Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

‘Modern’ Browsers

Jim Nielsen’s mom could not access a website from her computer or iPad to register for volunteering:

So I looked at the version of Chrome on my parent’s computer. Version 76! I knew we were at ninety-something in 2022, so I figured that was the culprit. “I’ll just update Chrome,” I thought.

Turns out, you can’t. From what I could gather, the version of Chrome was tied to ChromeOS which couldn’t be updated because of the hardware. No new ChromeOS meant no new Chrome which meant stuck at version 76.

But what about the iPad? I discovered that my Mom’s iPad was a 1st generation iPad Air. Apple stopped supporting that device in iOS 12, which means it was stuck with whatever version of Safari last shipped with iOS 12.

So I had two older browsers that couldn’t be updated. It was device obsolescence because you couldn’t install the latest browser.

I ran into a similar issue when I tried booting into Mac OS X Lion — the version that shipped with my 2012 MacBook Air — and found that many websites, including my own, refuse to load because of incompatibilities with modern SSL certificates or HTTPS standards, I think. This laptop is officially obsolete in Apple’s terms; it can only be upgraded to Catalina. It will stop working eventually, but I wonder if the hardware will give out first or if it is more likely that I will sooner be unable to use it for day-to-day tasks.

Even on the most basic of document-based websites, there are technical hurdles that prove the web is little without the right web browser. I like a lot of the work done by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but one of the quieter drawbacks of its leadership in encrypting the web is that many websites can only be accessed through newer browsers.