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Firefox winning the Browser War

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.

Internet Explorer

  • 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.

Browser Market Share
Screenshot from http://marketshare.hitslink.com/

Firefox

  • 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.

Safari

  • 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.

Opera

  • The li’l guy on the market, Opera is closing in on the Mobile Market. Their mobile browser supports JavaScript (remember Ajax and Rich Internet Applications moving into the picture), making it the perfect browser for the mobile technophile. I think this is also building a behavior within folks that it’s now okay to move away from Microsoft. There’s less fear of leaving now.

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.

With that, here’s my tip of the week. Give Firefox a try. For the developers, take a look at some of the remarkable plugins for CSS and JavaScript development. For the designers, take a look at how little you need to ‘tweak’ your pages for Firefox. For users, you’ll open Firefox the first time and be off and running. Here’s the tip:

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.

About Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of The Marketing Technology Blog. Doug is the CMO of CircuPress and CEO of DK New Media, an agency specializing in assisting marketing technology companies with their inbound marketing - leveraging social media, blogging, search engine optimization, pay per click and public relations. Their clients include Angie's List, GoDaddy, Mindjet and many more. Douglas is also the author of Corporate Blogging for Dummies.

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17 comments

  1. I agree that there’s no reason to use IE anymore, but unfortunately the world is still full of internet novices who don’t know any better. Hopefully word of mouth will change that eventually.

  2. I’ve been a happy user of Firefox for several years now. I feel in love with it because of the countless extensions, and the increased security over Internet Explorer.

    When I got my new MacBook Pro earlier this year, I tried out Safari for a few weeks, but ended up going back to Firefox. The options for customization are almost limitless. In the past year, I have successfully converted my entire family (and most of my friends) to Firefox.

  3. Paul didn’t want to embarrass me – but you’ll notice I edited my phobias to philes! Good catch from Paul who was nice enough to email me! Folks who know me know I’m an expert at hosing up English. It’s truly a friend who will save you from embarrassing yourself!

    Thanks, Paul!

    Paul has a great blog over at:
    http://pdandrea.wordpress.com/

  4. Salam

    I am totally agree that Firefox is gonna beat IE 7 or onwards….

    Reason for beating is that Firefox Plugins and Firefox Add-ons.

    I think in July 2007, IE will stand on 35%

    Yup.

  5. Assalamu, Fazal. I agree with you! With Firefox 3 Alpha already out, Mozilla is blazing a trail that Microsoft can not compete with.

  6. I installed IE7 on my desktop computr and it worked fine after I fiddled with it some but when I installed it on my laptop, it brought everything to a halt. If I hadn’t found that the program (without any add-ons) was also included with my programs under accessories I wouldn’t be able to get on at all.

    I am concerned, I do banking online and am not sure that I can use Foxfire. I would love to try but I need more info.

    • Hi Alta,

      Modern online banking is cross-browser compliant. The concern would be for supporting SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), that’s an encrypted means of communicating data between your browser and the bank’s online servers. Firefox fully supports SSL just as IE does with no limitations. The most obvious way of knowing you’re utilizing SSL is that you’re at an https:// address instead of http://. However, both IE and Firefox (and Opera and Safari) also have visual indicators and verification processes that the SSL certificate and encryption are valid and working properly.

      In other words – you should not have any issues. Of course it never hurts to check your bank’s “Support” page to see if they support Firefox. You’ll really find it a nice browser – very quick with a lot of extra goodies.

      Thanks for visiting… and for commenting!
      Doug

  7. Firefox crossed the 400-million downloads mark and, hopefully, will go further. Alternatives are always a way of progress.
    But the winning the browser war… still to early for that.

  8. I have used IE for years, continue to use it and frankly am unimpressed with the user-level advantages of Firefox. I suspect that the vast majority of users could care less. I agree with you, however, that the changes to IE 7 were a bit confusing.

  9. Hi Douglas,

    I agree with your thoughs on IE7 and being a web designer, I was let down with a few things when IE7 was released. I’m currently in the process of building a new website and I’ve come across some issues with divs but nothing major (thus far). I’ve only used IE7 minimally but I was expecting a huge jump from 6.0 in reference to CSS support, etc.

    I’ve been a Firefox user for years and have recruited quite a few new users along the way. I think the thing that most attracts me, and a lot of other FF users, is the fact that it’s extremely web designer/developer friendly and the customization drives it. I think IE will continue to plummet and I think Microsoft will need a miracle at this point. The momentum that Firefox has gained and Safari is slowly gaining, is outdoing IE and the fact that they keep falling short on producing a web standards compliant browser, isn’t helping them in the least.

    Us web designers can only give them so many chances 😛

  10. These comments are rather misleading. According to the most recent stats I’ve seen IE’s share has “plummeted” from 85.88% worldwide share for Q4 2005 to 78.5% for Q3 2007. That’s a drop of 7.3% in about two years.

    Meanwhile, Firefox has zoomed from 9% to 14.6% in the same time period. That’s an increase of 5.6% in roughly two years.

    Safari has gone from 3.1% to 4.77% – an increase that is hardly worth talking about.

    Yes Firefox is gaining on IE, but IE still apparently has more than 5x the users.

    These stats are from Wikipedia “Usage_share_of_web_browsers” and of course could be biased one way or another.

    Apparently most of the world doesn’t care what web designers think. I would think we should design for the masses rather than worrying about our own personal preferences.

    • Thanks Rick! Could we ask where your sources are regarding the stats?

      I agree with you, but there’s a cautionary tale to not caring what web designers think… and that’s that web design will continue to be an expensive venture when you have to design outside of standards to appease that 85.88% market share!

      I am working on a site right now that looks perfect in FF and Safari, but IE totally garbles it… the problem? I have JavaScript within the page’s content and that’s what’s moving graphics that are 100% CSS Driven! Now I have to put all the script in an include – which won’t allow the page to load gracefully, so I have to add more code to ‘preload’ items.

      Thanks again!

  11. It’s always a priority to design for the masses but the fact that Microsoft isn’t following suit with everyone else, makes our jobs that much more difficult. I find myself sometimes having to write entirely separate style sheets just for IE alone and that’s time-consuming. It doesn’t mean anything to the average user. It’s just frustrating when the browser that leads the pack is the one that is the least web standards compliant.

    I find myself having to do the same thing, Douglas. I have to put my Javascript in includes or separate JS files that are linked to my pages. Injecting it directly into my markup has a tendency to make things go haywire.

  12. Hi Douglas,
    I have no argument with your concerns from the designer point of view, although I’m not sure why you would be concerned that you can charge people more for your services. Is it that people are not prepared to pay for it? Obviously these are technical issues that have to be overcome.

    I just take issue with the suggestion that there is a massive movement away from IE. The stats (as far as I can tell) do not support that claim, in spite of all the designers and SEOs who claim otherwise and who endlessly promote FF. Whether they should be promoting it is another question, and you may be entirely correct about that.

    As I mentioned in my comment, my source was Wikipedia – not the most impressive sounding source, but the numbers look pretty thorough…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_web_browsers

    Rick

    • You’re probably correct on both issues, Rick. I would argue that IE continues to have a major share of the market because it’s part of the Operating System, though. If it were download for download and a fair choice, I really do believe that FF would be kicking their butts.

  13. I used to be a programmer and web developer. In 2003 I was in an accident and hit my head. Writing code is now too much for me, so now I am just an ordinary joe..lol

    Anyways, I have been using Linux since like 1996 (remember Caldera-when you had to let it download itself for 2 days..lol). Web browsers were never great for it before Firefox. When Firefox came out, it was the greatest thing for Linux users (Thunderbird too). Since Microcrap has always screwed Linux users, they shot themselves in the foot. I remember Firefox/Thunderbird becoming the top internet suite for Linux easily. It’s not bulky, and you can put whatever extensions you like (adblockl!). Thus, it is as light or heavy as you make it. No unwanted parts at all. The tabs are cool and small.

    I am presently using Windows xp, because the ‘others’ here unfortunately made it a condition of buying this pc, so ‘they’ could use it (idiots). That is why I instantly downloaded firefox/thunderbird. When I used Windows again, I HATED Outlook express, and still wanted Firefox back, with my extensions (I even saved all the config. files and my bookmarks from Linux, and imported them into Winxp!).

    Recently, my pc restarted overnight, and I had this ALIEN looking fat toolbar with HUGE tabs that won’t go away. The friggin tool bars take up 1/5 of the damned screen! I HATED it! Everyone else here hated it too. Where’s the STOP button? Nobody wants to have the browser take up so much space! Massive tabs, even when there’s only 1 page!!
    What about the web page? You cannot even see it because all you see is BROWSER! It is so distracting, that I could not stand it. Microsoft conveniently has NO place to complain either. What a pile of garbled junk. My screen resolution is set at 1152×864 and I cannot imagine what it would look like at 800×6000! Would I even be able to see the page?

    So 2 thumbs down for IE7! Everyone hates it, and it is the death of IE. Funny, they had an ok browser, but by copying Firefox, they now have junk. I mean.. what is all that crap on the toolbars, and where’s the rest of the buttons??

    So, thanks Microsoft, you have done yourself in at last! I now spend a lot of time explaining to others who call and ask why their browser is suddenly awful and complex, and help them uninstall IE7! Nobody wants it!

    Cheers!
    -Jf

  14. I think your right Mr. Blog man, I to have been using Firefox on my computer for over a year now and have not looked back since. Anyone who knows anything about computer software can tell you that Firefox is the superior browser hands down. I have never tried the Thunderbird software because the Outlook 2007 in Office Enterprise is very nice and works great for me. Why change it if is ain’t broke. IE 6-7 is broken though, anytime I work on a friends, family, online buddy, or just a person who wants help I always install or tell them to get Firefox. It’s a no brainer in my book.

    I just want to know why Microsoft thought they were releasing a superior browser, are they totally inept to the world around them? Is it because they think their software is so wonderful that people will just use it anyway? Or is it because Microsoft was raking in billions a day and they said “forget the consumer we don’t care what they think” so they just about forced a worthless and unresponsive browser on market. Idiots! Its not like I have a junky computer, IE runs like crap on any system. It has to be in the software code or something.

    Just for fun I loaded it up today just to see if it had improved by some miracle (nope) still sucks. Then I said to myself “Why, why does it run like that” so I searched (Why does Internet Explorer load so slowly) and of course I used the Google home page search on Firefox. I ended up here after following a link from another site with an article like this on it. I got side tracked so I still don’t have my answer yet. Go Firefox Go! Kick Bill Gates in the nuts for us all one time each per person continuously. I will note one draw back to FF though, it is bad about memory consumption. Easily fixed thought, a quick, not slow restart will fix that.

    Great Article!

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