Modern Browser Wars

There’s an old saying “you can’t tell the players without a program”.

Stan Hanks Stan Hanks originally wrote this answer on Quora.

Let’s look at the players here:
Mozilla – non-profit organization, open source, provides tremendously popular software alternatives to non-open-source “proprietary” software for browsers, email clients, and more. Mission statement is “To promote openness, innovation and opportunity on the web”. They even have a manifest, The Mozilla Manifesto.

Launched at Netscape in 1998 as a way to make sure that the browser didn’t die no matter what happened to the company (which got Borg’d up intoAOL shortly thereafter), they launched Firefox 1.0 in 2004.

Firefox, the leading Mozilla product, immediately became the most popular alternative to Internet Explorer rapidly and rose to a large market share before being displaced by Google Chrome.

Google developed Chrome primarily to provide a better browsing experience for users of other Google products, in an attempt to make Google more “sticky” and enhance the per-head value of their user base which was monetized through their massive advertising network. Launched in 2008, it immediately gained massive market share.

Microsoft initially offered a browser with  Windows 95 Plus pack in August 1995 (ironically, built from code licensed from Netscape). From that time, they pretty much started the browser wars which raged unabated. The first browser wars killed Netscape (and led to United States v. Microsoft Corp..)

The second browser wars in the mid-2000s had a completely different cast of characters. Chome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer were the dominant players. Chrome carried Google’s sub rosa agenda of maximizing user monetization, IE carried Microsoft’s monopolistic mindset, Firefox just wanted people to have a really nice browser. Somehow they managed to each carve out a nearly equal market share.

With the arrival of smartphones and nearly ubiquitous LTE broadband, things have shifted again. Chrome is now wired into Android and ChromeOS the way that IE is wired into Windows and Safari is wired into iOS. Sure, you have other choices, but just being the default has shifted the market enormously.

As of June 2015, NetMarketShare says that for desktop browsers Chrome (all versions) is about 20% of the market, IE (all versions) is about 52% of the market, and Firefox (all versions) is about 11%.

Once again, Windows IE is the lead dog. Unexpectedly, to most of us.

Next up: Chris Beard. Who is this guy anyway? Turns out, he’s got a decent open-source background, some heaving-hitting experience in places like HPand  Sun, and was specifically recruited to Mozilla to product manage and launch Firefox.

This is his baby.

Now let’s add up the pieces:

Microsoft is (unbelievably) once again in a dominant market position, browser wise. Even well before the Windows 10 launch this week.

Firefox is lagging badly in the desktop browser market.

Firefox is Chris Beard’s baby.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 installer resets all the browser preferences back to IE 11, and it’s a lot harder to reset your preferences back to whatever they previously were than it was in Windows 8.1 (see Firefox for Windows 10: How to Restore or Choose Firefox as Your Default Browser)

I’d say there are two things going on: 1) Chris is understandably miffed that once again, Microsoft is using a dominant market position to reinforce their dominant market position, and (2) Chris is using this as a bully pulpit to pull the stir up the still fairly large anti-Microsoft user community back to using Firefox, versus Chrome or IE.

Smart move on his part. I’d probably do the same thing.

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