Monday, January 21, 2008

Browser Wars

Ok so everyone has there own opinions on browsers at the moment some people rave on about firefox and thats all they will use and others are more towards internet explorer so i thought being a up and coming web designer myself id look into it see what all the fuss is about

Early Browser Wars
In the early 1990s there were many simple browsers available. The first well known and widespead was Mosaic. Several companies licensed it to create their own commercial browsers, such as Spry Mosaic and Spyglass Mosaic.

Marc Andreessen,One of the Mosaic developers, founded the company Mosaic Communications Corporation and created a new web browser named Mosaic Netscape. the company was then renamed Netscape Communications Corporation and the browser Netscape Navigator for legal resons . The Netscape browser improved on Mosaic's usability and reliability, and it soon dominated the market, helped by the fact that "evaluation copies" of the browser were downloadable without restrictions or cost.

First Browser Wars
(this is when good old microsoft kicked in)

By mid-1995, the World Wide Web gradually began receiving a great deal of attention in the popular culture and mass media. Netscape Navigator was the the main web browser at this time, while Microsoft had just licensed Mosaic as the basis of Internet Explorer 1.0 which it released as part of the Microsoft Windows 95 Plus! Pack in August 1995. Internet Explorer 2.0 was released three months later, and by then the race was on.

New versions of Netscape Navigator (later Netscape Communicator) and Internet Explorer were released at a rapid pace over the following few years. Features often took priority over bug fixes, and therefore the browser wars were a time of unstable browsers, shaky Web standards compliance, frequent crashes, security holes, and lots of user headaches. Internet Explorer only began to approach par with its competition with version 3.0 (1996), which offered scripting support and the market's first commercial Cascading Style Sheets implementation.

Main Wikipedia page using Internet Explorer 4.0In October 1997, Internet Explorer 4.0 was released. The release party in San Francisco featured a ten-foot-tall letter "e" logo. Netscape employees showing up to work the following morning found that giant logo on their front lawn, with a sign attached which read "From the IE team." The Netscape employees promptly knocked it over and set a giant figure of their Mozilla dinosaur mascot atop it, holding a sign reading "Netscape 72, Microsoft 18" (representing the market distribution).[1]

Internet Explorer 4 changed the tides of the browser wars. It was faster and it adopted the W3C's published specifications more faithfully than Netscape Navigator 4.0. Unlike Netscape, it provided the possibility for truly "dynamic" pages in which the flow of the text and images of the page could be altered after the page was loaded. Installing Internet Explorer 4.0 was considered as a system upgrade that would provide more capabilities such as MP3 playback and, optionally, the Windows Desktop Update.

During these times it was common for web designers to display 'best viewed in Netscape' or 'best viewed in Internet Explorer' logos. These images often identified a specific browser version and were commonly linked to a source from which the "preferred" browser could be downloaded. To some extent, these logos were indicative of the divergence between the "standards" supported by the browsers and signified which browser was used for testing the pages. Supporters of the notion that web sites should be interoperable with any browser started the "Viewable With Any Browser" campaign.

A lot was at stake for these two companies involved in the browser wars. A popular web browser could earn a great deal of money: search engine companies would bid to be the default tool used in the web browser, and other companies with a web presence would bid to be listed in the default set of bookmarks which was preinstalled with the browser. Since a web browser is a powerful gateway to a great deal of information, the company which controlled this gateway could conceivably have a great deal of influence over its users.

Microsoft had three strong advantages in the browser wars. One was resources: Netscape began with about 80% market share and a good deal of public goodwill, but as a relatively small company deriving the great bulk of its income from what was essentially a single product (Navigator and its derivatives), it was financially vulnerable. Netscape's total revenue never exceeded the interest income generated by Microsoft's cash on hand.[citation needed]

Another advantage was that Microsoft Windows had over 90% share of the operating system market. IE was bundled with every copy of Windows; therefore Microsoft was able to increase its market share. Furthermore IE remained free as the enormous revenues from Windows were used to fund its development and marketing, resulting in rapid improvements.

Thirdly it was faster and it adopted the W3C's published specifications more faithfully than Netscape Navigator 4.0. Unlike Netscape, it provided the possibility for truly "dynamic" pages in which the flow of the text and images of the page could be altered after the page was loaded.

Other Microsoft actions also hurt Netscape, such as:

Microsoft FrontPage 2000 in web-authoring modeMicrosoft created a licensing agreement with AOL to base AOL's primary interface on IE rather than Netscape.
Microsoft purchased and released a web authoring tool, FrontPage, making it easy to utilise proprietary extensions and non-standard HTML code in web pages.
Microsoft included support for CSS in IE. Some web designers found it easier to write their pages for IE only than to support Netscape's proprietary LAYER extensions.
Microsoft locked up a large portion of the Macintosh browser market in 1997 as part of its agreement with Apple that year. The agreement made Internet Explorer the default browser on the Mac for five years.
The effect of these actions were to "cut off Netscape's air supply" as stated by a Microsoft executive during the United States v. Microsoft case. This, together with several bad business decisions on Netscape's part, led to Netscape's defeat by the end of 1998, after which the company was acquired by America Online for USD $4.2 billion. Internet Explorer became the new dominant browser, attaining a peak of about 96% of the web browser usage share during 2002, more than Netscape had at its peak.

The first browser war ended when Internet Explorer ceased to have any serious competition for its market share. This also brought an end to the rapid innovation in web browsers; until 2006 there was only one new version of Internet Explorer since version 6.0 was released in 2001. Internet Explorer 6.0 Service Pack 1 was developed as part of Windows XP SP2, and integrated into Windows Server 2003 SP1.

The browser wars encouraged two specific kinds of behavior among their combatants.

Adding new features instead of fixing bugs: A web browser had to have more new features than its competition, or else it would be considered to be "falling behind." But with limited manpower to put towards development, this often meant that quality assurance suffered and that the software was released with serious bugs[citation needed].
Adding proprietary features instead of obeying standards: A web browser was expected to follow the standards set down by standards committees (for example, by adhering to the HTML specifications). But competition and innovation required that web browsers extend the standards with proprietary features without waiting for committee approval. Sometimes these extensions led to useful techniques that were adopted by other browsers, such as the XMLHttpRequest technology that resulted in Ajax. More often than not, however, these extensions proved harmful.
Support for web standards was severely weakened[citation needed]. For years, innovation in web development stagnated as developers had to use obsolete and unnecessarily complex techniques to ensure their pages would render properly in Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer. Netscape Navigator 4 and IE6 lacked full compliance with several standards, such as CSS and the PNG image format.

The near-universal adoption of Internet Explorer had also created a monoculture which has widened the damage done by malicious code.

Since Mozilla Firefox 1.0 was released in 2004, Mozilla and Mozilla-based browsers have established a growing niche in the browser market.

In 2003, Microsoft announced that Internet Explorer version 6.0 SP1 would be the last standalone version of its browser. Future enhancements would be dependent on Windows Vista, which will include new tools such as the Windows Presentation Foundation and XAML to enable developers to build extensive web applications.

In response, in April 2004 the Mozilla Foundation and Opera Software joined efforts to develop new open technology standards which add more capability while remaining backward-compatible with existing technologies.[2] The result of this collaboration was WHATWG, a working group devoted to the fast creation of new standard definitions which will then be submitted to the W3C for approval.

In February 2005, Microsoft announced that IE 7 would be available for Windows XP SP2 and later versions of Windows by mid-2005.[3] The announcement introduced the new version of the browser as a major upgrade over IE 6 SP1.

Internet Explorer 7 was finally released in October 2006. It included features such as the tabbed browsing seen in Opera version 2, a search bar, and improved support for web standards. Additionally, it included a phishing filter and a new GUI redesign. Microsoft distributed Internet Explorer 7 to genuine Windows users as a high priority update through Microsoft Update.[4] Typical market share analysis showed slow uptake of Internet Explorer 7, and after statistics in September 2007 from showed Firefox at 35.4% had taken over from Internet Explorer 6 at 34.9% as the most popular browser[5] with Internet Explorer 7 lagging behind in third place at 20.8%, Microsoft dropped the requirement for Windows Genuine Advantage for Internet Explorer 7 one year later, in October 2007.[6]

Firefox 2.0, launched in late October 2006, also included a phishing filter and GUI redesign, as well as a spell-checker for text fields and several other new features.

On the 11 June 2007, Apple officially entered the second browser war by releasing a BETA version of their Safari 3 browser for Microsoft Windows. Whether or not this browser will become an important factor in the browser wars is yet to be seen.[7]

On 2007-12-28, Netscape developers announced that they will discontinue their web browser on February 1, 2008.[8]

Other browser competition
Microsoft Windows
Although it currently only has a small desktop usage share, Opera is the third most popular browser on Windows (it is also available on other platforms, including Linux, Mac OS, the Nintendo DS and the Wii). In September 2005, Opera removed the ad banner and licensing fee from their browser with the release of Opera 8.5. Their stated goal was to replace Firefox as the second most used web browser. In June, 2007, Apple's Safari browser was released for Windows in beta form.

Other notable browsers for Windows are Netscape 8 (an Internet Explorer/Firefox hybrid), and SeaMonkey (a replacement for the Mozilla Application Suite). Front ends for the IE shell like Maxthon, Avant Browser and Enigma Browser that added features like tabbed browsing to IE were once popular, but with the advent of Internet Explorer 7, are falling out of use. Internet Explorer 7 now also includes tabbed browsing.
Linux and Unix
The Unix-based Konqueror browser is part of the KDE project and is the primary competitor against Mozilla-based browsers (Firefox, Mozilla/SeaMonkey, Epiphany, Galeon, etc.) for market share on Unix-like systems. Konqueror's KHTML engine is an API for the KDE desktop. Derivative browsers and web-browsing functionality (for example, Amarok has a Wikipedia sidebar that gives information about the current artist) based on KDE use KHTML.

Mac OS
Safari is Apple's web browser and is the most popular web browser for Mac OS X The web browser is based on KHTML. Other browsers include Shiira, and OmniWeb, which use the API WebKit, and many Macintosh programs are adding web-browsing functionality.[11]

Camino is a Mozilla-based browser for the Mac OS X platform, and uses Mac's native Cocoa interface like Safari does, instead of Mozilla's XUL which is used in Firefox.

[edit] Mobile devices
Opera Mini is a popular web browser on mobile devices such as most J2ME Java enabled internet connected dumbphones and smartphones because of its small footprint. Opera Mobile for smartphones main competition is from Netfront. PC Site Viewer, the web browser included on many Japanese cellular phones, is based on Opera. In February, 2006 it was announced that Nintendo "will release an add-on card" with a version of Opera for the Nintendo DS (Nintendo DS Browser).[12]. This DS browser has since been criticised for its lack of Flash support and slowness. Opera is also used as a web browser on the Wii console.

Windows Mobile comes with Pocket Internet Explorer by default and competes with Opera Mobile, Netfront and Mozilla's Minimo.

Safari, Apple's browser based on WebKit/KHTML, comes with iPhone and iPod Touch.

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