Taking a look at recent market share for browsers provides some insight into who is winning and losing the wars. Firefox continues to build momentum, Safari is creeping upwards, and Internet Explorer is losing ground. I’d like to comment on the three with my ‘theories’ of what is occurring.
- After destroying Netscape Navigator, IE really became the gold standard of the net. The browser was simple, functional, and pre-loaded with all Microsoft Products. As well, ActiveX had a short spotlight, requiring most folks to utilize IE. Why use multiple browsers when one of them supports all the different standards on the web? I myself was an IE user through version 6.
- With Internet Explorer 7, the web design world was really holding its breath for a browser that they could design for that would react in accordance with the latest technologies of Cascading Style Sheets. Unfortunately, IE 7 disappointed. In reviewing the IE Blog, it really wasn’t even on the radar until the browser was beta and the screams of anguish came from the web design industry. Some last minute development corrected some of the issues… but not enough to make the design world happy. Remember – many in the design world are operating on Macs… lacking Internet Explorer. But, unfortunately for them, their clients do use Internet Explorer.
- But alas, with Internet Explorer 7, Microsoft radically changed the interaction between the user and the client. For technophile like myself, some of the changes were kind of cool. But for the atypical user… not being able to simply navigate across the top of the screen was both puzzling and confusing. They started to look at what else was out there. Firefox.
Screenshot from http://marketshare.hitslink.com/
- Mimicking general browser functionality that goes back to Navigator, Firefox became a lightweight alternate solution to Internet Explorer. For the rebellious Microsoft anarchists, Firefox became a passion and began to borrow the market.
- Additional functionality like superb plugins for integration with other technologies has been a fantastic boon to Firefox. They continue to attract developers and web designers alike… since Firefox has robust debugging, Cascading Style Sheet, and third party plug-ins that make development and integration a ton easier.
- The market is changing as well. ActiveX is all but dead and Ajax is on the rise, lending itself to browsers like Firefox. There’s technically no reason to use Internet Explorer at all these days. If IE can do it, Firefox can do it better. Windows Updates used to require the browser, but now they can be loaded and installed without it.
- Firefox hasn’t abandoned it’s usability and layout like Microsoft did with IE 7, making it easier for users to transition to Firefox from IE 6 simply and easily. It’s elegant, swift, and seamless.
- With Mac’s recent push into the home PC market… it’s not the PC for Universities, Women and Children anymore. My new Mac runs OSX, Windows XP (with Parallels) and I can run every browser on the planet to design and develop to. With Safari preloaded, no doubt it’s gaining share since Macs are gaining share. My prediction is that Safari will lose out to Firefox, though.
Microsoft must feel quite threatened – but it’s really their own fault. They’ve eliminated any need for their own browser, alienated users, alienated designers, alienated developers, AND they are now allowing others to take them on in other verticals (mobile).
Internet Explorer is really simply self-destructing. I’m not sure where their customer focus is at all.
- After you download and install Firefox, go to the Add-ons section and download to your heart’s content. For anyone who does this, I would love you to use the browser for two weeks and then return to my site and let me know what you thought.
I’ve been a Microsoft guy for over a decade now, so I’m not a basher. However, I felt compelled to step in and discuss the strategic mess the IE team has really gotten themselves into.