Happy birthday Firefox. Its hard to believe that its been 5 years already. Just surviving 5 years in the tech industry is a fairly significant feat, but Firefox has made its mark as the big fish in the small pond. Being the leading web browser that isn't Internet Explorer is commendable; however Google may knock Firefox off its pedestal with Chrome.
When Mozilla unleashed the first Firefox web browser, it was welcomed with open arms by a web-browsing population that was bored with the lack of innovation in Internet Explorer 6 and increasingly concerned with the massive security issues that plagued Microsoft's web browser. With each successive security flaw discovered in Internet Explorer, more experts jumped on the "switch-to-Firefox-for-better-security" bandwagon.
Firefox has been very successful in waking the sleeping giant. With little in the way of competition, Microsoft seemed content to ride the stale Internet Explorer web browser as long as it could. The initial success of Firefox forced Microsoft to get on the ball and create a new version of Internet Explorer that was both more secure and more innovative (if by innovative we mean it borrowed all of the best features from other web browsers so it could catch up with what the competition was doing).
Ultimately, much of what Internet Explorer has become has been driven by the competition with Firefox, and for that we owe Mozilla thanks. But, at 5 years old the Firefox browser may have already seen its best days. Now the tables are turned and it is Firefox that is riddled with security holes and the innovation playing field seems to have leveled out some.
Firefox has enjoyed a dominant share of the web browser market--at least a dominant share of the browser market that isn't occupied by Internet Explorer. It has certainly led the charge in denting IE's armor, whittling Microsoft's share of the web browser market down from 'all of it' to about 65 percent. That is impressive, but is it reasonable to think that after f years Mozilla will suddenly come up with something new that will compel the rest of the Internet Explorer faithful to make the switch?
Consider for a moment that at least part of the success of alternate browsers is not a reflection of whether or not they are superior to Internet Explorer, but is actually a commentary on the success of alternate operating systems. Internet Explorer only works in Windows.
According to Net Applications, Windows has just under 93 percent of the operating system market. That means that 7 percent of the systems in the world have no choice but to run an alternate web browser. Ironically, users of operating systems like Mac OS X and variations of Linux are the most vocal and ardent crusaders against Internet Explorer--and they can't use Internet Explorer if they wanted to.
The new kid on the block is Google's Chrome. Even Chrome seems to offer little to compel Internet Explorer users. At this point, it seems like the battle between alternate web browsers is relegated to a battle for second place and the browsers are much more likely to poach each other's market share than to steal much more from Internet Explorer.
Thank you Firefox. Because of you my Internet Explorer 8 is much better than the Internet Explorer 6 you set out to dethrone. Congratulations on reaching the 5 year mark. Let's meet again in 5 years and see how that first decade turned out.
This story, "Firefox Turns 5, Will it See 10?" was originally published by PCWorld.