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✅ What Is Google Baseline and Its Impact?


💡 Newskategorie: Programmierung
🔗 Quelle: dev.to

What Is Google Baseline and Its Impact?

For years, web developers of all experience levels have relied on caniuse.com to understand the support of a given feature. This scenario extends to determining backward compatibility or to determining which of the modern browsers supports cutting-edge improvements to web specifications.

In 2023, Google introduced Baseline to the web community. Baseline aids engineers in determining whether certain features or APIs are safe to use in production-grade web applications. It’s an important platform for interoperability, and considering Google spends a lot of time improving web best practices, it is a very much needed tool to help engineers produce more consistent and efficient experiences.

Why Google Baseline?

Browsers are constantly evolving, with vendors releasing updates monthly. With more individuals contributing and working on specifications than ever before and a far more transparent dialogue between the main browser vendors (Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Edge), it's become increasingly difficult to track which new features are stable across the landscape.

Considering the above, as new features are released into browser engines, engineers are often left with an incredibly short time to ramp up, refactor or even strategically plan to introduce new features into their code bases.

More importantly, as Google is often one of the platforms that push front-end technology forward, it has admittedly accepted that it is partly to blame here. It’s one of the reasons the Chrome team came up with web.dev and developer.chrome.com, as Chrome is often the first browser to land cutting-edge technologies. This has also led to further documentation and conferences on interoperability (see web.dev and interop).

New features mean documentation, and Google has made strides to ensure MDN has the relevant documentation for newer technologies as they arrive in Chrome.

Closing the Vendor Gap

As much as this is great, from Google's perspective, engineers have one very important struggle: the behaviour and consistency of features across vendors and browser engines. This has been a pain point for most engineers, requiring complex planning and solutions often to overcome a particular browser engine's lack of functionality.

For the last two years, the solution has been Interop 2022 and Interop 2023, a conference and community that helps bridge the gap between browsers to provide a more consistent and performant web. Google's notion will continue to yield fruit as the years go by.

What is Baseline?

Baseline will become the universal flag of acceptance across browsers and help engineers determine what is fully stable across the landscape and browser vendors for the most recent two versions of each browser.

This allows us, as production teams, to explain to stakeholders how browser support is tied to Google Baseline, which will shortly exemplify reliability and understanding.

How Does Baseline Work?

Baseline is already integrated into MDN, web.dev and caniuse.com.

Baseline also plans to provide a way to see what has become stable across all browser vendors through a year-on-year approach. In 2023, for instance, you can read the following article on web.dev to get an idea of what is considered stable, and supported in the last two major versions across all the browser vendors: Baseline 2023  |  Blog  |  web.dev

It’s important for us as engineering teams to keep up with these changes and not get too stuck in old ways that lack the motivation to improve and make our approaches to solutions inefficient.

Importantly, Baseline has two labels:

  1. Newly available: the feature is finally interoperable
  2. Widely available: 30 months have passed since the interoperable date.

Baseline considers the major browser vendors to be:

  • Safari (macOS and iOS)
  • Firefox (Desktop + Android)
  • Chrome (Desktop + Android)
  • Edge (Desktop)

Effect on Engineering Teams

Perhaps the biggest benefit to engineering teams is that Baseline and its contents remove the guesswork and research required to implement new features. For instance, a Frontend Engineer may want to leverage CSS Grid's new sub-grid feature.

This new display mode helps engineers define a grid within a grid to have more refined control over layouts. Heading to caniuse.com tells us there’s a global usage percentage of 87.42% - pretty decent, but then we need to go see which browser vendors support / don’t support / partially support the feature.

CanIUse now displays a Baseline badge which tells us that this feature is “Newly available across major browsers”

CanIUse Baseline integration

Likewise, if you review the documentation for sub-grid on MDN you’ll see a similar banner:

MDN Basline integraiton

Finally, if you review the sub-grid article on web.dev, through what was introduced to Baseline in 2023:

web.dev baseline integration

This is intended to make it evidently clear that the latest two browser versions across vendors have full support for the feature.

A Word on Evergreen Browsers

This is a topic that I find we do not talk enough about. For most modern users gone are they days of manually updating browsers. Chrome, Firefox, Edge auto update automatically. Safari can be a bit of an outlier in this case. Safari generally updates once a year on each new Mac OS X update, though that is not always a guarantee.

Regardless, more users than ever use the latest version of browsers. Although we should ensure the features we built to degrade gracefully or progressively enhance, it’s less of a fundamental consideration these days and more of a luxury assumption. Landing somewhere in the middle here has always worked out well. It’s worth remembering before shying away from using features that could save time, money and focus.

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