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Monday, June 12, 2006

Browser wars are over ... Firefox has won.

[Update: As was pointed out by others, a war is only won when one side captures the other or one side surrenders. So while Firefox hasn't 'won' it is certainly ahead in my book.]

The Browser Wars was the ongoing battle between Internet Explorer (from the blood-sucking programmers at Microsoft) and everyone else. Everyone else includes a bevy of web browsers from front runner Firefox to Opera, Netscape, and Safari. All of these competitors offer great alternatives to Internet Explorer but have fallen short in adoption due to Explorer's monopoly-like control in most computers that run Windows.

The first major news of Firefox was reported back in October 2004 by Forbes who highlighted the Browser wars as one of their Monday Match ups. At that point, Microsoft had an astounding 95.5% market share while Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox only held a puny 1.8% share. Well the picture doesn't look as pretty for Microsoft anymore. In less than two years, Firefox has been able to turn the Internet Explorer tide and grow its market share to over 25% (more information) while Microsoft's share has shrunken like the nether-region of a weight lifter on steroids.

[Update: These statistics are taken from W3Schools whose audience is predominantly tech. savvy. The current total market share estimate is somewhere around 10% Firefox and 80% IE]

How was Firefox able to achieve unparalleled adoption?
Firefox has done something that no other web browser has come close to doing since the dawn of Internet Explorer. Firefox was able to accomplish this by creating great software and listening to its users about new features and bugs. The other key turning point for Firefox is their ability to meet deadlines, something Redmond giant Microsoft doesn't think is important. Microsoft's next-generation browser IE7 has been released but poor early adoption (1.1%) has made it so most people won't be forced to use it until Window's Vista is officially released. Even then, it isn't clear how fast the adoption will be.

Why is slow adoption of IE7 a problem?
The biggest problem with a slow adoption of IE7 is the effect it will have on web development. IE6 is old by any measure and doesn't support many new developments. This has already caused a huge problem for web developers pushing the envelope. A new feature or innovative design is of no use if only a percentage of the web browsing population can view it. Therefore, developers have struggled for cross-platform compatibility between Internet Explorer, Firefox and all the rest.

While you can go and download IE7 currently (here), the latest revision is Beta 2 and like I said before there hasn't been a major adoption of it. Now if everyone else on the block suddenly started to use it, you can bet gold on the fact that I'd be next in line for the download; I wouldn't want to feel left out. However, what has happened is that Microsoft has fallen asleep at the wheel and Firefox has gained control. I believe that the ONLY reason Microsoft still has a commanding share of the browser market is that it Internet Explorer is the default installed with Windows. Sometimes, people are too lazy to fix these things or don't know any better.

Hugs, NOT bugs!
Internet Explorer has more bugs than the Brazilian Rain Forest and I certainly like hugs more than bugs. Now this isn't to say that Firefox is bug free because no software is but when the majority of the computer savvy population prefers to use a platform its a good idea to follow. I make sure to let everyone know this too, after all its our responsibility to inform the less savvy general public.

Can't we all just get along?
In an age of standards, why can't we all get along? As a web developer I find dealing with compatibility issues time consuming and a waste of time. At a time when everything is being standardized, why can't Firefox and Internet Explorer get together and develop an engine to properly render pages. A big part of this is actually coming true with the Web Standards Project (WaSP) and the Acid2 test. WaSP believes that all next-generation browsers should be able to properly render the test page to ensure cross-platform compatibility.

Now that we've got some form of a standard, all we have to hope for is that everyone decides to comply. Compliance has already been reported by Firefox, Safari, iCab, Konqueror, and Opera 9. Sadly enough, the newest releases of IE7 will not pass the Acid2 test as noted on the IE Weblog.

"In that vein, I've seen a lot of comments asking if we will pass the Acid2 browser test published by the Web Standards Project when IE7 ships. I'll go ahead and relieve the suspense by saying we will not pass this test when IE7 ships."

Maybe at some point Microsoft will catch up to everyone else and comply with the latest standards. Until then, the IE7 development team have noted all of the problems that cause the browser the fail the Acid2 test and have added them to their long list of bugs. On a positive end, the development team noted that they "believe the Web Standards Project and [their] team has a common goal of making the lives of web developers better by improving standards support, and [are] excited that [they're] working together to that end".

Why has Firefox won?
Plain and simple, if Firefox goes with this commercial I caught a glimpse of on Google Video, Microsoft won't stand a chance.

Now I don't think this is a real commercial but I could be wrong. Either way I think it accurately portrays the attitude of Firefox and its competitors. Firefox is a serious browsing platform and I hope many more people learn about it and switch.


  • At 6/12/2006 3:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Have you ever used Opera?

  • At 6/12/2006 4:20 PM, Blogger Evan Spiegel said…

    Yes, a few years back I used Opera on Windows. The feature I really liked is that it remembers the pages you have open even after you close it.

    It also keeps track of different users. I run into the problem of keeping too many browser windows open and my girlfriend doesn't like. Opera allowed me to keep them open but shutdown the program.

    Do you use opera now?

  • At 7/30/2007 5:25 AM, Anonymous rodricks said…

    I really hate hacks to fix the Internet Explorer box model. Why does that image keep disappearing? Insecure: People should not have to worry. ...


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