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Browser Wars - Round 2

browser wars

Since the inception of the World Wide Web in the mid-1990’s, there has been a battle between competing web browsers.  In the early days, the competition was between Netscape and Microsoft.  The competition got so intense, the US Department of Justice stepped in to regulate some of Microsoft’s behavior.  If you can’t remember Netscape, that’s okay, they are no longer in business.  For many years, Internet Explorer was the only browser in town so there was relative browser stability.

Today’s browser war is very different.  The top three browsers today are Microsoft’s Edge (Internet Explorer), Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s FireFox.  Both Microsoft and Google have nearly unlimited funds to spend on developing their browser technology.  Unlike Netscape in the past that was relying on licensing revenue from people using their browser, Microsoft and Google have different revenue models that provide funding for their browsers.  Both see their browsers as a significant technology in the delivery of their core services.  The third browser, Mozilla’s FireFox, is developed based on Netscape technology assigned to a non-profit organization that doesn’t have the resources to match the big two, so they are always playing catchup.

Why are we experiencing so many browser issues?  Website development is based on the industry “standards” that are in place at the point in time a website is developed.  Remember Microsoft’s Silver Light?  Most people can’t.  It was a technology Microsoft was pushing as an alternative to Java.  Proprietary to Microsoft’s browsers, Silver Light never got traction in the market, so Microsoft killed it.  Unfortunately, there were some large websites developed using that technology.  Today we keep a copy of the last release of Silver Light in a safe place so that we can install it with Internet Explorer (IE) 11 for some clients.  Other technologies that have been consumed by the browser wars include Java and Adobe Flash.

Microsoft and Google have little regard for those dependent on their browser technology.  A seeming innocent security update can hobble websites.  What may have been an acceptable security method five years ago doesn’t cut mustard today.   For many clients, we have had to freeze browser versions so apps can continue to function.  Chrome is probably the worst in pushing out updates that break things.  Chrome automatically updates itself whether you want it to or not unless you are running the corporate (Stand Alone) version of the browser.  How plugins are secured and executed in each browser is different causing various problems with websites. 

Needless to say if Google comes up with a “standard” Microsoft doesn’t like, Microsoft won't implement it.  Different Microsoft plugins won’t work with Chrome.  There is a standard settings board that sets standards for browsers.  As with any standards setting board, it moves slowly to make changes.  Microsoft and Google regularly introduce technology in their browsers long before the technology is even presented to the standards board.  Since neither company can knock the other one off financially, the browser wars are going to continue long into the future.  Make sure you have all three browsers loaded on your computer.  You never know which one will work.

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