What’s behind Web browser choices

By , Network World |  Software, chrome browser, Firefox

The Web browser is a tiny piece of software code that sparks fierce loyalty among end users, who debate the speed and functionality of the latest versions of Microsoft IE, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and the rest. But enterprise network managers seem less concerned about end user productivity than they are about standardization and security. That's why more organizations are standardizing on one--sometimes two--commercial Web browsers.

The economic downturn is encouraging this trend, as more organizations cite cost-savings from supporting fewer Web browsers.

"As this downturn occurred, fewer people have experimented with things that are outside of the standards," says Victor Janulaitis, CEO of Janco Associates. "Corporations are saying: I'm just going to use Internet Explorer…They want to stick with one browser and not many from a consistency standpoint and because of security alerts."

After years of flux, the enterprise market for desktop Web browsers has stabilized.

For the last year, Microsoft's Internet Explorer has held around 70% of the market, while Mozilla's Firefox has held 20%, according to Janco Associates. The rest of the market is held by smaller players: Google Chrome with 4%, Opera with 1%, Apple Safari with less than 1% and the remainder to older versions of Mozilla and Netscape browsers.

The current situation is turnabout given that market share for Web browsers has varied widely in the 15 years since the first commercial Web browser was released.

Slideshow: Commercial Web browsers turn 15 

It was 15 years ago Tuesday that the first commercial Web browser -- eventually called Netscape Navigator -- was released as beta code. While researchers including World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and a team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications created Unix browsers between 1991 and 1994, Netscape Navigator was the first commercial Web browser to become a household name.

In the intervening years, the Web browser has prompted battles for market share, government-led lawsuits and attracted hacking attacks. Much of the innovation today surrounds creating new and improved browsers for mobile devices and social networking sites.

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