Google Apps Phases Out Older IE, Firefox, Safari Versions

Google said it is phasing out support for Firefox 3.5, Internet Explorer 7, Safari 3 and their predecessors in Google Apps in favor of Chrome and other browsers that handle HTML5.

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) said it will on Aug. 1 phase out support for older versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari in its Google Apps collaboration software.

The search-engine giant has been putting most of its wood behind HTML5, upgrading its own applications to support the fresher Web markup language. Google's own Chrome Web browser and Chrome Operating System were built from the beginning to handle HTML5.

Google is banking on Chrome and HTML5 to make Web applications the rule rather than the exception to legacy on-premise software created by Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and others. Chrome OS notebooks from Samsung and Acer are launching in two weeks to introduce the commercial consumer market to Google's cloud-computing experience, which hinges on Web applications.

"For Web applications to spring even farther ahead of traditional software, our teams need to make use of new capabilities available in modern browsers," Venkat Panchapakesan, Google's vice president of engineering, said June 2.

Examples of features that require browsers that support HTML5 include Google's desktop notifications for Gmail and drag-and-drop file upload in Google Docs, Panchapakesan said. This naturally includes Chrome, as well as fresher Firefox, IE and Safari versions.

Older Web browsers, he explained, lack "the chops" to provide today's Web application users with a quality experience.

To that end, Google Aug. 1 will shed support for Firefox 3.5, Internet Explorer 7, Safari 3 and their preceding versions.

What this means is that users of these older browsers may have trouble using certain features in Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, Google Docs and Google Sites. Eventually, Google said these applications might stop working at all.

Google will support only the current and prior major releases of Chrome, Firefox, IE and Safari on a "rolling basis." This means each time a new version is released, Google will begin supporting the update and stop supporting the third-oldest version.

There is precedent for this at Google, which last year shed support for the much-maligned but ubiquitous IE6 in Google Docs and Google Sites.

"Many other companies have already stopped supporting older browsers like Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 as well as browsers that are not supported by their own manufacturers," Google Apps Senior Product Manager Rajen Sheth said at the time.