Some of you may recall the browser wars of the late 90’s. Back in those days it was the once dominant Netscape fighting Microsoft for the grand prize of ‘most used browser’. If you haven’t figured it out (what rock have you been sleeping under!) Microsoft’s Internet Explorer gave Netscape’s browser (Navigator) a major beating! Actually, Netscape just about disappeared off the radar.
You can argue that Netscape lost the war because IE (Internet Explorer) was the better browser – yep … you could argue that point, because Netscape 4.0 was really bad. But the reality is that IE beat the chocolate out of Netscape because IE had the ‘little’ advantage of being a part of Windows. All in a days work for a monopoly…
THE RISE OF WEB STANDARDS
So with Netscape practically dead, Internet Explorer happily bopped along for years unopposed with as much as a 98% share of the market, yowee!
In the meantime, a group of pissed off nerds got together (in 1998) and decided to push the official ‘web standards’ (1) that none of the browsers supported very well.
The Web Standards Project was formed because it had become a real pain in the ass for web designers to create decent looking websites that worked with most of the browsers being used. (2)
What made this situation all the more frustrating is that the browser makers themselves had helped to establish these standards!
THE PHOENIX RISES OUT OF THE ASHES
Netscape bloodied and beaten (and sold to AOL,) released their browser to the open source community. This group of altruistic, Microsoft hating nerds started to build the next generation of the once mighty Netscape, working under the name of Mozilla and then eventually Firefox.
FIREFOX – THE ASS KICKER
Free of the politics of corporate benefit, the Mozilla team managed to release a really amazing piece of software! This tight, fast and thin web browser feels as though it was built with the user in mind and not the company. With nifty features like tabbed windows, built in pop-up blockers and super fast surfing, it’s clear that the Mozilla boys and girls did their job well. The other good news about this browser is that it follows the official aforementioned standards (good for web design nerds) and it’s not full of the security holes found in IE.
FIREFOX – TAKING GROUND
For years now IE has been left unchallenged, but over the last year IE has actually been losing significant ground in the browser wars! On Killersites.com we have seen IE drop from 97%-98% to 76.3%! To be honest, I was caught by surprise and decided to investigate this further.
2005 Stats from Killersites.com:
MS Internet Explorer 76.3 %
Mozilla 14.5 %
Safari 2.4 %
Opera 1 %
(2005) Numbers from a major stats provider:
Microsoft IE 6.0 – 80.95%
2) Microsoft IE 5.0 – 4.18%
3) Microsoft IE 5.5 – 3.66%
4) Mozilla Firefox 0.1 – 2.79%
5) Mozilla 1.x – 2.77%
6) Mozilla Firefox 1.0 – 1.79%
7) Opera 7.x – 1.29%
8) Safari – 0.91%
These are 2005 statistics – for current information about browser wars, see our Killer Magazine.
I’m not going to list all the stats I found, but I can tell you that across the board, the numbers are falling for IE and moving up for browsers like Firefox and Mozilla.
Because of this shift, I will be displaying Killersites.com’s browser stats on the home page and updating them regularly. Like all web stats, you can’t just count on a single source, but Killersites.com gets a wide audience (not just pure web nerds) and the sampling (about 100k / month) is decent.
WHY IS IE LOSING GROUND?
Educated users – Microsoft rise was due to large part in users not knowing better!
IE security issues
Firefox has great features and is freakin fast!
I believe people are just becoming more computer and Internet savvy – IE gained its dominance because it came with Windows and people just used what was there. Now that people are getting used to using computers, they are starting to look at other options.
Internet Explorers security holes are making companies think twice about using it. The buzz is that companies are now switching away from IE much in the same vein as they are slowly moving towards Linux.
USING FIREFOX IN YOUR WEB DESIGN
The top three reasons I can see for wanting to switch to FireFox:
Displays web pages as they would appear in popular Mac browsers – no need to cross platform test.
Firefox keeps to the web standards better than any browser – if your sites work in Firefox, you can be confident that your sites will continue to work well into the future.
The free Firefox extension for web designers: Web Developer 0.9. This cool web tool has all kinds of great features that can come in handy for web designers.
A special thanks to LSW on the Killersites.com forum for that last tip.
The ‘web standards’ are basically making it ‘official’ how web browsers should read and understand web pages. It’s very important that all the browsers work the same way so that web designers’ hair don’t turn white … I now got white patches on both sides of my head! Just call me Mr. Fantastic.
Being a practical web designer, I would argue in those days that since MS had a 98% share of the market, that you might as well concentrate on making your pages work in IE.
If you liked the article and you want to see more let me know!
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