If you have recently noticed that the homepage of Google looks different when you load it, it may be because your computer is running an out of date version of your web browser.
Although older browsers tend to render new webpages incorrectly at times, this is no mistake on the part of Google or of your browser’s development team. No—this is an intentional move on the part of the Google search management team to encourage users to update the latest version of their browser.
In 2011, Google made a decision to no longer support any version of the major browsers – Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera – other than the current version and the version immediately prior to it.
Some users who are affected by this policy may wonder why Google would cause its own homepage to render incorrectly in their browser, especially when the page looked fine until their browser released an updated version.
The reason for this tactic is actually quite simple: Older browsers not only display webpages incorrectly, they also constrict the functionality that companies like Google can build into their websites. In general, users won’t notice limited functionality or other minor bugs that crop up in their browser. However, they will take note of incorrect visual formatting, which can then serve as a prompt for them to upgrade.
Although many users are sure to be upset by the policy, Google has wide support among the web development community for what it is doing. As the most visible webpage on the entire Internet, Google has unusual leverage to encourage users to upgrade their browser to the latest version. Along with Google, there are countless other websites that struggle to accommodate the vast range of browsers and browser versions that are used across the Internet.
By encouraging users to upgrade to the most advanced software available, Google makes it easier for other websites to build a new, advanced features that need only be compatible with the last two versions of each major browser.
As more websites take a similar approach to Google with regard to browser compatibility, the developers behind the other major browsers may soon copy the strategy of Google’s own Chrome development team, which has built in automatic updates to its Chrome web browser. These auto updates make it almost impossible for users not to update to the latest version of Chrome. As a result, Chrome has the fewest users on out of date browser versions of any of the major browsers, and is widely regarded as the easiest browser for web development teams to accommodate.