The State of Browsing
There’s been a lot of noise about Mozilla lately, especially their Firefox browser. As Mozilla nears the 1.0 release of Firefox, many are noticing the sudden drop in Explorer’s numbers.
For some reason, and I have no idea why, I find browsers a fascinating topic. Perhaps it’s the web developer in me, but I find reviewing the latest stats abnormally interesting, and collecting different versions of browsers almost a hobby. (I have about 12 installed concurrently, dozens more archived.)
Anyway, there’s been a lot of noise about Mozilla lately, especially their Firefox browser. As much as I love Opera, they simply cannot compete with the word-of-mouth firestorm happening right now on the Gecko side—thousands have turned away from IE as hundreds of sites rave about Firefox. As Mozilla nears the 1.0 release of Firefox, many are noticing the sudden drop in Explorer’s numbers.
I did my own informal survey of browser stats, and found some interesting things. It seems Internet Explorer is indeed losing ground to alternative software; TheCounter shows a small year-over-year 1% drop in IE usage, and a 2% gain in Mozilla. Reinvigorate, which logs almost 50 hits a second, shows IE 5-6 at a combined 89% and Mozilla logging an impressive 5%. In other sites I surveyed, not a single one showed IE breaking the 90% barrier.
What’s particularly interesting are the server logs of web developer sites. SourceForge’s stats show Mozilla raking in an impressive 24.3% with Firefox comprising 17% of that number. W3Schools shows a nice trend toward Gecko acceptance with a beefy 19%. Looking more closely at their monthly stats, it shows Mozilla use growing every single month since January 2003 and a five-month downward trend of IE6. On graphicPUSH, whose audience I assume is well versed in technology, Mozilla actually surpasses Explorer by a hair, with Opera a distant third.
Since developers are the early adopters of new browsers, this is an excellent sign of things to come. In gaining widespread acceptance in the web-savvy world, and with the constant negative press surrounding all things Internet Explorer, it’s only a matter of time before the general online community begins adopting Firefox with open arms.
As far as I can see, there are three core hindrances to Gecko domination.
- Need a 1.0 release. A non-beta release will lend massive credibility to the release, and Firefox will succeed where the Mozilla suite failed—a streamlined, customizable and extensible browsing environment that is not weighed down by frivolous mail applications. This hurdle will shortly be mounted.
- People need to be aware of it. I think most people assume IE is simply part of the OS and never stop to wonder if there is an alternative. This problem is slowly being solved as the grassroots movement spreads the word. What’s interesting is that almost every article lambasting Internet Explorer’s shortcomings (crappy standards support, security nightmares, etc) makes mention of alternative browsers—Mozilla, Opera and Safari. Free press is always appreciated.
- People need to actually download it. This is the big one. Firefox has two huge advantages in this department: it’s free (without ads) and it’s a relatively small download.
I find that once people start using it, little light bulbs go off over their heads. They see a nice GUI and huge speed improvements. If they dig deeper, they find ample customization like skins and extensions, and they start to understand the small nuances that make it a better browsing experience—the improved download manager, the intelligent bookmarking system, the automatic RSS feed discovery. Soon, IE is left to collect digital dust unless required for some crappy bank site.
Then that person tells another person, and somewhere, a web developer smiles because the online community is that much better.