Maybe to the casual user, the type of browser used to search the web is inconsequential, but to the creators of the browsers a lot is at stake. These companies are trying to create an integrated computer experience, increased web searches and the increased ad revenue associated with those searches.
Desktop Browser Wars
The first casualty of the so-called browser wars was Netscape Navigator, the most popular web browser in the mid-to-late 1990s. At the heart of an anti-monopoly lawsuit filed against Microsoft, Navigator dropped from the browser market almost entirely by 2002. This marked the beginning of the Internet Explorer era, but the landscape continued to change.
Taking the Lead
- Chrome: When Google released a Windows version of Chrome near the end of 2008, it was the classic story of David and Goliath. Internet Explorer controlled nearly 70 percent of the market share at that time. Five years later, though, the scene had shifted drastically. By 2013, Chrome and Internet Explorer traded places three times in the U.S. market with Chrome finishing the year in the number one position. At 39 percent as of February of 2014, Chrome's market share is still rising and its lead over Internet Explorer is widening.
- Internet Explorer: Even though Internet Explorer won the first significant round in the battle for browser dominance by upending Netscape, it eventually was challenged by an offshoot of Netscape - Firefox. Firefox would not seriously challenge the lead position because of Microsoft's practice of including Internet Explorer free with all of its operating system. It did, however, open the door for more browser options which helped Chrome topple Internet Explorer from the lead position.
- Firefox: Utilizing the Gecko layout engine used in Netscape, Firefox changed what browsers can and should do. Although they did not invent browser tabs, Firefox was one of the first to use them and they definitely perfected them. In 2008, the browser set a world record for most software downloads in a 24-hour period with more than eight million downloads. Its popularity peaked in September 2009, when Firefox commanded nearly 32 percent of the market.
Out Of Its Element
- Chrome: Almost since its inception, this browser has been a contender in the global market going from one percent in January, 2009 to around 30 percent three years later. On the world market, it passed Internet Explorer nearly a year earlier than it did in the U.S.
- Internet Explorer: Internet Explorer released Version 11 in the fall of 2013. The new version created a small uptick in its market share, with overall market share just over 20 percent as of November 2013 according to W3Counter. StatCounter data shows them closer to Chrome, with 31 percent of the market compared to Chrome's 38 percent. Either way, they have fallen a long way. Because of this, Microsoft has been engaged in a strategy to win back Internet Explorer haters by admitting to its not so stellar past.
- Firefox: After Firefox peaked in 2009, its market shared has consistently stayed in the 18 percent range.
- Safari: Regardless of which statistics you read, Safari desktop browser has less than 10 percent of the market.
Shifting Trends: Going Mobile
- Smartphones: With the steadily increasing use of smartphones to access the web, browsers like iPhone have capitalized on the popularity of the device itself. During 2013, the iPhone browser (Safari) had nearly double the market share as the Android browser. As of January 2014, StatCounter data breaks out the percentages as follows:
- iPhone (Safari): 50 percent
- Android: 28 percent
- Chrome: 11 percent
- Blackberry: 3 percent
- iPod Touch: 3 percent
- Internet Explorer Mobile: < 2 percent
- Opera: < 2 percent
- Tablets: Safari is the browser of choice for tablets due to the popularity of the iPad. As of January of 2014, NetMarketShare reports that Safari owns 55 percent of the tablet browser market share compared to Android's 23 percent. NetMarketShare places Chrome's usage at 11 percent, Opera Mini at five percent and Internet Explorer at less than two percent.
One to Watch
A lesser known, but highly respected desktop browser is Maxthon Cloud Browser. Rated excellent by PCMag and called the "best Web browser you never used," this browser has excellent HTML5 support, is fast and utilizes two page-rendering engines. With innovative features, like nighttime mode and Cloud syncing, it is definitely a browser worth trying.