One browser to rule them all

One browser to rule them all, one Google to find them, one extension to bring them all, and in the darkness (Redmond?) bind them.

I had a dream

As an Interface Developer, for quite some time I've nurtured a dream that there, one day, would be just one rendering engine. Perhaps naive, maybe futile, but the gist was for web browser vendors to offer any shell, extensions and features they wanted, just as long as the rendering of the code itself was the same, all across the board. However, I've come to accept the fact that we really need competition to push web browsers forward, make them go the extra mile, and exceed the expectations. This is all fine, as long as we don't have too many options.

The future

I think the advent of Google Chrome has really sparked the competition in the web browser market, and in the upcoming years, I'm sure we will be witnesses to a new sort of web browser war. Mozilla initially laid the foundation for this with their fantastic work with Firefox, and built awareness in the entire world that there are options when it comes to surfing the web. At the same time, Safari and Opera provide lightning-fast rendering, and even Internet Explorer seem to shape up pretty well with the upcoming IE 8. So, what will happen? My prediction is that Firefox will continue gaining ground, just as they have for over five years now, while Google will definitely affect the market in a major way; given that they continue to put effort into Google Chrome.

Web browser market share prediction

So, this is probably rather a wish-list than being in touch with reality, or plainly completely off-the-wall, but let's speculate that the web browser market share will look like this within 2 years:
  • Internet Explorer 35%
  • Firefox 28%
  • Google Chrome 22%
  • Safari 12%
  • Opera 3%
Compare that to where we are today, according to the statistics from TheCounter.com for August 2008: What do you think? And what do you want?
Posted in Developing,Google,Technology,Web browsers |

20 Comments

  • Andreas says:

    # Safari 12% thats optimistic for sure:)

    whats more interesting for developers is, how will the browser wars affect us? i think it will be more and more about the rendering engines and js engines rather than the frontends that using them.

  • I would go with: IE=55%, Firefox=20%, Chrome=15%, Safari=10%, Opera=0%

  • And what do you want?

    Ha! You caught me at a rather bad time to ask that question. I'm right in the middle of "debugging" a site in IE6. Which you actually can't call "debugging". It's more like trying every possible combination of CSS declarations to see if something changes for the better. Ugh.

    IE makes webdevelopment a pain. Every project, at the end of which I start my testing process across browsers, I have to jump through hoops (up-and-down moving hoops that are on fire, mind you) to patch things up in IE6. That browser really has to go.

    I honestly don't really care about what browser ends up on top in a couple of years. Sure, I'm not big on Microsoft so I'd rather see another company having the largest user-base, but the promises for IE8 look pretty good, and if they walk the walk I won't complain if they, again, end up being the biggest player.

    Far more important to me is how Microsoft will make their users upgrade, because even when IE8 will be released from beta, we'll probably still be stuck with IE6 for a couple of years (and IE7, which isn't perfect either). And that's just tiring. I see more and more sites publish articles about wether or not we should ditch IE6, or how we could campaign against it, pursuading users to upgrade.

    And I think that's the most important issue nowadays. The browser wars will end in all the big companies releasing standards-compliant browsers anyway (again, if promises are met), so if all users just start using the latest versions, I foresee no problems.

  • Interesting, lets give it a try!!

    * Internet Explorer 50%

    * Firefox 22%

    * Google Chrome 20% (through search and massive marketing channels)

    * Safari 5%

    * Opera 1%

  • David Read says:

    Internet Explorer 35%

    Firefox 30%

    Google Chrome 20%

    Safari 14%

    Opera 1%

    More interestingly is how Firefox and Chrome will affect RIA development. Marketing firms tend to push Flash for RIA dev. Chrome and FF are focusing on JavaScript.

    We can only hope that a reliance on browser plug-ins for UI will be a thing of the past.

  • Martin Odhelius says:

    And here is my wishful thinking

    * Firefox 52%

    * Internet Explorer 10%

    * Google Chrome 10%

    * Safari 10%

    * Opera 10%

    * Others 8% (both commercial and free alternatives)

    the free alternatives will have the majority of the market (58%), the alternatives with commercial interests will fight for the rest of the cake (42%) ;-)

  • I seriuosly doubt that IE will loose any market share, according to big companies with their thin clients. As long as they stick to old habits, chances is that IE never will go below 50%.

    (A friend of mine works on a big firm in Skellefteå ,Swe, and they have 1000 computers with IE6 since IE7 seems "too risky" or "not worth it" yet.)

    IE 50%

    Firefox 20%

    Chrome 15%

    Opera,Safari 15%

  • icaaq says:

    I really like Chrome and i think (hope) that ordinary people that use internet to pay their bills and maybe look at some newspaper-sites starts using it. It's great for just that, a quick and simple browser!

    The problem is that this is the ie6 users as I see it, and those people are very hard to get, they think internet is the "blue e". If google can their hands on this users I'll be a very happy man.

    My prediction of the browserstats within two years is:

    IE: 50%

    fx: 20%

    chrome: 25%

    other: 5%

  • With the recent infections of computers from compromised websites (mainly asp sites), I wouldn't be surprised if some of the larger companies decide to go with Firefox, simply to avoid infection through IE.

    Seeing Google put out a browser is a welcome change in the market. We really need more HUGE players to put the fear of non-domination into MS, so they can catch up or kill of IE.

    I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Google manages to conquor a significant portion of the home user market, as they certainly have a popular website to market their browser on :)

  • Kalle Wibeck says:

    Hey what is this? Does everyone really believe that the desktop will continue to rule as a browsing platform?

    OK, Opera Mini will probably count as an Opera browser, the same goes for Safari on iPhones (with/without iRectum) and IE on Windows Mobile, but what about the rest?

    All proprietary phone browsers? They will probably put up a larger fight than the "nice" desktop browsers. After all, most desktop browsers are starting to get a grip of themselves compared to a few years ago it's the emerging flora of smartphone browser that gives me the creeps… Anyone tried surfing the web with SonyEricsson's built in browser Netfront lately?

    @Robert can you do a similar line-up for different screen-sizes?

    // ; ) Kalle

  • Erik says:

    I've had this dream too, but mine went like this:

    FF 50%

    WebKit based browsers 49.9999%

    IE8 .0001%

    IE7 0%

    IE6 0%

    Opera 0%

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Good input! And I definitely agree with what many of you said: it's the IE 6 users who are the biggest problem, and we sincerely need to remove the assocation between the "blue e" and surfing the web.

    However, it will probably take a long time till IE is under 50% of the market. Will it ever happen? Yes, I actually think (read: desperately hope) so!

    Andreas,

    Yeah, maybe it was too high for Safari. I was rather thinking that Vista isn't especially popular and Mac OS X continually gets more and more users, so the idea was that a lot of Safari users would come from there.

    Harmen,

    I feel your pain. :-)

    David Read,

    Yes, the RIA aspect is definitely an interesting one. Imagine full SVG support in all web browsers together with better JavaScript engines: that would at least render a lot of Flash-based web sites unnecessary.

    Morgan,

    Definitely, if Google decide to go all-in, they have tremendous marketing power. I, for one, hope they use it to spread Google Chrome.

    Kalle,

    Absolutely, the mobile web browsers are indeed our next big issue. Hopefully, the way it looks now at least, I hope Safari and Opera Mini will have a substantial share of the market share.

    …(with/without iRectum)…

    Ha ha! :-)

    In regards to screen sizes, does it really mater that much, though? I mean, sure, to some extent, but generally with more elastic layouts, it's not that big a problem if the user has a 1024 resolution or 1280 one.

    Looking at the resolution stats, those two seem to be extremely dominating, and will probably stay that way for a long time to come.

    Erik,

    F**k yeah! That's what I'd really want!

  • Andrew Noyes says:

    I think Google Chrome fits into the picture pretty well. Sure, there's the complications that arise from being in competition with Mozilla, a company that Google almost entirely funds, but Google Chrome really shows where the market is headed.

    There's an ideal browser that exists somewhere, likely my vivid imagination, that renders my code 100% correctly. This is the browser I code for. But when I come back to planet earth, I usually turn to the most standards compliant browser I know: Safari. There's plenty of room for argument there, but usually what renders properly in Safari renders properly in Opera, and now Google Chrome as well. You kill three birds with one stone in the easiest way possible: starting with the little guys, and then slopping on the *special* code for *special* browsers, like Internet Explorer.

    This onslaught of minor browsers has brought standards compliance to the forefront of web development, which is slowly achieving the goals of the Web Standards Project: making information more widely accessible. This newfangled browser soup has made web development a little more difficult, and the quickest way to ease the pain is to develop with standards, which is going to bring every browser up to standards compliance.

    My guess is that if Internet Explorer 8 can't bring itself up to standards, it's going to do what all previous IE versions have done: break every last damn site on the internet. Except this time around, I think people are going to be a bit less tolerant of it than they were with IE7's release. Here's how I see things in 2 years:

    Internet Explorer: 50%

    Firefox: 33%

    Google Chrome: 5%

    Safari: 10%

    Opera: 2%

  • Ceriak says:

    Just a note: according to the analisys of the largest ad company of Hungary, Firefox already overcame IE here :)

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Andrew,

    Thanks for a long comment! Definitely, seeing how much income Mozilla get from Google, it will be very interesting to see what happens in a few years when the current deal ends.

    Personally, I always test code in Firefox to begin with, for a number of reasons: I love its rendering and using, plus it has the best web developer tools and support out there.

    Ceriak,

    Hungary rocks! :-)

  • [...] I wrote One browser to rule them all, I also wanted to speculate a little in where the operating system market might be heading. Suffice [...]

  • Robert,

    Based on your predictions for IE its really clear that you are a web developer. IE holds a 75% market share, of which at least 1/3 is IE6. The same IE6 that was released in 2001…with Windows XP. As much as we can dream that people will magically see the light and all of a sudden start upgrading their software, I find that hard to believe. I think the IE 6 contingent is going to shrink, but its going to go extremely slowly, unless Microsoft forces some sort of update which I see as unlikely.

    On the Chrome front, I think we have all been impressed by the quickness by which it has gained market share. Unfortunately that market share came at the cost of Firefox users. The people who are downloading and using Chrome and the same people that download and use Firefox religiously, the early adopters, the geeks, if you will. In the short term I think Chrome is going to cannibalize Firefox market share to a certain extent, but as we've seen people are slowly making their way back to Firefox which is unfortunate for Google. I think that until Chrome has a solid Ad-Block and Firebug plug-in the geeks are going to stick with Firefox.

    Safari market share will go up based mostly on the large increase in iPhone browsing, although as Apple continues to sneak it on Windows PC's I think that might pick up a few people along the way.

    In terms of web development, its only going to get worse before it gets better. Yes, we all like Chrome, but its just another browser to have to check sites on.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Jonathan,

    Well, Microsoft did force IE 7 as a security update, and they might do that with IE 8 as well. There will be a breaking point where it's not financially possible to motivate the extra money spent on making web sites work in IE 6 (for some web sites, this has already started to happen).

    Looking at the first initial reports about Google Chrome, it was evident that it did take users from the Internet Explorer group, and not Firefox et al. Over some time now, the share it has seems to have been equally taken from IE, Firefox and Opera, but not Safari.

    This means that with the PR that comes with the name Google, it will have it biggest outreach to "regular" users on Windows, which is the most important group to help realize there are options.

    With all that said, will my prediction come true. Most likely not, but it would be nice. :-)

  • Flug says:

    Well I have thought about it a good while. What do we need another browser for? The answer is in the "war" you mentioned. Google just had to program its own browser in order to be independent from Microsoft, that might just close the door for google and force their IE users to use MSN search. I expect the key players to offer closed internet areas, unvisible for the user, that ensure revenue by manipulations. So the key is to have open source browsers like FF.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Flug,

    Interesting input! I guess we'll have to wait and see what the future holds. :-)

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