Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Browsers vs. IE

"Dear IE," writes Vamosi, "I'm leaving you for good". And a few of us have switched over, converted from IE forever. About 65% Spider.tm blog visitors access us via Internet Explorer while the number of Netscape based browser users has shot up from 10 to 20% since August 2004. There's all of 2 Opera users amongst us who have been visiting this blog [do say hi/salaam, I'd like to know who you are] for a while. To all Internet Explorer users, Firefox is worth the switch! Read Vamosi's column, if you've missed Spider reviews of the other browsers. Reinvigorate, the site tracker this blog uses, has stats on platforms/browser usage.


iFaqeer said...

Good to see you all discussing this. From the moment I saw the Vamosi article yesterday, I have wanted to write to all of you to discuss this. Here's why:

I am a (technical) writer in Silicon Valley and have had a preference/bias for Netscape (and then Mozilla)for the same reasons everyone else on forums like this does. But the reason for not shutting out use of IE by myself or family members completely was because something that I learnt on a visit to Karachi back in 1998. The patrons and admins of a cyber cafe in Karachi (the one in Clifton center across from Motta's for people that know that neighbourhood) expressed the opinion that "IE works faster". I later got a technical explanation for this from a techie who has interned at the Microsoft mothership up in Redmond, WA: the graphics rendering engine in IE is definitely faster than the one in Netscape. And a difference like that can help one's sanity when surfing over a very slow connection and paying by the minute. It is things like this that reinforce my respect for the online and techie community in Pakistan--they know their tools and know how to get the best out of them. (And my opinion for the technie and NetSurfer community of Karachi has only gone up recently, as I have seen the sheer number of Orkut members from our fair city.)

Which is why, since I saw that article, I have wanted to get feedback from the streets of Karachi on how Firefox is playing out in the cybercafes and desktops out there. Does it really compete with IE in the "real world", outside our cosy work areas with fast connections and OpenSource shrines?

Lucifer's Angel said...

Reinvigorate didn't detect any visits made through Firefox? I have been visiting this place for about more than a month now, using Firefox. And man, Firefox sure is worth switching to. And it's not just that Firefox is good, it's also that IE sucks way too much to be used too, just like Vamosi figured out atlast.

TechWhirling: You sure do like Karachi don't you? :-) BTW, this explanation that you got from the nerd at Redmond, don't you think that's exactly what an MS priest would be preaching? The managers at Redmond surely are good, at cashing the most out of their customer's stupidity, ain't they?

As for the "real world" competence of Firefox, it surely has the potential to lose IE some market share, which it already has to some extent, but no, it's not going to take over the whole web back from IE (for all the obvious reasons you know, better marketing strategy, having well rooted monopoly, stupid end users, etc etc). And that's not even the goal of Mozilla foundation. Initially they are targeting for 10%. Hopefully they are going to achieve this target quite easily, even if only the geek community out there switches to Firefox completely. Surely, the geek community has got enough ungeek fandom out there too, which if in turn gets switched to Firefox, would make the stats even higher for the red panda.

Well, actually it's the Mozilla foundation who's more interested in all that statistics stuff. The think that I now care about is, I feel free now. It's such a good feeling living in a world free of germs (IE worms and viruses). I have fallen in love with Firefox and nothing is going to make me switch back to any other browser. As for the IE, it doesn't even stay on my pc. I kicked it out and it's spouse (Windows) about a year ago. Initially, I had been using Konqueror, the default KDE browser, and now, well, you named it. Yep! Firefox. The browser wars surely are back.

iFaqeer said...

Thanks for the comments, Shoaib.

On Karachi: call it the sentimentality—or guilt, if you will—of a native that doesn't live there anymore. :D

On Reinvigorate: I think it can't tell the difference between Firefox and Netscape...or was it Mozilla?

On Market Share: I am sure Firefox will exceed expectations as usual. At least until MS "fights" back by including the new features people want into IE.

SQ said...

Coincidentally, today's Stanford Daily has the whole story about how Firefox was in part created by a Sophomore at Stanford University, who started working at Netscape when he was 14 years old.

IndyanWriter said...

Firefox rocks! The only problem is configuring it to become the default browser whereby I can check my hotmail email through it, when I click the "12 new messages" link on messenger. Any thoughts?

Merlinx said...

I have been following the browser wars since the days of NCSA Mosaic. If you look at the graph over the past 10-12 years, IE had slowly and steadily edged out the Mozilla generation taking away its user-base a few % every year and usage of IE saturated just round the millenium. From a statistical perspective, it is a no-brainer to figure out that IE can only lose market-share from here because it already controls more than 90% of it. It has hit its zenith and the best it can do is to maintain the status quo and prevent any drastic dip.

There was a time I remember during the mid-90s when Mozilla browsers and IE roughly controlled half the market share each. Then Netscape (the only popular manifestation of Mozilla) started to lose the market because of flaws in its rendering capabilities of underlying browser framework technologies like DHTML and JavaScript. Websites started getting more and more complicated with the more and more complex e-commerce type applications and Netscape was getting more and more unwieldy handling web pages containing complex scripting.

I remember once I was dealing with a customer, a North American customer, with whom we were having a debate about whether to "tilt" towards IE as the de facto standard or Netscape for his site. This was just about 2-3 years ago. One of my developers showed one interesting example that destroyed the case for going with NN: he opened up websites of companies that were owned by the parent company of Netscape i.e. AOL-Time Warner, and ran those in Netscape and IE. Believe it or not, most of them ran without flaws in IE but not NN. As usual, their DHTML rendering was screwed up in NN6. One of the sites was CNN.com. The customer went with IE.

It was issues like these that gave away Mozilla marketshare to IE an inch at a time. I agree that Firefox and all the other browsers will take away marketshare from IE because when you're at the top, the only way to go is down. ;-) I agree that speed is important but so are stability and reliability especially when you are developing corporate sites. It may not really matter to you if you are developing your own personal website or a site where the visitor-base's experience doesn't directly translate into $$$$. But stability becomes extremely important --more important than speed at times-- when you are developing an e-commerce website where pages are acting as the conduit between your company and a user conducting a transaction. You don't want the page (and the company's transaction) to blow up because the browser couldn't render the DHTML, XML/XUL or JS properly. And you don't want to write browser-specific code for every dang browser that CS sophomores at Ivy League schools or nerdy high-school dropouts are coming up with! It is a maintenance nightmare having to tweak browser code for web applications for IE and Mozilla and then on top of it the AOL user-base.

Only time will tell how big a dent Firefox will make for IE and a lot of things will determine that [based on current trends AND the cleaning up of past screw-ups]. But one thing is for sure, it has a steep uphill battle.

Some links of interest for people who want to get into more details:


Zunaira said...

Nice note on why not to pay attention to the competition.

It does sweep off reasons making millions downloading Firefox 1.0 who are not catering to customers in NA. Remember the end user? Firefox fits my online requirements just fine.

Explorer is default in cybercafes I've been to. Pity. Also, the Net Tips questions sent to Spider by Cybercafe admins [and there are lots of them] to date have all been about IE.

Sikander said...

Yes, FireFox is the best browser out there nowadays, ....but Im not sure if I can completely remove Internet Explorer from my system just yet, because there are still quite a few websites that won't open or work properly on Firefox but will work just fine on IE. That's the only thing that keeps me from erasing Internet Explorer from my system.......otherwise.....FireFox is just perfect! (Well almost, there's always room for improvement......say.....the download manager for exapmle!)

Merlinx said...

Well, the reason most cybercafes have IE installed is because it comes bundled with the OS. Why go to all the trouble of downloading and fiddling with some other software when one for the same purpose already comes pre-packaged with the OS? They're running commercial outfits; it's not like some personal experience thing where you find what best suits your needs and tastes then get that. This was definitely a bit-underhanded in the classical MS style that drew the monopoly lawsuits. MS drew a lot of fire during the Win 95/98 years when it first introduced this tactic [of making the browser part of the OS]. Then somehow the protests faded out by the millenium and this practice settled in.

And yep, you can't delete IE whether you use it or not because not just websites but also many desktop applications and components don't run without IE being installed i.e. in MS Office 2003, etc. Certain back-end components are shared.

atrophying said...

*waves arms enthusiastically* I'm the Opera user!

Lucifer's Angel said...

The reason why some websites don't work really fine with Firefox has less to do with the browser and more to do with the designers of those websites. In case you people have missed, Firefox is the most standard compliant browser out there now. Seems like many of those not-working-website's designers never new they should be paying more attention to the standards while working on a project instead of going for some fancy pancy extensions added by the popular browsers.

Time to write some emails to your favorite websites' webmasters whose pages aren't standard compliant. :-)

Merlinx said...

Wake up and smell the silicon amigo. ;-)

More than half the sites in the world today are designed with errors of one kind or another. (I don't have the exact %.) As a matter of fact even website coding tools ranging from FrontPage and Dreamweaver to Visual Studio.NET render a real cocktail of tags and markup-language code that are NOT fully standards-compliant. Even site coding/development tools generally produce HTML code that does not comply with the specifications (which you can download and study from the www.W3C.org website). If we started emailing all the site authors and webmasters out there, we'd probably need to re-design the entire World Wide Web. Not a pretty thought, is it?

Firefox maybe more standards compliant than any browser out there. And I agree, hands-down, that that is a very good thing. Credit given where credit is due. BUT that isn't what will determine its success...and subsequently its survival. It needs to be able to handle whatever is already out there.

Think of it this way, it's like designing the perfect car but it's of no use if it can't handle the terrain where it will be used. It could very well be a Ferrari or a Camry or any other great set of wheels. Maybe you can drive it around the neighborhood and it'll make you feel good, too. But if you're gonna drive it in a war zone, what you need is an Abrams or a T-72. You can't change the whole landscape because you just built the perfect car according to all the standards in the world. ;-)

Some more links of interest related to my comments and this discussion thread:


Lucifer's Angel said...

Of course not.

"More than half the sites in the world today are designed with errors of one kind or another."

And it's time that the webmasters realize that there is no more room for errors and time to comply with the standards. Because that's what the standards are there for, to be put to use.

Just because there are thousands of lazy webmasters who can't help but to use WYSIWYG HTML tools out there, doesn't mean that the web browser would have to keep up with all the common (small and big) mistakes that web authors make.

Either you comply with the standards and stay in competition, or your rival does the same and knock you out. Time to change the code you produced. :-)

Rafay Bin Ali said...

The IE v. firefox battle can be analyzed from various perspectives with each yielding a different conclusion. For example, if we look at Microsoft from a historical perspective, it would not be a naive conclusion that IE would definitely win. An end-user perspective paints a somewhat dismal picture for Microsoft; all may not be lost as Microsoft has plenty of resources to refine IE and beat firefox. From a developer's perspective, IE is a natural choice since it integrates so well with the OS.

The corporate executives, on the other hand, hardly give a damn about what's in and what's hot and as long as IE gets the job done for local intranets, they would be happy. Plus, implementing a uniform policy throughout an organization requires some real hard investment so to speak and MIS managers would think twice before switching over.

Another scenario leads to Microsoft buying out firefox just like it did with Hotmail.

A major stakeholder is the government. With Microsoft always at odds with the US Federal Government and recently in Europe, it is quite likely that the political pressure would cause some inconvience to IE.

However, as Mr. Diamond Ali has pointed out in this month's SPIDER, in the end the market would belong to whoever delivers.

Merlinx said...

Elementary Mr. Ali. Now all that remains is for us to take our seats and be'hold which way the winds shalt blow. ;-)

SQ said...

Who said Microsoft is at odds with the US Federal Government? Not with the Bush Administration, it's not...

Merlinx said...

The U.S. government doesn't mind an American company growing and dominating the world market but it doesn't look favorably upon any company getting too big for its britches in the U.S. market alone. Look at what happened to Ma Bell. Compared to what AT&T Bell was during its heyday, Microsoft is like pee-wee Herman. The phrase "Ma Bell" was coined for AT&T Bell to underscore its status as a ubiquitous icon in the American society. And the Justice Dept. eventually broke it apart in order to prevent any monoply from taking hold. But the U.S. government didn't block a merger of Boeing with Douglas (maker of the DC-10) not too long ago because Boeing competes with a heavyweight international rival i.e. Airbus of Europe. The U.S. government doesn't want the monopoly of any single enterprise within the U.S. or in cases where U.S. companies are competing against each other. Outside the U.S.A. or against non-U.S. companies is another matter.

Rafay Bin Ali said...

I just browsed a site http://www.flexbeta.net/main/articles.php?action=show&id=32
that has 13 points in favor of firefox. All of them seem to be from an end-uer's perspective.

BTW, does firefox have a specific target market?

SHA said...

Is it time to ditch IE



SHA said...

Comparison between different browsers



A reason why people are converting from IE maybe due to the number of viruses,spyware and adware targeted towards it.Because their thinking is "why effect a thousand when u can effect millions".But if masses convert towards other browsers,won't the hackers convert too ???


Augie said...

I've been scouring the darkest corners of cyberspace since 1992 and I like to think that I've used practically every version of the popular browsers that have come out. Right now I'm in IE6, Firefox 1.0 and Opera 7. I use all three browsers to access different sites. e.g I open Gmail only with Firefox and Spider.tm with IE or Opera depending on my mood. I've seen that though IE is faster in more respects Opera does prioritise it's downloads. Also it's not just the speed of the browsers, it's what other functionalities the browser offers. just check out all the plugins available for FF and i bet u`ll like it even more.

I've never liked using Netscape because of it's instablitiy. I've always had problems from the time of Netscape Navigator to Netscape 6 hence I've shuned NN from my life.

Now I'm a hardcore IE and FF user and I won't have it any other way.

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