2011-10-17

Browser Choice and Competition

Years ago, I wrote an article arguing for the choice of a better browser [Browse Happy] than Microsoft Internet Explorer [Microsoft]. At the time, my choice was Mozilla Firefox [Mozilla], based on standards conformance [W3C] and customization.

Mozilla had a significant impact on the web browser market with Firefox. It wedged a large enough gap in Internet Explorer's market share that it popularized the idea of browser choice. This in-turn enticed others to enter to the browser competition.

Through those years, I have continued to make my choice of browser based on my own personal preference. For a long time Firefox was my primary browser, but I also chose to continuously play with others as well. I tried Opera [Opera] and was very impressed with its speed and clean interface. I also enjoyed Google Chrome's [Google] minimalism and process management. Eventually, Chrome's growing feature set lured me to make it my primary browser. In fact, I have enjoyed Chrome almost exclusively ever since; that is, until it began crashing a couple weeks ago.

Now, let me first say that -- as of the publishing of this article -- I have already diagnosed and repaired the cause of those crashes. (Mainly because I was finally able to take some time to do so.) However, when the first set of crashes occurred, I noticed something interesting about my behavior: I switched without effort or anguish to another browser, after determining that the problem would take too much effort to resolve at that time.

After observing my quick switch, I thought for a moment about how that sentiment reflected a change in our use of web browsers. Months ago, I had planned to eventually write an article discussing the current state of the browser market [W3C], but -- thanks to better standards compliance and the spread of "cloud" services -- the browser with the biggest market share no longer matters as much as the browser with the most appealing features and best performance.

It's a brave new world in web browsers. As someone who once pushed for a "better browser", I am very happy to see that the competition has made the goal of all browsers to meet the needs and desires of the user.
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