 '13 at 21:31

The Internet Explorer is not made available on all Windows platforms. For example, the latest Internet Explorer version cannot be used on Windows XP. Therefore there is a user base (Windows XP users) who cannot update to the most recent Internet Explorer version, which means that Web developers will get reports from these people about incompatibilities.

In contrast, other browsers like Firefox are compiled for all major platforms with the most recent release. With auto updating, most users are quite up to date with the browser version which reduces the need to separate between different browser versions, most of the time people talk about the "current" release.

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