Monday, February 7, 2011
A Beastly Browser Market
Depending on who is doing the counting Microsoft's IE Browser is starting to drop below 50% market share for all its versions - IE9, IE8, IE7, IE6 and IE5. This has been long overdue since IE has been one of the worst browsers for the past 8++ years. Only now does IE9 comes close to matching the features and HTML+CSS+DOM standards achieved many years ago by all of the other browsers.
World wide usage share of browsers for December 2010
Source - I.E. Firefox Chrome Safari Opera Mobile
Net Apps - 57.08% 22.81% 9.98% 5.89% 2.23% 3.45%
StatCounter - 46.94% 30.76% 14.85% 4.79% 2.07% 4.10%
W3Counter - 41.3% 30.3% 13.5% 5.9% 2.0%
Wikimedia - 42.12% 28.82% 11.18% 5.70% 3.67% 6.4%
Median - 44.53% 29.56% 12.34% 5.80% 2.15% 4.10%
The Beast of Browser Usage
And Opera has been a pioneer in such features as mobile web browsing, touchscreen operations, gestures, and voice activation. Indeed, many of the latest new ideas will be seen on Opera first. Also the Opera browser is free and a fast, easy down load and install. Finally, the latest Opera 11 gets very good reviews; still the Opera browser barely nudges past 3% in market share. Truly, the browser market is a strange beast as decided by fickle users when an innovative browser like Opera gets largely ignored. But even worse, with HTML5 the browser market will be fragmenting just as browsers[including IE9 finally], reached a reasonably high standard of cross browser compliance.
Everybody and Steve Jobs are saying the new HTML5 is the way to go. Ye editor believes HTML5 is a Trojan Horse. True, there are many attractive features in HTML5 such as CSS3, Canvas bitmap manipulations, Web Database, SVG supporting robust vector graphics, multi-touch screen operations, offline operations and other long overdue plus other very helpful features. The problem is that full and complete implementations of the just named features among the browsers is not months but years away. This new fragmentation will set Web and mobile development back in similar fashion to the Microsoft deliberate freeze on IE features for 6 years from 2001-2006. In sum, browser development is on the cutting edge of software delivery, and as such proprietary continues to win over standards. Neil Mcallister at Infoworld echoes this sentiment. Browser usage is , and continues to be, a beast.
Ever since Microsoft entered the browser market in 1996 with a proprietary and "perpetually" free plus "promised-to-be" standards compliant versions of IE and its IIS web server[ see the sidebar for details]; the browser market has been a bete noir - a black beast of a market. Look at the evidence:
1)IE continues to control 50% market share despite being the worst browser for 8++years;
2)Opera, one of the major browser innovators and leading browsers, is "rewarded" with a dribble, a continuing 2-3% market share;
3)Proprietary continues to win over standards based browser operations despite the clear advantage of open and interoperable on the Web;
4) The latest move to mobile phones and tablets also marks a major fragmentation of HTML5 and other Web standards.
So the next time you hear a Finance, Business, or Economics professor praising the efficiency and effectiveness of business markets, ask them to explain the bete noir that is the still dysfunctioanl Web browser beast of a market.