I’ve always believed competition is good. It breed ingenuity, evolution, and value for the customer. Mostly, it comes in the form of price and features. There has always been one special niche of the competitive space I’ve always found interesting; The Web Browser.
When they first came out, they went from free to pay to free again. There are a few questions I ask and that is:
1. Is it truly Free?
I would absolutely say that every browser is free. The reality is it isn’t. So why would a company put out a browser and give it away? The answer; data. While some browsers will send all of your data to a proxy where the data is retrieved and served to you in a much simpler form to be more efficient (Opera Mobile), others used to report data to their organizations directly (Safari [some versions]), and yet others will just drive traffic to their search Engines (Internet Explorer, and Chrome). That is the monetization scheme. So without massive modification, a browser is NOT free. They support the organizations that put them out in one way or another. I’m actually surprised Facebook isn’t putting out a browser. Why? Consider them the juxtaposed version of a browser. Drive people to their site and use the infrastructure to mine the data. Sound Familiar? Search Engines for example?
2. Which one is Best?
So a browser is a wonderful tool. It allows us to interact with the world while once serving as a window, it has metamorphosed into a doorway. Which brings me to the question I am going to answer. Like a car, not one is perfect for everyone.
Everybody has different needs and this article is not so much meant to put one conclusion in front of everyone, but to simply help you, the consumer, choose which one is good for you.
Opera: While it is a good browser, I believe it’s strength lies in the mobile market where its proxies ingest your requests and slim them down to be mobile device friendly. Their core strength is definitely there. As for the desktop? It’s not their game. I would venture to say the company was very forward thinking and now it’s catching up with them. Their success is assured and they are surely an acquisition target. The downside? Mobile speeds are creeping up slowly to the point where there will be no need for an opera-like browser. They’re going to have to change their business strategy.
Sales of the browser used to generate revenue, but with the slew of competitors, they’ve had to give away the browser to get at the data.
If you have a slow internet connection, opera is the way to go on your mobile device. If you have a relatively quick internet connection, I would say forgo the browser and just hook up to wi-fi wherever you find it.
Mozilla Firefox: A personal favorite of mine and my main browser of choice. Why? Simply, because it’s available and so is its source code. This leads me to believe that if anything weird is going on, they’ll be called out. How do they make money? Simply, due to their distribution base, they wield the power to negotiate extremely profitable deals with the search engines. Ever notice why there’s a special Google Search page for Firefox users when you first install it? While we’re not privy to the details of the deal, I can guarantee you it’s a profitable one. I especially love the plugin base of the Mozilla project. You can customize the browser to your whim. Any whim. If you need it, chances are, there’s a browser plug-in for it. It is slow compared to the other browsers, but with a sufficiently fast computer, it operates fine. I especially like the fact that it is available on all major platforms.
Google Chrome: A truly innovative browser in my opinion. It’s fast and integrated. Easy to use with by far, the best interface of them all. When I say fast, I’d say two to three times as fast as Firefox. Integrated very tightly to the “Google Applications” infrastructure and pretty much compatible with every website on the market. A nicely done product. I use it as my secondary browser.
Internet Explorer: This browser is a beast. It’s heavy and uses proprietary Microsoft technologies. It is easily customized and locked down for corporations. The perfect corporate browser and it comes with every version of Windows. Microsoft has become incredibly security conscious and has in some cases gone overboard. They’ve made the browser near annoying with their security features, but the one thing it has going for it is the install base. The other thing going for it is it’s extremely corporate friendly. Microsoft knows which trough to drink at and they’ve been making a killing on it ever since they introduced the first version. One problem though; to make it usable, there needs to be a massive amount of customization to the browser and the OS it’s running on. (yes, I ended a sentence with a preposition; so kill me).
Safari: Apple’s entree. Much of their application infrastructure is built around Safari. It is very secure and near invulnerable to attacks comparatively to other browsers. I try to use it, but I just can’t seem to get myself to like it. It works, but it’s just too controlled by Apple. So for now, I’ll just leave it to the Apple crowd and simply say, “If you have an Apple”, it’s a sufficiently competent browser.
There are so many other browsers on the market. Here’s a graph of browsers coming to my site to give you an idea of distribution. I have a fair enough amount of traffic to make a fair assessment of market distribution. I highly doubt even google’s assessment of browser distribution will be very far off from mine.
If you’re building a website, consider these stats in this graph if you want the most bang for your buck.
As the landscape changes (and it will), one will have to wonder which is best and which isn’t for you. Choose carefully and don’t just take my word for it. Experiment and see which one you like and is best for your use.