Browser Wars – Lets Get Ready To Rumble!

Browser Wars

Choosing a web browser can be an important decision for internet users, as the programs affect and alter the way users view material online. After the early 2000s saw the browser market whittled down to one dominant player – Microsoft’s Internet Explorer – several start-ups and multimedia companies have specially crafted browsers to fill in holes left by the market leader. And with big shots like Apple and Google entering the fray over the course of the last five or so years, it has developed into what’s been called the ‘Browser Wars,’ with each company battling to get the biggest slice of the pie.

After taking down competitors such as Netscape Navigator in the 1990s, Internet Explorer soon had a stranglehold on the market with a peak 95 per cent share. IE has greatly benefitted from coming preinstalled on machines running the Windows OS in the last 15 years of its life. Most recently, IE’s forthcoming ninth edition has been boasting the best compatibility with the new HTML5 web coding language as well. However, given the growth of new, innovative programs such as the open-source Firefox, its share has dropped to around 50 per cent.

Firefox, the innovator of the now widely adopted tabbed browsing method, joined the scene in 2004, and looks set to drop Firefox 4 in 2011 – after several beta versions, of course. According to experts, the open-source and wildly customisable web browser will be including a Bing search engine as well as code from Google Chrome and HTML5 functionality. HTML5 is the forthcoming web programming language update that will reportedly incorporate video and drag-and-drop capabilities without the need of third-party plug-ins like Flash. Given its status as an open-source program and as an innovator, Firefox may be the one to beat when it comes to cutting-edge techniques – and it’s certainly the browser most likely to give Microsoft a run for its money.

However, Google – always the perfectionist, has been the most dynamic mover and shaker in the browser market in the past year with its Chrome software. Incorporating a minimalist look and feel, Chrome entered the market in December 2008, and has been touted as the speediest of browsers. In addition, Google’s pioneered a technology that displays web pages through different system processes, allowing the browsing of other pages if one happens to freeze. Google has also been very industrious when it comes to the Chrome project, releasing five versions in 2010 alone, and the browser has overtaken Safari to become the third most popular browser in the marketplace.

While it dominates in other arenas – most notably smart phones and music players – Apple has been a perennial underdog when it comes to web browsing, with Safari occupying a distant third until being eventually eclipsed. Still, the history of Safari has been interesting; after including Internet Explorer with its Mac OS for a number of years, Steve Jobs announced the Safari browser in 2003. Based on WebKit and in time incorporating tabbed browsing, Safari presented itself as a viable alternative to IE, especially for die-hard Macophiles. Adding to the popularity of the browser has no doubt been the phenomenal success of the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch, both of which come standard with a Safari web browser, making it a leader in this field at least.

This will also be the field where the browsers of the future will be made or broken, it seems, as users have increasingly been accessing web pages from new devices such as smart phones and tablet computers. Those staying at the forefront of the mobile web stand a good chance of coming away winners in the ‘browser wars’.

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