Do You Know What a Browser is?

What is a browse? A question posed on this YouTube video to 50 passers by of varying ages and backgrounds in New York’s Times Square.

What a stupid question, I initially thought: everyone must know what a browser is. However, their answers made me raise an eyebrow of astonishment and forced me to rethink my preconceptions.

In our ivory tower of professional geek-dom, where we bask in our undiluted view of the interweb, slowly tweaking the knobs of Web2.0, it is easy to forget that not all people know or even care about the inner (or even outer) workings of this beloved world-net-super-highway of ours.
And why should they?

Why should the average user who is merely looking to book themselves a holiday, of catch up with the latest news, or poke someone who they met 5 years ago one drunken night in the suburbs of Sydney, really care what a browser is, let alone which particular one they are using?

To be frank they shouldn’t.

It should be up to us (the people that build sites and web applications) to make the things we build just work, regardless. Even if it means having to cater for some, er, how shall I put this: crappy old browsers. The users don’t know any better, this is what was on their machine and they can’t or won’t understand why a website doesn’t work with it. Now this is not going to be a rant about users being rubbish, or ill-educated in the art of web-fu, or even about the monopolistic practices of a once small dorm-room company stifling both innovation and standards.


Instead this is a quick reminder to us. Stop banging on about how we have to code for multiple implementations of multiple browsers on multiple platforms. The users simply don’t care. All they care about is if it work or not.

If not, they are gone.