Backwards compatibility with older browsers

I think the productive and helpful thing to do here is not so much to worry about what mega-corporations could do or should do, because we can’t affect that, but to look at what can be done. How about these questions instead…

  • what can a person do, if they happen to own an older device and need to use a Discourse forum
  • what might a forum admin do, to maximise the availability of their Discourse instance
  • what might Discourse and their developers do, to help extend compatibility
  • what might some other party do, to help users of older devices make use of Discourse

(I use an older Chromebook, not yet unable to access Discourse, and I have an older iPad, already unable to access Discourse.)


I brought this up recently for iOS12 (original iPad Air in my case) in another thread. The problem for that generation of WebKit is that Discourse added a requirement for some JavsScript functions that are not present in old WebKit.

The check that Discourse makes is not a simple version number comparison but a check for the routine being available.

A translation layer that implements missing functions might be a way to do it - a bit Python “from the future” stuff.


One possible workaround that was suggested in another discussion about this is to help users who are unable to access the forum directly interact more via email. That could be helping them set various categories to “watching” or enabling mailing list mode.


For the record, iPads going back to late 2015 are still receiving the latest iPadOS updates.

As for the WebKit restriction, Google and Mozilla seem to believe that it’ll be lifted in the near future.

As for that user with a Chromebook, do you think they might have the technical skills to flash a USB drive with ChromeOS Flex and install it onto their Chromebook? :thinking:

@codev, hang tight! :grinning:


Tactically, you might have a good answer here: by what means can people with old devices run new enough software to keep using Discourse.

It would be quite involved if one had a distributed community each of whom needed individual assistance.

Strategically, it would take effort, discipline, and testing to avoid disenfranchising older browsers (even if only by offering graceful degradation.) There would need to be a firm intention to avoid imposing an upgrade treadmill.

Or, perhaps the forum admin could decide that usability beats security, and stop upgrading - early, before their users lose access. Perhaps by keeping a very careful eye on release notes, upgrade until just before a breaking change. As we know, it’s impossibly difficult to downgrade Discourse.

(My own iPad dates from 2012, I think. It still works perfectly well for many purposes and I have no intention of replacing it. Perhaps one could argue that a 10 year old device is old enough to have fallen off the supported track. But as Apple’s offerings are both expensive and robust, there will be people using old ones, for a long time.)


I don’t think people have a full understanding of the scope of “simpler” here given the richness of Discourse.

  • Login via Email
  • Login via Google/Twitter etc
  • Login via DiscourseConnect
  • 2FA
  • Automatic bot mitigations during login

and so on…

And this is just the login page.

Yes, building a new “shadow” Discourse read-write solution for IE6 and Lynx it technically feasible, but the amount of engineering to get this going it just enormous given the huge amount of code that would have to be forked, re-written and double maintained.

I think the only workable way of support these users at the moment is putting them on mailing list mode, then they can respond to stuff via email at least (and have full shadow copies of the forum - over time - in their email box)

There is also the philosophical argument that it is somewhat mean to allow people to browse the web these days, especially with JS enabled on browsers that have a giant list of published exploits. Discourse would be the least of my worries browsing the web on an abandoned browser, my phone being owned by hackers and my identity stolen would be far up higher in the list.


Well, that is quite extreme example. I’m guessing the focus is for example on iPhone6 instead Lynx.

Perhaps iPhone 6 is a big risk. And after a year or so my 7 starts to be risk. But you can’t bypass the fact that devices that are outside support of Apple are still quite secure. And support policy of Apple is or should be different than what CDCK has.

I don’t have capabilty to say that supporting older mobiles same time when way older computers are supported is difficult and expensive task. It can be.

But one thing I know — the situation where some Big Money, Inc. says to theirs customer needing support than they have to pay 500+ bucks and buy a newer device to login to support forum would be… something. And no, I’m not referring to CDCK but hosted customers of CDCK.

Plus… I don’t know if worrying how and when an user’s device is supported or not is an real issue — we don’t have numbers for that. But it is not matter of IE6 or Lynx, that is a fact :wink:


Actually, as someone who supports some people with accessibility issues that use Lynx as their daily browse I can assure you that it matters.

That said, having had to write a custom interface to Discourse that would support it was a nightmare. The complexity of writing even a basic client that fully supports DiscourseConnect is insane.

I won’t even get into the absolute horror of having to modify it to work on an instance that has Discord, Patreon, Google, Facebook, Github and standard Discourse logins enabled.

To me there are 2 very distinct arguments here.

  1. iOS 12 is still getting security releases from Apple. Can CDCK support it?

  1. What about ancient browsers that are no longer getting any security fixes.

With (1) I am much more sympathetic, however Apple are not making it easy for us. We don’t know if Apple are going to move it into the red box, tomorrow, next year, or in 5 years. Supporting this would cost CDCK a fair bit, it is not a free change.

With (2) I am a lot less sympathetic, given you are in a very very dangerous predicament and encouraging smoking is not a great strategy.


It’s ok to admit that Discourse can’t be all things to all people.

I’ve led projects which have taken technology closer to the leading edge than they maybe should. In hindsight, some of the components selected weren’t in the best interest of the users they served.

User demographics and their client devices need to play a central part in selecting a software platform. There are definitely communities out there where Discourse won’t be the best fit, and that’s perfectly ok.


Ok there have been a lot of responses to this! For the record I’m not angry with the discourse developers I completely understand not having the resources to test on browsers that are many years old as well as the pain of having to use very old technology when adding new features. Some of my users are upset but I’m just trying to find them solutions to using the board.

So one user has an iPad Mini 2 which they bought new in 2017 and another has an original iPad (which is very old). These stopped working quite a while ago with an update (I don’t remember the particular one). After a bit of investigation I got it working on a phone for the first user and got it working in mailing list mode for the other with a new email address set up to do that so they have one place they can go and log in and see all the message board messages.

The update I applied 2 weeks ago stopped a few people’s chromebooks from working. The one I was able to talk to and do some tech support with had a Toshiba Chromebook 2. I don’t think the suggestion of Chrome OS Flex would work as it looks like you have to take the Chromebook apart to enable that to be installed (removing a read-only screw or something similar). I’ve just asked her if she can try installing Opera for Chromebook and see if it works on that. She understands the machine is not getting security updates but as the news websites and association pages and blogs she reads still work she doesn’t understand why the message board doesn’t.

I have suggested the mailing list mode but for this particular user they often private message users after they post so it doesn’t work as well. If the worst comes to the worst I might get them to post their chromebook to me and try the Chrome OS Flex solution.

Apple and Google don’t seem to provide easy to read lists of devices that no longer receive security updates. Not allowing users to easily install their own OS after the end of life is obviously really bad for repairability and preventing devices being thrown away.


Why do we need a forum when communication with users is available only in the form of messages via e-mail? This is a rhetorical question.

Discourse is a bad solution for small communities, unfortunately many IT-companies like Twitter, Tor, Figma and others choose Discourse and set the “tone”, in fact they advertise this product and novice administrators follow this ad and install Discourse in the same way, trusting choice of large companies.

Finally, we need to acknowledge the fact that with each update, Discourse is getting heavier, consumes a lot of resources on the server, and is demanding on the devices of your users.

Administrators of small communities who do not wear high-profile brands should prioritize and understand what is more important to them:

  1. imitate large companies and use Discourse, because Discourse has connections, money, developers and it’s just fashionable.

  2. create your own community for stable interaction with users, exchange of information, spending time to move to more flexible software, such as NodeBB or Flarum (this is from what is in open source)

As a developer, I’m interested to know how the NodeBB (version 3.0.0) will behave on your users devices, you don’t have to start installing and testing everything at once, just ask your users to visit the official developer forums of these platforms and let you know what works best.

This is unfortunate; at time of purchase the device was already four years into its lifecycle and both the iPad Mini 3 and iPad Mini 4 had been released.

The iPad Mini 2 is now ten years old. Although, it’s in a weird state since the 2 is only vintage, while the 3 is obsolete. is probably the best bet for Apple? Looks like “obsolete” products do not receive security updates at all, but “vintage” do?

iOS version by device — iOS Ref tries to make it easy to read.

Indeed; iOS 12 seems to be receiving only the most severe security updates at this point.


That generalization was a really bold claim. And I’m claiming now it is not even remotely true. Novice ones are using what they first find. We a little bit more mature ones will use something that fullfills some basics, like easiness and steady enough code.

I don’t like support policy here, but I kind of understand resoning for that. But I will, and shall act really reactive way everytime when someone says I’m doing something just because of big companies do what they do :rofl: :man_facepalming:


I have maybe an odd thing to try. Maybe Tor or other on web browsers might work as a go between layer. Not sure if it would work. Kind of a proxy server idea but as an abstract layer maybe?

The Chrome flex deal with the screw would thay be needed to use a linux root to install a 3rdparty browser?

Another solution if you can get the chromebook to boot off a flashdrive they might be able to use a bootable updatable linux live environment. Without being required to install the OS.

I believe that you have to change a switch to allow untrusted software to be installed. On the very first chromebook I think there was a switch you could change, but it was inside, and that was a developer machine, so it may have been easier on that model than it is on newer ones.

It’s a security measure, so like all locks, it can be inconvenient for the owner as well as the potential thief.


Ah the CR-48, I remember it fondly. It’s a shame the hardware was so weak because the chassis was pretty excellent for the time.

They’re 13 years old now :older_man:


We’ve experienced something similar but have made it clear to the community the need for regular updates to keep their information safe and secure. I would adopt that approach and where you can point them in the direction of charities who can help with getting them online or providing hardware. AbilityNet might be able to help with the former.


There is a 3rd-party app called “Discourse Land” that still works on iOS12
However, it has very limited functionality.
Perhaps the author of that could find some time to add to it or find some collaborators.

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Be aware that since it’s a third-party, closed-source application, we don’t know its reliability and we have no control over what the author does with your data.
Please read carefully their Data safety page for more information.