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Firefox and the SAP Portal: a topic that always will be the source for questions, doubts and discussions. In Support for a recent Firefox version in SAP PortalI wrote that currently you have to use Firefox 3.5 and not the actual version 3.6 with SAP Portal but that SAP is promising support for 3.6 in NetWeaver 7.3.

 

Looking at the actual roadmap 2011 for Firefoxyou may ask: how SAP will support Firefox in 2011 giving the recent history of not supporting the latest release? The roadmap for Firefox includes 4 new version of Firefox: “Ship Firefox 4, 5, 6 and 7 in the 2011 calendar year”. This announcment raises some questions regarding the usage of Firefox together with SAP Portal (or BSP, WebDynpro):

         

  • Up to now, to get support for a new browser version you need to wait for a new SPS from SAP that includes support. If this will continue it will be necessary to apply 4 SPS to get support for all 4 new Firefox versions.
  • When Mozilla continues to drop support for earlier versions they won’t support FF4 when FF6 is out and drop support for FF5 when FF7 is out. Looks like Mozilla is aware of this problem as they state that “we must support older branches with maintenance fixes” in the roadmap. I hope that this translates to: FF4 will still be supported when FF >= 7 is out.
  • Releasing 4 versions in one year means that the development cycle is fast with less time between releases. Between a RC with bugs and the stable version may only pass a few days. This isn’t giving product vendors or clients enough time to test everything.
  • The impact on the end-user isn’t a factor that someone will be able to predict. What if the final version is FF7 and the company is using FF4? It’s hard to explain why the company is soo much behind the latest version to the average user. The easiest way is to blame SAP. IT department can say: SAP is only supporting this old version, so we are stuck with it. Despite the fact that the IT department simply didn’t have enough time to evaluate FF 7 and by no means it was SAP’s fault.

   

Given the release history of FF4 it is hard to believe that we will see 4 new Firefox versions in 2011. Looking at the already identified problems by Mozilla (in regards to the plugins) I doubt that we will see FF7 or even FF6 in 2011. But even if we will get FF4 and FF5, that is 2 new versions in 2011. What we need here is to stop supporting versions and look at the underlying HTML, CSS and Javascript engines and support these engines.

 

  • HTML and CSS need to be standard. The code has to pass the W3C validators. Instead of tweaking the code to work with one specific browser it has to work with all browsers (IE6 will be the biggest problem here).
  • The Javascript framework should be based on an open version like jQuery, instead of having a proprietary Javascript that can only be tested by SAP, partners and customers. A possible benefit would be that bugs and incompatibilities between browsers would be identified and fixed faster. Not to mention that a replacement of the JS version would be easy.
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  1. Ethan Jewett
    I think it may be worth asking just what “support” means when it comes to browser access to the Portal. If I remember correctly, this is not a situation where SAP is checking user agent strings and telling non-supported browsers to get lost. I’ve been using Portals in Chrome for a while now and it is on a release path a lot like Firefox. In general things work, though not always perfectly.

    So what does “support” mean?

    As far as I can tell, from a customer point of view it just means that SAP will accept OSS messages about broken functionality when it occurs in a supported browser version. Fixes will still require a note or support pack application. Additionally, SAP is probably doing some additional release testing using the supported browser.

    If SAP adopted something more like Yahoo!’s YUI graded browser support approach, and started accepting OSS messages for broken functionality in any browser (except those explicitly not supported), then I think this would go a long way towards helping customers figure out how to deal with the browser situation.

    When it comes down to it, if it works in FF 3.5, then it will probably work fine in FF 4.0. The problem is that if something *doesn’t* work, there is no hope of getting it fixed. But surely SAP wants to work towards perfect support of recent browsers, so it would make sense to publicly acknowledge that the team will work on fixing bugs in recent but not explicitly supported browsers and not leave customers holding the bag.

    Yahoo!’s YUI graded support explanation – http://developer.yahoo.com/yui/articles/gbs/

    (I came up with the title of the comment before rereading the linked page, but clearly we are thinking along the same lines.)

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    1. Tobias Hofmann Post author
      “this is not a situation where SAP is checking user agent strings and telling non-supported browsers to get lost”
      Well, it is, sort of. At least the products already do that:

      Try to access a WDA application with FF4:
      “Sorry, your browser/program is not supported by Web Dynpro!”

      Try to access the portal with a mobile browser like BB Navigator or Opera Mobile:
      “Could not open iView. The iView is not compatible with your browser […]”

      Web Page Composer: the browser gets identified by Javascript:
      (JS: /irj/portalapps/com.sap.nw.wpc.runtime/scripts/ur_loader.js)
      // wpc_detected_browser_abbrev
      var detected_browser_abbrev;
      if( ur_system.browser_abbrev )
      //styleToAdd1 = ‘/irj/portalapps/com.sap.portal.htmlb/jslib/sapUrMapi_’ + detected_browser_abbrev + ‘.css’;
      document.styleSheets[0].addImport( styleToAdd1 ); // supported only in IE, but this is the portal way, so better do it that way, if we can 🙂

      In the ABAP theme you can find a list of supported browsers:
       
       
       
       
       

      And that’s also what is one of the first things SAP support will check: is your browser supported? If not: please consult PAM.

      br,
      Tobias

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      1. Tobias Hofmann Post author
        The blog comment program ignored some XML of my original comment:

        In the ABAP theme you can find a list of supported browsers:
          id=”ie5″ name=”Internet Explorer 5″ fallback=”default” abstract=”false” e=”ie5″ f=”(MSIE, >=5, *)\(MSIE, >=6, *)”
          id=”ie6″ name=”Internet Explorer 6″ fallback=”default” abstract=”false” e=”ie6″ f=”(MSIE, >=6, *)”
          id=”nn6″ name=”Netscape Navigator 6″ fallback=”default” abstract=”false” e=”nn6″ f=”(Netscape, >= 6, *)(Mozilla, >=5, *)\(Netscape, >= 7, *)”
          id=”nn7″ name=”Netscape Navigator 7″ fallback=”default” abstract=”false” e=”nn7″ f=”(Netscape, >= 7, *)”
          id=”op6″ name=”op6″ fallback=”default” abstract=”false” e=”op6″ f=”(Nokia,*,WAP)”

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      2. Ethan Jewett
        Hi Tobias,

        Fair enough. I don’t use these tools as often. I’m more of a BW/BI guy myself, and the basic portal as well as the IP modeler (a WebDynPro-based tool) do not do user-agent checking as far as I have ever been able to tell. It is too bad that the default WD4A and Web Page Composer behavior is to check user agents 🙁

        What do you think about the suggestion of structuring support like Yahoo! does? Would that meet your expectations? Maybe we can get SAP to think about it.

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