Chrome is the new Internet Explorer – 4 stages

Filed under #ChromeIsTheNewIE and #web

So I posted a comment over at HN mentioning this quote. And this time I took the time to write down a short explanation since the quote tends to be misunderstood to mean that Chrome is like Internet Explorer (from now on referred to as IE) was in 2009: most people were using it even though it was technically inferior.

Since I have a few minutes more to spend and I want to write more, here is a more detailed explanation:

What we saw in 2009 was only the latest stage of something that had been going on for a while and I will distill it down to 4 stages:

  1. Dominance: Backed by profits from Microsofts cash cows back then – Windows and Office – and also what seems to me like some very ugly tactics from other teams at Microsoft, IE became the dominant browser of the early 2000s.

  2. Monoculture: Pragmatic web developers and project managers realized that they could reach 75% or more of the market without even caring about testing in any other browser except IE. This was possible since smartphones as we know them today didn't exist and Linux and Macs both didn't seem to cross the 2% market share on desktops until late 2009, see Usage share of desktop operating systems on Wikipedia for some more details.

  3. Lost interest: Pragmatic business people at Microsoft realized that they had the marked locked down and stopped development of IE. While Firefox and Opera offered better browsers, it didn't matter for Microsoft initially since everyone were still forced to have an instance of IE available because a number of sites including many banks and official websites didn't work reliably in anything except IE.

  4. Disruption: While Opera, Safari and Firefox were gaining users, the last of them possibly to a large degree driven by the rise in popularity of Macs and Ubuntu although some of us were using it on Windows as well, the table wasn't really flipped until the iPhone launched and both devs and management realized this would become huge.

If you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy my post Are you making a real web application? Or just a Chrome application? were I interview a strawman of the lazy dev who didn't care to test in other browsers except IEChrome ;–)