Developing a website that works well in all web browser isn’t easy, particularly if you’re using newer elements in HTML5. Even among modern, standards-compliant browsers, HTML5 support varies, and figuring out how and when to fall back on other solutions means a lot of cross-browser testing.
Thanks to virtual machines, testing across web browsers has become much easier. But if you’re looking for an even easier way to see what you site looks like in, say, Internet Explorer 6, check out Browserling, a new cross-browser testing tool that embeds any another browser inside your browser.
Browserling relies on Amazon-hosted virtual machines to do the embedding. The result is a real-time, fully interactive look at your site in virtually any Windows web browser, (Yep, it only works in Windows). It’s a step up from other web-based browser tests which just offer screenshots of what your site looks like in other browsers.
Unfortunately, as cool as the concept is, Browserling has a few drawbacks. The worst part of the service is that, for now anyway, you’ll be waiting in the queue for some time. To keep resources under control, Browserling severely limits the number of users connecting to the service at any one time. You’re also limited to how long you can use Browserlings VMs — 90 seconds is all you’ll get without creating an account. If you sign up you’ll have five minutes, which gives you a better chance to check out your website, but is hardly enough time for real testing.
The site advertises paid plans, which promise to let you ditch the queue and time limits, but at the moment the paid option isn’t actually available.
Our other main gripe is that while Internet Explorer is well represented — you can test in versions 5.5 all the way up to IE9 Beta — older versions of other browsers are scarce. While it’s true IE is probably what most developers are interested in, it would be nice to see older versions of Firefox, Safari and Opera supported as well.
While it would be premature to delete your own virtual machines, Browserling has potential. If Browserling can work out the kinks — we experienced numerous errors, crashing VMs and other problems, but it’s probably just getting smothered by hugs — it may eventually help take some of the pain out of cross-browser testing.