Why the browser wars are important to you

Summary:In this off-topic post, I explore (no pun intended) the five major browsers and why you should care about them.

No one really makes any money from browsers, and there are no bad ones in the top five contenders for your attention. So why should you care about the browser wars or who wins? There are some compelling reasons for caring, and some really compelling reasons for choosing one browser over another. I also give you my opinion of each along the way, along with my wish list for the ultimate browser that doesn't yet exist.

The five most popular browsers are:

  • Chrome

  • Internet Explorer

  • Firefox

  • Safari

  • Opera

Just an FYI, so that there's no argument about it; I use Chrome. I use Chrome on my PCs, my iPhone, my iPad, and on my Linux systems. It is the one browser that I use across all platforms. Do I use others? Yes, for certain things, I use Internet Explorer, Safari, and Firefox. My main, go-to browser is Chrome.

Don't misunderstand my motivation for using it. Chrome has its problems. It crashes often on my Windows 7 system, it kills my CPU, and sometimes, it stops responding for no reason at all. I use it because it's fast and less cumbersome than other browsers for everyday use.

I'm also not trying to convince you to use one browser over another. I have to use multiple browsers, so I assume, maybe incorrectly, that everyone else does too.

The reason that I have to use multiple browsers on my Apple products is that there are elements that Safari doesn't display correctly or at all, so I happily use Chrome. I have also tested other browsers on the iPlatforms such as Atomic, Secret, Apollo, Puffin, and a few others to find that perfect browsing experience. So far, not so good.

I have to use multiple browsers on the PC platform because some applications work better under Firefox and some don't work at all under Chrome. Internet Explorer is the default browser on most of my day job servers, so I use that too. Sometimes, even at home, I use Internet Explorer because some sites and applications just don't render correctly under Chrome.

What's most remarkable to me is the usage statistics for browsers on Wikipedia from January 2013. I'm a bit surprised by the dominant browser choices in some areas. Assuming that the writer's statistics are correct, I'm shocked that Google's Chrome is the dominant browser in Latin America and in Russia. It also appears to be dominant in other European countries and in India.

What surprises me is that all of these countries are huge fans of open source software, which would make me believe that Firefox would be the dominant browser choice. Browser choices have swung significantly, again if you believe the numbers, from just two years ago.

I found a site that provides statistics for a number of application usages, called Statcounter.com. Here are the browser usage statistics for 2013 so far. Chrome is in the lead on a worldwide basis. However, for the same period, the statistics look very different for the USA, where Internet Explorer is the clear leader.

Some companies have chosen to support browsers on their sites by user preference. For example, the international energy news site IHS focuses on Internet Explorer and Firefox support, and gives compelling reasons why they do.

Of course, there's also the freedom fight from the European Union that I think only the leaders of the EU care about. The freedom fight I'm referring to is the ongoing Microsoft beatdown and lawsuits over browser choices. Currently, they've fined Microsoft about $730 million for not giving a choice of browser. The concept of doing that is just silly. Why should Microsoft supply you with a choice of browser?

Does Audi supply the choice of using Mercedes seats in its cars as a choice? No. It's just plain silly. Does McDonald's offer you the choice of Burger King fries or Wendy's shakes with its meals? No. Again, silly.

You have browser choices on every platform and operating system. There's no point in beating anyone up about it. Safari is the Apple standard, so is the EU suing it because it doesn't supply a choice of browser, too? Several Linux distros supply Firefox as the default browser. What is the EU going to do about that?

I think the EU needs to focus more on stabilizing its currency/currencies rather than worrying about which browser comes standard with the operating system it uses. Perhaps they're trying to stabilize their currencies with Microsoft's dollars. I digress.

My ultimate browser would certainly have the speed of Chrome, the safety and security of Opera, the module support and stability of Firefox, and the site rendering capability of Internet Explorer. It would support HTML5, Java, ActiveX, and JavaScript, but not Flash.

I call my ultimate browser, Journey. Isn't that awesome?

It would support modules/extensions dynamically. It would load its extensions as they're needed, and then unload them when they're not. Journey would also work on any platform or operating system.

So the browser wars are important to you because you have a choice of which one or ones to use. It's a matter of freedom of choice. For me, it's a matter of necessity. Since I work in the IT industry, I have a need to use multiple browsers. I choose to use Chrome, but not exclusively. Your browser of choice will influence your internet experience. It might also endanger your system or prevent you from viewing certain content. But you have a choice of which browser to use, and in that battle, you're the winner.

What do you think of the browser wars? Do you think that we need more than one browser? Does it matter that Internet Explorer, Safari, and Firefox are all standard issue on different platforms? Talk back and let me know.

Topics: Browser


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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