What is a modern browser?

Seems like everyone is talking about the definition of “modern browsers”, after Mozilla’s Paul Roget published his bitchy IE9 is not post. Microsoft admirably responded. I like them to respond, to show they’re human, but the discussion is a bit childish.

Here’s my definition: A modern browser has been written recently.

Excellent. Cut, dried, simple. Next question: What makes a good browser?

Aha, much better. I would request the following:

  • A good browser is still in active development.
  • A good browser fixes rendering bugs as quickly as security fixes.
  • A good browser publishes security fixes regularly.
  • A good browser defaults to standards-mode rendering.
  • A good browser is FREE. I shouldn’t need to buy an operating system to test with your browser.
  • A good browser has a Firebug-like tool.
  • A good browser is fast.

I think that’s it. Seems a much easier checklist than the wooly “modern” definitions. I think FF4, Safari and Chrome satisfy all of the above. FF3.6 fails the speed test for me, while IE9 fails the free test.

I’d love to see a commitment from the IE team to fix rendering bugs in IE9, without waiting on a new version. Regardless of how much testing you do, bugs always slip through. If IE had fixed floats and layouts in IE6, the world would be a better place – and we’d still have upgraded to IE7 for the new features. I’d love to think of IE versions in terms of features, rather than in terms of bugs.