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Forever Backwards Compatible

Posted in Thoughts

In chatting with someone on Clarity a couple of days ago, I came across a peculiar question that didn’t seem that remarkable at the time. The topic was hiring a freelancer to build a website, and what should happen after the contract is over, i.e., post-launch updates. The other person on the line — a non-technical entrepreneur — wanted to know how he should deal with updates to Chrome and Safari.

Hm.

Of course, the answer is “nothing,” but the mega-backwards capability of the open web is something that we now take for granted. This is the polar opposite of privately-controlled platforms, which companies deprecate over time due to the need to work on and sell new stuff. Apps built for earlier versions of iOS or Windows or even games on the PlayStation 1 don’t work with the latest hardware or operating systems; there’s very few, if any OS-native Space Jams1.

For all the talk about the web not evolving fast enough to catch native UIs, the silver lining is that the web will transcend generations of devices and platforms and operating systems. Outside the immediacy of the moment and the race for the flashy interfaces, there’s something reassuring about the long, stable legacy of the web.


  1. And thanks to archive.org, we also have some idea of how many 1996 webpages are still renderable today too!