Gossip: Browser War II

September 4th, 2008

We all know the result of Browser War I a decade ago: IE won, Netscape diminished.  Well, it’s a decade past, and it would be weird that everyone was just sitting there watching IE enjoyed its market share.  So, the Browser War II begins, and it becomes full-scale after Google Chrome announcement.

There are several players this time: IE, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Chrome (well, I deliberately ignored those small players with <1% market share).  IMO Firefox is likely to diminish because Firefox is now burning Google’s money.  It’s not likely that Google will keep investing Firefox after Chrome really taking off.  As a result, Firefox needs to find some other capital sources (badly), which is a tough mission (Yahoo and AOL had much bigger problems themselves and thus I couldn’t think of other capable capital sources).  As to Opera, it still struggles for survival, let’s see how long it could keep itself in this arena filled up with cash whales.

IE 8 and Chrome share many amazing similarities (e.g. per process tab), which is a good reflection that great minds tend to take same routes solving problems.  The biggest problem of IE is backward compatibility since it has a huge customer base that it needs to support, and thus it will be constrained further for its designs and improvements.  Chrome seems quite promising so far, however, it needs to get out of beta in six months if the goal is to knock down IE.  Microsoft has a proven record at playing catch-ups and thus we can assume that it will eventually match whatever Chrome provides in a year or two.  As a result, if Chrome failed to ship fast, it will actually erode more of Firefox’s market share for two reasons: it’s hard to persuade business computers to shift using a beta stage browser, and it’s more likely fan users of Firefox to make the switch individually.  By the way, most computers sold in the US today had Google Desktop/Toolbar installed, but not Firefox.  The story would change if it is Google-branded Chrome provided that Chrome is out of beta.  In order to catch up next back-to-school season sale, Chrome must be out of beta next February, which is also six months from now.

As long as iPhone keeps its momentum, Safari will have a solid market share since Apple’s development environment is not designed for easy porting.  I’d like to see a hypothetic scenario that Chrome runs on Windows Mobile and knock out crappy mobile IE.  It would be VERY, VERY interesting if Verizon Wireless or T-Mobile opt to use Chrome as default push service browsers for their Windows Mobile phones.

Time will filter out the last one(s) stand.  We shall see in two years 😀

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