Have you ever wondered about the purpose of browsers? And why are there so many of them, when they all seem to do the same thing?
Browsers are actually an essential part of the Internet. Without them, the whole world wide web would be meaningless. They are the entities that interface the work of web developers with the user experience. This is why browsers are so important.
Then And Now
Just like every fast-developing territory, the web has created the perfect context for long-lasting browser competitions. In fact, these rivalries became so popular that we can even talk about cold, guerrilla browser wars.
The leaders of the late 90s were Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Netscape’s Navigator. Although Internet Explorer eventually managed to overcome its rival, its moment of triumph did not last. In the 2000s, more and more browsers started to gain popularity. At first, Mozilla Firefox ruled the competition, but shortly other browsers such as Google Chrome and Safari followed. Nowadays, ever since the sudden and huge rise of mobile devices, there are even more browsers.
The following chart from Wikipedia shows the current browser market share:
Why All The Fuss?!
When dealing with too many options, the average user might feel overwhelmed. Therefore, we’ll try to provide some hints as to what differentiates a good browser from a bad one.
There are 4 visible aspects that users take into account when deciding to use a particular browser:
- user interface
Technically, there are other important traits, such as security capabilities and standards compliance that matter even more, but these are rarely known by the majority of users.
If a browser lacks in any of these 4 aspects, then it not so good. If you experience broken pages or Apps, weird behavior or slow speed, it means that you have: 1) an old device 2) a bad connection or 3) an old browser.
Browsers with an increasing popularity are usually fast, have a simple and nice interface and support most of the HTML5 and CSS3 features. Usually, browsers losing popularity can no longer keep up with the competition.
In fact, many people think that some browsers have betrayed the confidence of their users to such an extent that they are past the point of no return.
With the increasing popularity of HTML5, having a browser that supports most of its features will provide the best user experience. You can take a short test here to see how your personal browser handles the HTML5 features. If your browser fails throughout the test, maybe it’s time to update it to the latest version or find yourself a new one.
HTML5 provides the means for a lot of the mechanisms present in modern web Apps:
- Watch videos and listen to music
- Check the user’s location and the orientation of the device (for mobile devices)
- Readjust the size or drag the elements of the page
- Edit text content
- Smart forms that help users select a date, specify a number or an email
Modern Apps use many of these native features and benefit from the increased speed and reliability provided by browser implementation. But this requires compliance with new standards or even drafts.
However, developing Apps that are supposed to work for all users is not an easy job. Especially since a lot of users still have deprecated browsers, often because they have old hardware or simply because they are not aware of how important the browser is.
That’s when the situation becomes difficult for developers. We either stop supporting older browsers, so that we can focus on actually building the Apps instead of making them compatible with all the browsers, or we continue to support all the browsers in order to allow all users to enjoy our Apps (but we also passively encourage users not to update to a newer version).
With innovative Apps, it is better *not to support old browsers*, but Apps designed for mass market (for example, an App to pay taxes) should support the legacy ones.
Since it’s already Friday, take your time this weekend to update your browser. 🙂
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