Backwards compatibility with older browsers

Earlier when I was attempting to locate the policy on this, I stumbled on a TidBITS thread regarding this topic. I didn’t realize the TidBITS folks used Discourse, but gee whiz, talk about shaking up things in the Apple community with supported client decisions like this (TidBITS is somewhat of an institution among Apple users for a very long time). Ouch.


Apple never made a device that was restricted to iOS 14, as every device capable of running iOS 14 can also be updated to iOS 15.


Yes, I concur. However, I personally would never upgrade a device only for a specific web site or web application (unless it paid my bills, of course). This stance is the kind of thing that irks me with the “just upgrade” mentality.

So yes, anyone who can get iOS 15 on their device should just upgrade. Sometimes it’s not that easy, remember there are a lot of apps out in the world, not just Safari or Discourse app.

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What about using something like discourse hub/connect etc… could an ap in sone way be made to spoof things if need be? Similar to how iirc in dos you could use was it ver to get a program to work that needed a different os version?

Apple might be a dead horse otherwise. And while there is a linux for majority of devices it might be difficult for lay user to install. Though could be a business idea in itself to charge a minimal fee to install a modern os on an aging idevice etc…

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This is more of an issue with close minded companies like Apple whom are big contributors of e-waste due to ensured planned obsolescence.

When there is no real need of it. Linux has saved discarding all sorts of no longer supported hardware systems. There just needs to be better adoption. If apple makes there device no longer supported push an update to make loading an alternative os easier.


That’s not the issue Dan. I’m not sure why you’re attacking Apple. Frankly, devices from over 5 years ago can receive a supported iOS update.

I’m all with you on the Linux drumbeat. In fairness though, my mother nor my father will use Linux in their lifetimes in any device. That’s not a knock toward Linux nor my parents. It’s just reality. Also, nothing to do with Apple. Orthogonal topics…


I am not attacking Apple at all. As for your parents I know what you mean with older generations not accepting change. However your parents and mine have likely indeed used linux without ever knowing they have like most of the populous. A linux desktop could be tailored so the end user might not even be aware there not using the OS as the interface mimics feel and naming schemes. But yes even then many prefer no change. Still have difficulties getting my mother to use On Demand, Netflix and even PVR without me to each tine do it for her.

If iOS can indeed update old devices then it is on Apple for not making this easier. However that is not part of there marketing. Much like how Windows OSes have often been able to be modify the install to work on “unsupported” devices.

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Valid points Dan. As @codev wrote regarding the users of the site:

It has locked out one user who is a carer for her husband and only had access to the messageboard through an iPad that no longer receives iOS/Safari updates and more recently another with an older Chromebook that cannot update Chrome to a version that is compatible.

I’m taking a guess, the iPad mentioned here is likely 8 years old or older. I think again the key point is, just for communication, why the users can’t make use of the web client. Sure, if the iPad could run the new iOS it would solve the problem. Likewise, if Discourse could be more forgiving of these earlier web clients (like @iamntz mentioned where Discourse possibly have a simpler version of the UI (and not read-only)), the original issue could be solved.

Also note, just as frustratingly IMHO, the Chromebook community is impacted. Similar situation, although perhaps Linux could be installed? I’m not sure. Chromebooks are running a version of Linux, ironically, however their users also face a similar dilemma. What to do about those users?

I think that’s the frustrating point here, folks who are the end users of Discourse are perceiving the sites hosted by it as communications sites (rich text based content) and not as something higher functioning. On the extreme, Discourse users shouldn’t require a GPU someday in order to use the site. If Discourse developers want to push the envelope, I would ask that folks take a step back and evaluate the objective in how Discourse is used – as well as the equity aspect in considering the user constituency and their means to have the latest technology. I’m all for promoting a level of technology that is current, secure and reliable. Though I also want to use and promote technology that is something anyone in my user constituency can access and not cause burden in requiring “latest and greatest,” else minimal to no availability. I also do not want to go with something like phpBB or whatever the less-than-desirable option is, however we must consider who can access the content and what we expect for the community to participate (especially for those who are participating in sites where users are of a non-technical nature). Back to thinking about someone like my mother or father, they may be a Discourse user though they are not the most technical user. Is Discourse for only the tech minded, or is it more in the vein of “design for everyone?” (Rhetorical)


Unfortunately the same could be said directly of Apple properly supporting 3rdparty Web browsers that do not need to use Apple’s Webkit which is ties to a particular iOS.

It is ashame with ChromeOS you need to jumps some hoops but as it is a linux based OS it is possible. Again a business idea to help revive oks devices.,enable%20Linux%20on%20your%20Chromebook.

I agree alternatively Discourse could support older Browsers. However they maybe security issues as a result.

This is also where a Discourse ap like Hub/connect etc… might be able to fill in the gaps. Even a wrb service browser similar to Tor idea might also be a workaround.

Perhaps even setting the user up for some kind of offline mail download with email reply support may work. But may need an admin to adjust users preferences that cannot access the site in write mode. I presume the read only state is due to security issues.

The problem with closed systems in part like Discourse Meta’s browser eol policy or Apple and Chromebooks idea of ‘throwaway’ devices are both in part the same. An OS should not nearly completely block 3rdparties from offering simple things like 3rdparty browser installs.

Now if security is not a big concern one could lock there Discourse from upgrades much like in some linux distros you can prevent upgrades. However you risk breakage and bad security issues. Sone security exploits may also be tied to supporting old web browsers.

Any way you look at it there are problems in either path. In theory someone could design a plugin as a workaround to enable support for older browser support. Only the Team might be able to explain in exhaustive detail why they discontinue support for particular age of a browser.

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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.