February 13, 2005

New Browser War is a Good Thing

Filed under: Browsers — pohodo @ 8:24 pm
Mozilla’s Firefox browser has been eroding away Microsoft’s Internet Explorer market share more quickly as each month passes. Sometimes I hear people respond the the new “browser war” in a negative way, as if it’s going to be similar to the likes of the old days with Netscape and Internet Explorer. But in reality, this renewed browser war is poised to have a very positive impact on the lives of the internet community.

The old days lacked clearly defined standards, so browser makers were busily trying to one-up each other with their own implementations. This made it very difficult for developers to ensure their sites looked and functioned the same across browsers. It also translated into higher development costs for all businesses.

Once Internet Explorer pushed Netscape out of the scene, they had no reason to keep refining the product. Without competition, innovation suffered. It has been years since Microsoft has added any significant features to the Internet Explorer browser. And no word any added features coming.

Today, there are clearly defined standards from the W3C that browser makers and Web site develpers should adhere to. So as long as developers stay within the W3C standards, layouts and function should work across any standards-compliant browser. Unfortunately, Microsoft has had no drive to embrace standards fully, instead promoting proprietary features like ActiveX controls.

Many Web sites have invested large amounts of money into IE-only features. Now that Firefox is on the scene, those web sites are going to be forced (sooner or later) to rework those features to be more inline with standards. It was easy enough to discount the roughly 2% who didn’t use IE, but now the figure has climbed upwards of 8%. Businesses can’t continue to ignore non-IE customers much longer.

With the percentage of Firefox users climbing faster, companies like Yahoo!, Google and Amazon are taking steps to welcome those users. Amazon released their toolbar for Firefox back in early November. Google is the default home page of the Firefox browser, and even has the google search integrated. Yahoo! is working on their toolbar for Firefox, too.

Microsoft suddenly finds itself in the position of being forced to upgraded its browser features, and also support standards much more fully. So in the end, browsers like Firefox, which are continually evolving with new features, are paving the way for a better information superhighway. Competition is a very good thing in this case.

Get Firefox!

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