Programming + Design

IE Officially Losing the Browser War PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brett Brewer   
Thursday, 24 December 2009

We win!...and by "we" I mean all you web developers out there that have been at the mercy of fragmented browser market share, buggy browsers and lack of standards compliance which has needlessly taken much of the fun out of coding web sites for many, many, many years. I've been coding web sites since 1994, so I've seen pretty much every browser bug and ever other form of BS that browser developers have come up with over the years. So, I was pleasantly shocked to discover that Firefox 3.5 recently surpassed Internet Explorer 7 as the #1 browser version worldwide....and I've been seeing lots and lots of articles like this one lately too: Is Internet Explorer Doomed?

It seems that IE usage has practically fallen off a cliff in the past few months. Firefox still lags behind IE in the United States, but if you develop web sites for a worldwide audience, you now have a new primary browser to worry about and a great excuse to dump your support for IE even faster than you probably already wanted to. Since you were probably already doing most of your development and testing with Firefox (unless of course you are a complete massochist), this means you can now feel much better about blowing off testing your sites in IE. I suspect that within the next 9 months I'll finally be able to quit testing web sites on IE6 altogether, and with any luck I can follow suit with IE7/8 shortly thereafter. That's right, I said it....I see a future where we can completely DROP (or severely curtail) support for every fracking version of IE (unless of course MSFT comes up with a version of their browser that renders pages and handles Javascript exactly like Firefox). Prospects are looking quite good for Firefox usage to surpass IE in the United States sometime next year. Can I get an A-MEN!? Could it be that the majoriy of internet users are finally coming to understand what a browser is?

I really never thought I'd see this day. Soon, we might finally be back to where we were in 2000 in terms of the number of browsers developers have to debug and test on. This time though, it won't be due to a lack of other browsers, it's simply that the new generation of browsers that will remaing after IE is dead are much better at rendering pages the same way thanks to a relatively strict adherence to web standards. Thank you to all the web developers out there who wouldn't stop bitching about standards compliance because it's FINALLY starting to pay off (until recently it only COST us effort but returned little benefit). Back in 2000 it was a nearly completely market-dominanting IE browser that started to make web development easier, not because the browser didn't suck, but because it was the only one you had to worry about. Things started getting hairy again over the past 9 years as Opera and Firefox emerged on the scene, Apple released Safari, then Google tossed Chrome into the mix for bad measure. Fortunately for everyone, the only two browsers that currently appear to be GAINING market share as of today, December 24, 2009, are Firefox and Google Chrome. Every other browser is currently losing market share. I couldn't be happier. I'll be a little sad to see Opera die off because it's really a great browser, but if it has be a casualty of Firefox's success then so be it. With any luck, Mac users will eventually stop using Safari and jump completely on the Firefox bandwagon because Safari is just a flat-out waste of developers' time and effort that would be better spent elsewhere. There's simply no need for it anymore except possibly on the iPhone which, as usual is Apple's fault and another perfect example of why some people like me actually switched from Mac to PC in 2000 and have been thrilled with my choice ever since...but that's another story. The Mac has gained enough traction recently thanks to an operating system that people actually want to code apps for, so now Firefox is a first rate browser on the MacOS and there is simply no need for Safari. Safari clearly hasn't kept pace with Firefox, it doesn't render pages as reliably and forces developers to write more platform-specific bug fixes and do needless platform-specific testing when they should just be testing on the cross-platform standards-compliant browsers. Mac users are starting to understand this though, and Safari usage just started declining for the first time since it's initial release. I could rant about Apple all day though and that's a completely different topic, so I'll end this post by saying my hope for 2010 is that Firefox will surpass both IE and Safari use in the US on both Windows and MacOS and continue making cross-platform web development less painful and more creative for everyone involved. 

Last Updated ( Thursday, 24 December 2009 )
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