Browser wars: the next generation

Get ready for Browser Wars 2. I’m sorry to say it out loud, medical but Firefox is old hat. As it’s the rags-to-riches tale of a free software foundation rising from the ashes of the legendary Netscape, nurse it’s almost like blaspheming in church to say it – but I’ll do it anyway. I’ve stopped using and even uninstalled Firefox.

Surely IE9 isn’t that good, is it? Despite everything, IE8 wasn’t actually at all bad – but then came Google Chrome, which is is way better. Faster. Funkier. And let’s be honest – enough of your browsing history is already owned by Google, so get over it.

Clearly, against two more formidable competitors, Firefox is a rapidly shrinking dot in the rear-view mirror. So where did Firefox go wrong? Well, there’s nothing inherently wrong with version 3, except that with all the add-ons, themes and various other paraphernalia added on, it starts becoming bloatware. Out of the box, Chrome and IE9 are faster. In fact IE9 even disables all those add-ons – sacrificed in a need for speed – unless you specifically load ‘em back up.

As for all those little gadgets like the weather forecast, the stock ticker, the trending topics on Twitter – they’re all still just a click away – and available on mobile devices, too – where they’re perhaps more at home than my desktop.

I’d used Firefox as my production browser since it was still called Firebird and in beta version around 0.7 – before the first browser wars really started. Opera never really hit the right note and Safari was Just Another Browser, but Chrome is different, and IE9 is following suit. Chrome is also better than any other non-IE browser at handling those pesky IE-only sites that everyone knows and loves.

According to stats from Net Applications, IE is of course still the daddy but Chrome is gaining market share faster than Firefox did in its early days – and to me, looks like the only browser that will ever conquer IE and win the lion’s share of the market.  I’m using it on both Windows and Snow Leopard. Perhaps with OSX gaining more market share, Microsoft will reenter the Apple browser market – which would clearly be a sign that the phoney browser war is over.

So why did I go as far as uninstalling Firefox? Because it’s pointless keeping a third browser up-to-date. If a site isn’t loading in Chrome, I might switch to IE on Windows if I really, really want to view the page – but if I’m still getting a 404 then it’s thank you and goodnight.

~ Simon JonesOnPR GmbH, Munich

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