Commentary: Browser wars are here, again.

Remember the competition between Netscape Navigator and IE back in the 90’s?

Netscape was the first browser I used, I was in college, and while the computers at the library had installed both Netscape and IE, I personally liked the Netscape Navigator better. By 1999, Microsoft’s IE had approximately 99% of the market, only four years after its release. By then the original browser wars were ending, Netscape was already in a declining trend, and not even the antitrust charges against Microsoft could stop that.
Before the release of Mac OS X, Internet Explorer for Mac and Netscape were also the primary browsers in use on the Macintosh platform.

Unable to continue commercially funding their product’s development, Netscape responded by open sourcing its product, creating Mozilla. Mozilla struggled to attract developers for a few years, but by 2002 was a relatively large and stable suite of internet software. It was then when Mozilla 1.0 was released as well as a spinoff version of it which later became Firefox. A few years later Microsoft’s Internet Explorer reached a peak market share of more than 94%, but it has been declining ever since.

Google Chrome was released in 2008, and just a year later it was already gaining popularity, with an increasing but yet tiny market share.

Browser Market Share Worldwide from Jan – Dec 2009

Move forward ten years, and Google Chrome controls now over close to 60% of the browser market share while Microsoft’s browsers, IE and Edge have together, less than 10% of market share. Apple’s browser, Safari, which was released in 2007 is now the number two browser in the world, with 14.4% of the market share. Safari’s market share is probably the result of its iOS devices popularity like the iPhone and iPad.

Browser Market Share Worldwide from Aug 2017 – Aug 2018

Why do I think the browsers wars are here again? Well, Google’s Chrome has changed quite a bit and has since lost two of its main advantages, simplicity, and speed. Safari isn’t a popular browser, I find many MacOS users prefer Chrome or Firefox to browse the internet while using a MacBook, but the popularity of the iPhone and iPad has helped Apple’s Safari obtain and maintain a healthy market share for some years.

The reason I’m calling it a browser war is because Mozilla’s Firefox has been gaining popularity faster than ever with its most recent releases. Apparently, Mozilla has been paying attention to what most people are complaining about regarding the browsers they use. For example, most people (me included) will complain about Chrome’s declining speed and increasing use of memory resources, IE has lost respect amongst pro users, and while Edge is a considerable improvement over IE, it is a fast browser, and it has cool features, it just hasn’t gained any significant market share since its release in 2015.

Also worth noticing, Chrome continues to be the most popular browser thanks to the Android platform. I feel most people (perhaps non-technical people) don’t even know what browser they are using on their phones, they just use whatever their phone/tablet comes with. And this explains, at least in part, the larger market share for Chrome and also Safari as the chart below shows.

Browser Version Market Share Worldwide – August 2018

Bottom line

I personally have switched to Firefox recently, and I am pleased with the results. It is visibly faster, the user interface is cleaner, has some privacy features built in such as tracking protection, and it’s just a user-friendly open-source browser that receives regular updates – with the Mozilla Foundation boasting that it uses 30 percent less memory than Chrome –What’s not to like?