For the best part of the past decade I’ve been writing about web browsers. In fact it goes back further than that, all the way to the early 1990’s, when the Mosaic browser first opened my eyes to the potential of the World Wide Web.
Mosaic’s browser was a revolution, a new way of looking at this growing sea of online information. However, my preference for Mosaic waned when Netscape entered the scene in late 1994. Based on Mosaic, Netscape Navigator was a big step up and for most of the 90’s it was the dominant browser.
As a standalone browser Navigator was pretty cool, but Netscape had bigger ambitions and in 1997 released Netscape Communicator. It was a beast of a programme that did everything: browsing, e-mail, newsgroups and even included an HTML editor.
It was pretty impressive at the time, but by 2000 Netscape had begun its transformation into Mozilla and what would later become the Mozilla Foundation and ultimately, Firefox.
Running parallel to this was Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, its first release being in August 1995. It was at that point that the browser battles really began and over the years Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and others, have battled for supremacy.
Then and now
For the past decade supremacy in the world of browsers has always been about how quickly web pages could be rendered and how many extensions were supported.
Today the criteria for being the best browser is significantly different. It’s all about which browser is the best platform for online applications. Obviously speed still plays a part but it’s really about how well the browser manages applications.
When it comes to web applications Google is streaks ahead. Its Chrome browser is so much more than simply a browser. With Google’s array of web applications from Google Docs to Gmail, Chrome is fast becoming my window on my working world.
All of my e-mail is in Gmail, which I run as a Chrome application. My news and entertainment is in ChromeDeck, the Chrome version of Tweetdeck. An increasing amount of of my day-to-day work is done through Google Docs. For every one of these Chrome is my preferred “platform”.
Clearly, for me, the “browser battles” are over. I no longer care which browser renders web pages best. What is becoming important is how extensive the platform is, how easily it integrates into my daily life.
I no longer open a browser to look at a website; I open browser to do banking, read articles, play games, write, crunch numbers, watch videos.
Obviously every other browser maker is heading in the same direction, but for now Chrome has the clear lead.