What it is: A web browser is the main program for accessing the Internet and Google Chrome has taken the lead in the browser market.
A long time ago, you actually had to buy a web browser for your computer. That fueled the growth of the first popular web browser known as Netscape Navigator. Then Microsoft undercut Netscape Navigator by offering Internet Explorer for free. It’s hard to compete with a free program, so it’s no surprise that Internet Explorer, bundled with Microsoft Windows, soon became the most popular web browser in the world.
Unfortunately, Microsoft tried to hijack the Internet by creating unique features that only Internet Explorer could use such as ActiveX controls. The goal was to redefine the Internet according to Microsoft’s standards so only Microsoft technology would work on the Internet.
Naturally the rest of the world rebelled at the thought of a Microsoft-controlled Internet, so they started working on open standards as a way to fight back. Once Microsoft’s Internet Explorer dominated the browser market, Microsoft simply sat back and did nothing for the next few years. That’s when Firefox, an open source web browser, started gaining in popularity based mostly on its tighter security features that Internet Explorer lacked. Microsoft didn’t lose the web browser market to Firefox so much as they ignored the web browser market until it was too late.
Firefox quickly became the most popular web browser and displaced Internet Explorer. To fight back, Microsoft tried to update Internet Explorer but even they admitted defeat and decided to create a brand new browser instead called Microsoft Edge. Since Internet Explorer had gotten such a bad reputation over the years for being buggy and insecure (thanks to Microsoft letting in languish for years), Microsoft decided it was easier to start all over again.
Meanwhile, the programmers at Firefox got distracted with too many projects ranging from their Thunderbird email client to creating a new mobile operating system called Firefox OS, which never seriously challenged iOS or Android and seems destined for obscurity. While Firefox’s programmers wasted time on other projects, they ignored their Firefox browser to the point where it was no longer the most secure and no longer the fastest and easiest browser to use any more.
That’s when Google’s Chrome browser started to grow in popularity. With Chrome bundled on Android devices, that simply helped cement Chrome’s popularity as the world’s most popular browser. Even though Apple offers Safari on iOS and OS X, there simply aren’t enough iOS or OS X computers out there to rival the number of Android devices. That makes Google Chrome the most popular browser in the world and Safari a distant second.
Meanwhile Internet Explorer’s popularity is still great enough for third place but it has no future and will gradually decline. As Internet Explorer’s popularity declines, Microsoft Edge’s popularity will be unlikely to compensate, which means Microsoft seems to have lost the browser market for good. Considering they once dominated it with Internet Explorer, then lost its leadership to Firefox and later to Chrome, this marks a serious lack of competence and long-term vision by Microsoft.
While Google Chrome may be the most popular browser, keep watching. New browsers appear all the time and if Google fails to keep Chrome updated, then expect a new rival to take over. Until that moment comes (if ever), expect Google Chrome to be the most popular browser for the next few years to the point where Safari will be second and everyone else will be a distant third.
If you’re a web developer, make sure your web sites work on Google Chrome and Safari. By doing that, you’ll address most of the mobile market and a large portion of the PC market as well.
Browsers may not seem like a big deal, but considering they act as a gateway to the Internet, they’re far more crucial than you might think.