Browser Wars Over Yet?

This is an interesting article looking at desktop browsers. I’d be curious for a similar comparison for mobile browsers and operating systems. Mobile may have disrupted the browsers a bit, but I still use my laptop and mobile browser a lot too. Apps are a fair share of my mobile use, but I’m driven mostly by platforms using a mobile-first or at least API-driven parallel approach. I know quite a few people that are using mobile-only over 95% of the time. I’m getting that way, unless I have to write code…

What is maybe most important are the developer tools and developer testing. The Chrome developer tools are built-in, and surpassed IE and native Firefox developer tools at the time. This is especially important for JavaScript debugging, which used to be horrible for Internet Explorer. Several Firefox plugins improved the situation, but they weren’t native enough. Combined with users and developers liking isolating buggy web apps into their own processes, developers started using Chrome for development and later testing in other browsers. With mobile use rising, I think developers need to go beyond responsive design and design/test for mobile at the same time as desktop.

There are also several tools and services available to assist with cross-browser testing. BrowserSync and BrowserStack come to mind. Testing older versions of browsers is hard with modern auto-updating browsers, and the inability to install multiple versions of IE and Edge. Those browsers don’t even run on macOS unless you’re using a VM. The site has basic IE/Edge testing VM’s for free, but it is an extra pain for developers and testers.

Since many developers have adopted Mac as their default developer workstation, they’re rarely targeting IE and Edge unless required by the business. Safari is no longer available on Windows either. Services like BrowserStack are good but not free, and VM’s can consume a lot of storage and compute resources. Chrome runs fairly consistently across operating systems and between desktop and mobile. It is a good market to target.

However, for developers too young to remember how badly Microsoft tried to segment the internet and browser market with their proprietary extensions, they should do some history research. It would probably make a good long article. They did the same with Java, and it all but killed Java on the desktop. Preserving competition is important, and developer choice plays a huge part in that preservation. Without healthy competition and multiple options, developers and users run the risk of getting locked into the whims of the dominant platform.

Chrome won | Andreas Gal

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