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Calling All Developers: We Need a Switcheroo

Testing is good. It's the sign of a thorough workman. Working on the web, we should strive to be thorough workmen. Many are familiar with the idea and practice of developing a site and testing it in multiple browsers, platforms, and settings. And yet, there's still one thing we can't test for backward and forward compatibility: the Flash player.

Maybe we can, and I just don't know about it. I'll gladly be wrong about this one.

But, as far as I know, there's no way to test older versions of the Flash player in other different browsers to test for compatibility bugs. And therein lies the challenge: what would be really useful is a tool that allows you to toggle between Flash player versions in a browser on the fly. If a client is experiencing a bug in Windows SP2 with Internet Explorer 3 and Flash player 6, you'd be able to reproduce and debug it.

Flash player 8.5 allows users to use the uninstallers/installers to switch versions as stated in their Flash Player 8.5 FAQ, but it's not nearly as streamlined as a tool designed specifically for this purpose could be.

How could it work? It could be implemented in a number of ways. Maybe it could be implemented into Firefox's Web Developer Extension. Maybe it's a bookmarklet. Maybe it gets added to a right-click context menu. I'm not exactly sure what would be best; otherwise, I'd probably try and build it myself, so it’s better for everyone if I stayed in the dark about this one. I'll leave the work for the pros.

The floor is open… Any takers?


Trey Piepmeier said:

BrowserCam has versions 7 and 8.

Posted on June 9, 2006 12:47 PM

Sammy said:

There is a plugin switcher available for download here:

The site is in german, but there is online documentation in english.

Haven't tested it myself.

Posted on June 19, 2006 04:20 PM

dale said:

who uses ie3? regardless, i think there should be some stopping point for what browsers to test for. Granted, we want to accomodate the most number of users, but I think you just need to stop somewhere.
I usually only test for win/ie6 (simply b/c i don't have ie5, anyone know where i can find a version?) and mainly test for FF and Safari on a mac platform. I think it's pointless to test for mac/ie5 because microsoft has stopped development and support for that browser.
Also, if a client is on a windows os, i'd be surprised to see anything but win2k, or xp.
Sometimes people just have to catch up with the technology.

Posted on August 19, 2006 08:42 PM

Dan Mall said:

@Dale: You raise some good points, but they seem a bit short-sighted and borderline elitist.

Should we stop broadcasting regular TV and only distribute high definition signals? Should modem users no longer be allowed to browse the internet? If that’s the case, then we’re back to the days of serving “IE only” sites. If we don’t make an effort to accommodate users, then what kind of service are we really providing?

Posted on August 20, 2006 02:06 PM

Steve Sundberg said:

Actually, Dan, the complete elimination of analog broadcast TV signals was exactly what the FCC had in mind when they mandated the change to digital broadcasts.

Re: browser back-compatibility. At some point, a decision has to be made whether keeping that .03% of your site visitors using IE 3.0 or Netscape 2.0 is as important as being able to provide a more convenient and user-friendly experience for the other 99.7% of your site visitors who have at least a version 5 browser.

Accomodating IE 3.0 means no CSS support. So you either have to account for that when designing a site or provide entirely independent markup that can be viewed correctly by a very (VERY) small percentage of visitors.

This isn't about consensus. Why someone is still using a version 3 browser is way beyond my realm of understanding. The must also still be using Windows 3.1.

Posted on August 21, 2006 05:55 PM

Dan Mall said:

@Steve: Regardless of why people are using what they use, they are using it. The FCC may have intended to eliminate analog signals in the future, but they are still being distributed. IE5/Mac will be phased out, but that doesn't discount the fact that people still use it. Are we so high and mighty that we think we can dictate the technologies that our users should employ? And tough luck to them if they fall within the minority?

It goes back to the fundamental argument of graceful degradation. Sure, if 95% of your users can access the site the way you intend, that’s great! But why not spend the extra 5 hours to ensure that the remaining 5% have a healthy alternative as well?

Posted on August 21, 2006 09:53 PM

john said:

My grandparents still use Windows 3.1, my dad still runs IE5 on OS 9. My grandparents have no need to upgrade, my dad is waiting for 10.5 to buy a new iMac.

I think the script could be simple by saying does it support at least flash player "X"? If not, redirect to basic html site that still has the content, if they are using IE3 with no CSS, they can still see the content.

If, like my dad, the user can't handle flash player 9, I could write my AS for fp7, or write 2 versions 7 and 9, and toggle between the 2 with JavaScript.

I do agree a line has to be drawn some where. My line would be the difference between a flash site or basic html site.

Posted on February 21, 2007 02:12 PM

Sorry: comments are closed.