The Optional Chaining Operator, “Modern” Browsers, and My Mom

Avatar of Chris Coyier
Chris Coyier on

DigitalOcean provides cloud products for every stage of your journey. Get started with $200 in free credit!

Jim Nielsen’s mom couldn’t open a website. Jim worked on confirming the issue and documented how he got to the bottom of it:

“[…] well it can’t be a browser issue. It’s not like my Mom is using Internet Explorer! She has relatively modern tech: an iPad (Safari) and a Chromebox (Google Chrome).”

But the more I thought about it—a website that works on some devices but not on others—the more I realized this had to be a browser issue.

So I looked at the version of Chrome on my parent’s computer. Version 76! I knew we were at ninety-something in 2022, so I figured that was the culprit. “I’ll just update Chrome,” I thought.

Turns out, you can’t.

I absolutely celebrate the idea of evergreen browsers. It’s one of the absolute most important things that has happened to the web in recent-ish years. It enables a much quicker evolution for the web, and all browsers are taking advantage of it.

But even browsers that I think of as evergreen aren’t always. Eventually, hardware limits the software. The logic isn’t as simple as “if Chrome, then evergreeen,” for example.

Safari normally updates via system updates, but in this case it was a first-generation iPad Air stuck on iOS 12, and no more updates were possible for what Apple considers a “vintage” device. Same deal with a Chromebook stuck at Chrome 76.

A couple of little optional chaining question mark (?) characters borked the whole dang site. Unfortunate. That “serve two bundles, modern and legacy” idea is still pretty smart.

Speaking of moms, I was reminded of an older episode of ShopTalk we did with Paul Irish’s mom that has a lot of this “regular person using the internet” vibes.

Direct Link →