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Saying bye-bye to autoprefixer

For a while now I’ve been using gulp-autoprefixer as part of my front-end build system. However, I’ve just removed it from my boilerplate. Here’s why.

The npm module gulp-autoprefixer takes your standard CSS then automatically parses the rules and generates any necessary vendor-prefixed versions, such as ::-webkit-input-placeholder to patch support for ::placeholder in older Webkit browsers.

I’ve often felt it excessive—like using a hammer to crack a nut. And I’ve wondered if it might be doing more harm than good, by leading me to believe I have a magical sticking plaster for non-supporting browsers when actually (especially in the case of IE) the specific way in which a browser lacks support might be more nuanced. Furthermore I’ve never liked the noise generated by all those extra rules in my CSS output, especially when using the inspector to debug what would otherwise be just a few lines of CSS.

But I always felt it was a necessary evil.

However, I’ve just removed gulp-autoprefixer from my boilerplate. Why? Because:

  1. Browsers are no longer shipping any new CSS with prefixes, and as at 2019, they haven’t been for years;
  2. With the browsers that do require prefixed CSS now old and in the minority, it feels like progressive enhancement rather than “kitchen sink” autoprefixing should take care of them. (Those browsers might not get the enhanced experience but what they’ll get will be fine.)

Jen Simmons’ tweet on this topic was the push I needed.

So I’ve removed one layer of complexity from my set-up, and so far nothing has exploded. Let’s see how it goes.

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