Recently, Mozilla released the latest version of their highly successful browser – Firefox 3.5. In the last few months we’ve also had releases of Internet Explorer 8 from Microsoft, Chrome from Google and Safari 4 from Apple. And coming soon is the latest version of Opera – Opera 10.
Before we get into the tests themselves, I thought I’d start with a brief history of the browser world and describe how each of these browsers got here.
In the beginning, Sir Tim Berners-Lee said “Let there be the world wide web” and there was. Actually, the beginnings of the web are a bit more complicated, but his basic idea was to have a collection of interlinked sets of data (pages, images, documents etc) using a simple protocol. This idea was used by Lee to create the world’s first web browser (also called WorldWideWeb and later renamed to NeXus). In 1993, the NCSA Mosaic web browser was created which soon spawned the then ubiquitous Netscape Navigator web browser. Oh how I miss the good old days of the big ‘N’!
Microsoft, which initially seemed to have lost the game, responded by bundling it’s Internet Explorer browser with it’s Windows operating systems. This shut Netscape out of the picture almost completely, and IE went on to reach a near 100% ownership of the browser market.
But again, Microsoft lost it’s way, and with the advent of new technologies and what with worms and viruses and trojans (Oh My!), which made use of the tight integration between the browser to spread, people were looking for alternatives.
In the background, we had a Norwegian company, Opera Software, which also was building browsers. Unfortunately, it’s desktop browsers never became a hit, but it’s browsers for mobile phones and other internet access devices are very popular.
When Apple launched it’s Mac OS X, it also created the Safari browser. Originally, Safari ran only on Mac OS, but later was ported to Windows with Safari 3. The latest iteration is touted to be the world’s fastest browser (currently, of course!).
And search king Google, was also not resting on it’s laurels. Even though it gave a bunch of money to Firefox, it felt that it needed to do more in the browser market and released Chrome.
Internet Explorer 7, which by now had become the internet’s favourite whipping boy for not following standards and being buggy, was soon overhauled by Microsoft last year and they promised a new standards compliant browser – Internet Explorer 8.
So now, we have five different browsers each with a different history and different features all competing for the prize of the best and biggest browser on the web. In Q2 2009, the market share of these browsers was:
As you can see, IE still has the lead with nearly 66 percent of the market share, according to NetApps. But there are rumours that IE market share has dropped quite drastically in the last month, but the numbers are yet to be analyzed.
Coming up next… Browser features!