The past few days have not been kind to web developers. Google announced they were scrapping their popular RSS Reader application and that overshadowed news from Adobe that Browserlab was being closed with immediate effect.
Browserlab started as a free browser testing service in 2009. Testing web sites and applications is notoriously difficult owing to seemingly infinite combinations of device, OS, browser, plugins and configurations. Desktop software developers — you have it easy! You can normally concentrate on one or two operating systems. However, people expect web applications to work no matter what. It doesn’t matter whether they’re running IE10 on Windows 8, Safari 6 on Mac OSX, Chromium on Ubuntu, Firefox on Android, Lynx on a Commodore 64 or — even worse — IE6 on XP.
Browserlab was one of a number of online services available for web developers which helped spot the worst layout problems. Adobe disclosed their reason for closing the system:
The growth of the importance of mobile devices and tablets, the landscape has changed dramatically. Because of this shift, we have seen the usage of BrowserLab drop over the past year while at the same time our engineering team has been focusing on solving this new challenge with new solutions.
We’d like to thank all of our customers over the years for using and providing input for the Adobe BrowserLab Service.
I find the announcement slightly strange. Testing has become more difficult so you would have expected the number of BrowserLab users to increase? Admittedly, it was not as good as competitors and did not support mobile devices but it remained a viable service for the majority of us testing desktop-based browsers.
Fortunately, BrowserLab users have a couple of good alternatives (take note Google):
- Sauce Labs — BrowserLab users receive up to 10 hours of free testing
- BrowserStack — there are no specific offers for BrowserLab users, but head over to Microsoft’s modern.IE website to receive three months free service.
So goodbye BrowserLab. Let’s hope this is the last essential service to disappear this week…
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.