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Web developers are frustrated by web browsers

Web developers are frustrated by web browsers

Mozilla Developer Network survey indicates broad satisfaction with web technologies, with browser support being the main frustration

Credit: Dreamstime

Developers surveyed by Mozilla in the second half of 2019 about their experiences with the web platform, tools, and capabilities were mostly satisfied, but they did cite some shortcomings, particularly issues with browser support.

Overall, 59.8 percent reported being satisfied with the web while 16.3 were very satisfied. Only 6.8 percent were dissatisfied and 2.2 percent very dissatisfied. These findings were part of the MDN Web DNA (Developer Needs Assessment) Report 2019, which draws on input from more than 28,000 web developers and designers worldwide.

The MDN Web DNA Report 2019 was the first edition of what is planned to be an annual global study of web developer and designer needs, intended to shape the web platform’s future. In addition to assessing overall satisfaction with the web platform, the report identifies the needs and frustrations of developers. Among the top 10 frustrations, web browsers play a role in four of them:

  1. Having to support specific browsers, such as Internet Explorer 11.
  2. Outdated or inaccurate documentation for frameworks and libraries.
  3. Avoiding or removing a feature that does not work across browsers.
  4. Testing across browsers.
  5. Making a design look and work the same across browsers.
  6. Finding bugs not found during testing.
  7. Supporting multiple frameworks in the same codebase.
  8. Keeping up with a high number of tools or frameworks.
  9. Managing user data to comply with laws and regulations.
  10. Understanding and implementing security measures.

In one open-ended question, developers were asked what they would like to be able to do on the web but lack the platform features to do it. Here Mozilla identified 109 categories of developer wants, with the following seven gained the most traction:

  1. Access to hardware, including APIs on devices, 12.4 percent of respondents.
  2. Browser compatibility, including consistency in cross-browser rendering, 8.6 percent.
  3. Access to the file system, 4.7 percent.
  4. Performance, including native mobile app speed in web apps, 3.4 percent. Poor JavaScript performance and a desire for a Java or Python browser also were cited.
  5. PWA (Progressive Web Apps) support, 3.4 percent.
  6. Debugging, including better tools, 3.3 percent.
  7. Access to native APIs, 3 percent.

The report also covered language-specific pain points:

  • JavaScript – the lack of browser/engine adoption/support for a given language feature, 37.4 percent of respondents.
  • HTML – No pain points, 35.3 percent.
  • CSS – challenges creating the layout specified, 44.4 percent.
  • WebAssembly – lack of debugging tool support, 51.4 percent of the 851 persons who answered this question. The newness of the technology was cited as reason for the limited number of responses.

Finall, when it comes to which browsers developers support, Chrome and Firefox led the way:

  • Chrome, with 97.5 percent of respondents supporting it.
  • Firefox, 88.6 percent.
  • Safari, 59.6 percent.
  • Chrome for Android, 57.8 percent
  • Edge, 57.3 percent.

In acknowledging contributions, the report cites participation from the MDN Product Advisory Board, which, in addition to Mozilla, also includes Google, Microsoft, Samsung, the World Wide Web Consortium, and Bocoup.


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