I’ve been developing some stuff for the web lately and right now I feel a bit like this (ok, it wasn’t really that bad). Anyways, it got me thinking about browsers and their trends. Firefox seems to be picking up. Apple is putting a lot of effort into Safari. Google is doing great things with Chrome. MS has released IE8 which I suppose is kinda in the same league but from what I’ve heard is still losing ground to the others. So I thought I would check out some of the stats over at Net Applications. I found it quite intruiging. So I thought I would go and make some wild predictions.
(Disclaimer: Although I work in IT and do a certain degree of web development and work primarily on OSX and Linux I don’t consider myself an expert in terms of being able to predict this stuff. I also have a bit of a bias against MS. So please don’t take my observations too seriously.)
First off, let’s start by summarising some of the stats. (I know these numbers are only approximates but I think they’re close enough to identify trends) On the OS side of things it seems that Mac and Linux market share is slowly increasing while MS is slowly losing. Mac is sitting at just under 10% and Linux at slighly under 1%. These numbers are small however the trend is up and if the rate of improvement of both of them continues the way it is then I reckon the rate of increase will only increase.
On the browser side of things we have:
- IE – 65.5% – slowly decreasing
- Firefox – 22.51% – slowly increasing
- Safari – 8.43% – slowly increasing
- Chrome – 1.8% – slowly increasing
Chrome is relatively new and I would say still has a bit of maturing to go, it is also not ready for Mac or Linux yet (though this is not far off). It is also being developed by Google in order to take advantage of all the rich web based apps that presumably they intend to offer to us, and we know they are quite good at developing such apps. With Google’s Android looking to become quite popular on the Phone and possibly also on the Netbook I would say that Google’s apps are similarly going to become more popular. I’m going to speculate that given a few years Chrome is going to have a much larger market share.
Safari has slowly increasing market share. I think the pace is set to increase a little as Mac marketshare on the desktop increases but also due to Safari 4 being available for PC as well. It looks to have some quite nice features but I don’t think it’ll grow too quickly unless Apple can put some of the magic behind it that they seem to be able to with their other products (iPod, iPhone etc). This may happen however as the future seems to be holding some rather exciting developments in the area of online stuff. Safari 4 also appears to be a step towards making it more like the rest of the Mac environment in several respects, creating more of that all integrated, it-just-works feel that Apple is good at. Because of this I think it will do very well on OSX but not quite fit in on Windows and as such, not be too successful there.
Firefox is increasing and already has a little under a quarter of the market. They are also soon to be releasing version 3.5 with the promise of increased performance and stability and some nice new features. They are sitting quite nicely as they have a version available for Windows, Mac and Linux meaning they are largely unaffected by OS trends.
Internet Explorer, the browser that used to own the market has now slipped to 65.5% and is falling. Now, whether this trend continues will be interesting. I think it’s fair to say that Firefox was lucky in that they got their foot in the door going up agains IE6. IE6 was old and run down and put up rather little of a fight. So MS rushed out IE7 and it was a little bit better but largely just tried to copy Firefox. People don’t like change however. A new product has to offer significant advantage before most people will put in the effort to switch. In IE6 Vs Firefox there was enough of an advantage. IE7 offered no significant reason to switch back though so all it really managed to do was slow the rate at which people switched to Firefox. Now we have Windows 7 soon to be released and it will come with IE8. Now if IE8 is good enough that a lot of people who upgrade to Windows 7 will be happy with it and not see a need to install another browser then the trend could swing back.
Overall I think IE is doomed. In the previous paragraph I mentioned that it’s trend could change however I think this will only be temporarily. The future looks bright with vibrant rich applications that can offer us all manner of interesting services for collaboration, entertainment, organisation etc. All delivered as increasingly powerful and complex web based technologies. This is an area where both Google and Apple are innovating and producing many exciting new products, and providing browsers that allow for them to work cleanly and efficiently. It’s an area that the Firefox team understands quite well and is similarly servicing well. It’s an area that MS doesn’t really understand and would rather we stated away from as it’s a threat to their bread and butter. Their efforts thus far seem to me to be an attempt to copy the competition’s features while trying to lock us into more of their desktop products. I also think that more and more people are waking up to this and seeing that the competition is offering better alternatives.
MS has the resources but the other guys have the ideas. The web is all about information and knowledge so I think the other guys are holding the upper hand at the moment. Time will tell but I think the future landscape is going to be rather different from the current one.