How Much Competition Can The Market Bear?

Netscape vs Mozilla vs Firefox vs Opera vs Internet Explorer

Tuesday, February 1, 2005 by Zoomba | Discussion: Industry

Later this month, Netscape (AOL) will be releasing a beta version of their latest browser version… Netscape 8. This time though the browser has a rather odd parentage. Let’s look at the overall progression of the Netscape browser line. Each item is based on the item before it.

NCSA Mosaic -> Netscape 1-7 -> Mozilla -> Firefox -> Netscape 8

So now, by that train of logic, Netscape is loosely based on itself rather than being a direct evolution from previous versions.

Netscape, Mozilla and Firefox are all competing against Microsoft for market share in the web browser arena. IE rules supreme here through a combination of shady business moves by MS, and sheer incompetence by Netscape. The browser wars were declared over and dead years ago, no one can really argue who won. However, now we have a revival of that old competition, though it’s not quite as close as it used to be. Firefox right now represents the best threat to IE, taking up roughly 20% of the pie (MS still holds about 70%, and various versions of Netscape, Mozilla and Opera make up the remaining 10ish%). So you’d think Microsoft might be feeling a bit uncomfortable, that maybe they’d be rethinking their IE strategy, right? Well, probably not.

Most computer users don’t really care what the name of the program is that lets them check CNN.Com, or access their bank information online. To many, the web browser is just another feature of the Operating System itself, not a separate application that they could find a replacement for (issues of IE being built into Windows notwithstanding). To the average user, a computer is a black box that just has to work and they’ll take whatever is thrown at them by default.

Let’s say that the above population is steady at about 60% of all computer users (it’s likely higher, but we’ll go with that number). So that’s over half of all surfers who will always use Internet Explorer. That leaves 40% to be given to a competitor. Now, even 40%, while not quite half, is a respectable chunk and can provide some real power to whoever makes the browser that sucks up that share. Even at 40%, a competitor could give Microsoft a bit to worry about and would likely spur them on to better their own product. Even though the tables are slanted, you still have the recipe for good, healthy competition.

As things are going though, even if IE drops to 60%, or hell even 50%, we’ll never see any real competition. The reason is the other side of the line is too busy trying to edge out each other. Netscape is going after the AOL crowd… Mozilla is trying to act as a technology platform, and Firefox is just doing its own thing and is somehow gathering popularity. They’re taking the market and fragmenting it severely. Netscape has the brand recognition that the other two could only dream of, yet it’s the browser whose horrible design decisions were what finally tipped the scale towards Microsoft. Mozilla is trying to be the end-all-be-all tool and tech platform… it’s a beast of a browser. Firefox is just trying to take what Mozilla is doing, strip out all the crap, and build something that just flat-out works without being bogged down by bloat. Problem is that while they all technically work together, they’re trying to undermine and outdo one another.

There’s a lot to say for limited product choice in some cases. Yes, greater choice in a lot of cases means greater competition. In computing though that doesn’t hold true, because the consumer doesn’t know enough to be able to pick the “better” product. Mac OSX is a better product in terms of technology, security, ease of use and all that. For the average user, it even has all the software you need. But it’s not even making a dent in the market share of Windows. Certain distros of Linux are making huge strides in terms of usability, but aside from in the tech geek arena (where quality does matter), it’s not really touching Windows on the desktop. The better product doesn’t always win in this arena. You win through being quickly recognizable. You achieve that by being one of the two or three dominant providers in a given area.

With such an entrenched user base for IE, having four or five competitors isn’t going to do much to dislodge MS’s stranglehold on the market. The Mozilla camp (since they’re all the same core technology) needs to realize that there is a lot more to gain by banding together under one browser and using their resources to push that, instead of putting out a whole bunch of different products that are only incrementally different and ultimately lose out to MS just because they have the single largest chunk and no one else can come close.

Sadly, until the tech community as a whole realizes that it’s not us geeks who choose the successful technologies but Mom and Pop Smith who can’t even program their VCRs, we won’t see anyone come close to challenging Microsoft in any market.
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Reply #1 Tuesday, February 1, 2005 3:27 PM
I have tried all the different browsers out there, and have always come back to IE. It is the most compatable with windows. I guess until somebody breaks the strong hold MS has it will be that way. I liked Firefox, but there were so many web pages that I need to get to that it will not work with I had to go back to IE. Not to mention after I installed Firefox there was a long list of spyware that my Adaware, Spybot and Pest patrol picked up from it. You can't beleieve everything you read about these browsers. They claim to be safer than anyone, especially IE. If that was true they would not come with so much spyware.
Reply #2 Tuesday, February 1, 2005 3:32 PM
Firefox does NOT come with ANY adware or spyware. NONE.

Where did you download it?
Reply #3 Tuesday, February 1, 2005 5:38 PM
The only problem I've had with Firefox 1.0 is that Windows Update still insists on using IE, and that's not really a problem since I just run automatic updates these days. The irony of using IE as default software is that it was so full of holes that in order to use it safely you had to become expert at running anti-spyware programs.

As far as Firefox coming with adware - if you downloaded it from somewhere other than an official mirror then it's possible but it's more likely it was there from surfing those non-Firefox compatible web pages, because in general if a web page won't work with Firefox it's probably trying to do something underhand to your browser.
Bebi Bulma
Reply #4 Tuesday, February 1, 2005 5:50 PM
The whole argument of "oh IE comes with the OS so it must be the best to use" is simply bunk to me. We're all here because we want to customize our computers to NOT look like the default, right? Then why would we want to stick with the default browser that came with the system? I was hesitant at first to try out an alternative browser, I've tried netscape, opera, and firefox. Didn't like netscape or opera much, hell didn't even really like firefox when I first started using it because my site looked messed up in it, so I went back to IE. But then I started educating myself and came to realize firefox was more secure and way more customizable than IE in so many ways. After I had to install this new hd (my old one died) I was forced to use IE for a little while since I didn't install firefox yet, after getting everything installed and then running adaware, spybot s&d, the only spyware/adware found on my system was from IE, not firefox. Like the others have mentioned, if you got spyware from firefox, supposedly, it was because you got it from a shady source or were carelessly downloading things from shady sites that were bundled with spyware (like anything from themexp).
Reply #5 Tuesday, February 1, 2005 6:40 PM
Firefox does NOT come with ANY adware or spyware. NONE.

Firefox Initial 1.0 release for the German market came with spyware in the form of an eBay plug-in that sent queries through a third-party address imagine that
Reply #6 Tuesday, February 1, 2005 8:01 PM
I think BetaMax is better than VCR's anyday.
Reply #7 Tuesday, February 1, 2005 8:15 PM
BetaMax IS better than was just marketing that lost them the edge...
Reply #8 Tuesday, February 1, 2005 8:52 PM
Then why would we want to stick with the default browser that came with the system?

Lets see:

Because it starts faster?
Because it is faster overall?
Because more websites work with it beter?
Because it organizes Favorites better?
Because this crap about security holes is fud because most were fixed with SP2?
I would also like to point out that people are always bringing up the point that IE has to be patched. Well take a look a Firefox. It used to be version .9 and is now version 1.0. Guess what? It had to be patched up as well. The whole point of patching is make a proggie more better and more secure.

(that's why I choose to use IE and not even give other browsers use at all.)
Bebi Bulma
Reply #9 Tuesday, February 1, 2005 9:06 PM
*shakes head*

There were a lot of improvements and features added from .9 to 1.0, not just patches. I have no problem organizing my favorites with firefox, the bookmarks toolbar is a wonderful thing. This "crap" about security holes is matter how much you try to delude yourself. As someone else mentioned in another topic (sorry can't remember who at the moment) mentioned, he had about 40 patches sitting in his updates menu just for IE. That's very real.

Websites work with it better because MS has had a monoply over the market so webmasters were coding for the majority, which unfortunately is IE at the moment with its joke of a css rendering system and the fact that it turns its nose at any kind of web standards. IE really is limiting the ability of coders to use the new technologies that are available to them because of an outdated, obsolete browser that MS refuses to make compatible with the new standards.

Have you even tried out firefox or any of the other browsers for more than 30 seconds at a time? You can't judge something without giving it a FAIR trial and use. Being an armchair critic means nothing in terms of validity.
Reply #10 Tuesday, February 1, 2005 10:07 PM
I think that there are more than a few biased IE users out there. I am more than ready to argue to anyone the merits of using Firefox over IE. The usability is greater, the stability is better, and it just works. The fact that a group of developers seem to cling to the goliath that is currently IE. Although the metaphore seems antiquated, I believe that Firefox could be the David that slays IE.
Bebi Bulma
Reply #11 Tuesday, February 1, 2005 10:19 PM
Also I would just like to add, think about this: firefox has EARNED it's share of the market, whereas IE only has it because of shady practices by MS (which they were taken to court for) for breaking a trust or something about a monopoly where only their browser, IE, is included with the OS and none of the alternatives are.
Reply #12 Tuesday, February 1, 2005 10:25 PM
Have you even tried out firefox or any of the other browsers for more than 30 seconds at a time?

Yes I have used Firefox and others for days at at time. I even have Firefox installed right now. I crave a faster start up and overall speed and I have not had any security issues so I will stick to IE.
Reply #13 Tuesday, February 1, 2005 10:57 PM

Using IE is just dumb.  The other night I accidentally loaded IE, and within an hour had 4 pieces of spyware on my machine.  Firefox is gaining on average, 1-2% marketshare per month, while IE is losing that much.  If this keeps up, in about 15 months Firefox will be in the lead.

I'm still in awe so many nOoBs use IE.

Reply #14 Tuesday, February 1, 2005 11:22 PM
Using IE is just dumb.

Each to his own choices thank you.

I'm still in awe so many nOoBs use IE.

Well I'm no noob. Been fooling with computers and the internet for years. the reason I get no spyware while using IE is because I use a few anti-spyware proggies that prevent it. As a matter of fact my last ad-aware scan yeilded 4 entries and I had not scanned in months.

BTW Microsoft will NOT let Firefox take over. As soon as MS feels threatned they will release IE 7 and/or update IE 6.
Reply #15 Wednesday, February 2, 2005 12:40 AM

In computing though that doesn’t hold true, because the consumer doesn’t know enough to be able to pick the “better” product.

truer words were never typed.

Reply #16 Wednesday, February 2, 2005 12:50 AM
BTW Microsoft will NOT let Firefox take over. As soon as MS feels threatned they will release IE 7 and/or update IE 6.

Microsoft has stated many times that the last significant upgrade to IE6 other than routine security patches was the improvements that came with XP SP2. If you're running a version of Windows pre-XP (98, NT, 2000) then you have no way of getting the updates other than buying Windows XP. In addition, Microsoft has stated many times that there will not be a new version of IE until Longhorn, and that it will only be available for Longhorn only.

The reason why IE starts up quicker is because it is integrated into the operating system (which is a huge security concern) and so it is always partially running in the background as a part of the overall OS. For my machine, a year and a half-old laptop running XP SP2, Firefox is actually quicker because while the IE window appears in less time than the Firefox window, Firefox renders my homepage quicker than IE does. While the startup time (from icon click to homepage fully loaded) probably varies from one computer to the next, the Gecko rendering engine has been shown to render pages quicker than the IE engine on average. Once again, there are probably exceptions to the rule, but I personally have not seen a computer where Firefox did not render pages quicker than IE.

One quick comment on the competition: while the Mozilla foundation will continue to develop its full Mozilla Suite, it has said its focus will be more on standalone apps like Firefox and Thunderbird (take a look at #1 under "a new roadmap" ). The Mozilla Suite and Firefox are not in competition, but rather they cover two separate markets: just browsing (Firefox) and a full-service Internet app (Mozilla). In addition, the new Netscape 8 will have an antiphishing feature not found in Firefox and the option to render a page using IE's engine if necessary, which would put it several steps ahead of Firefox.
Reply #17 Wednesday, February 2, 2005 5:09 AM
Minor note on this:

NCSA Mosaic -> Netscape 1-7 -> Mozilla -> Firefox -> Netscape 8

Technically speaking, both Netscape 1-4 as well as IE are descendants of Mosaic. Mozilla on the other hand uses a completely different codebase. Netscape 6+ is just a repackaged/branded version of Mozilla, while Firefox stems from the browser component of Mozilla.
Reply #18 Wednesday, February 2, 2005 8:11 AM
You sure about Firefox being faster? I think NOT!!

Go test both IE and /firefox on your machine using this link...

Reply #19 Wednesday, February 2, 2005 8:45 AM
I'm not trying to argue the relative technical merits of IE vs Firefox or anything else. In the end that argument falls to personal preference 100%. Which brings me back to the real point of this article... Mindshare and Marketshare. To those of you who simply "can't believe" anyone would willingly use IE and they must be morons for doing so, I have this to say to you: You are the reason normal people react poorly to IT folks in general. Get off your high horse and try to realize that most people don't want to customize their computer, they just want it to work. They think of it as an appliance whereas we think of it as a tool. Do you mod your toaster oven at home to get that extra 6 degrees out of it? Do you want different color face plates for it to make it more unique? Probably not since to you it's just a toaster.

Whatever is the default is what a majority of users will use. So IE has a solid unchanging minimum market share that short of some miracle, no one will really make a dent in that. That leaves the rest of the market to be divided up by Mozilla, Firefox, Netscape, Opera and whatever other companies spring up with their own browser (Google?). Despite what everyone says about the rest of them not competing with one another is bull. How many different applications do people want to have to learn to browse the net? One, maybe two at the very most. There isn't room for 5 or 6 browsers, even if one is going for enterprise users, another for Mom & Pop, another for the hard-core techies (who use lynx anyway). Everyone in the end likes to have a consistent environment between home, work, their friends house etc. You don't want to have to relearn where menu items are, or how exactly to add and access bookmarks.

I didn't write this article about the tech-saavy, those of us here are the ones who have enough knowledge to customize our desktop environment, to install alternative operating systems, other apps etc... The reason is because we don't drive technology in the marketplace. We don't, face it. Like I said, the "better" product rarely wins out because it's not on technical merit alone that these things are decided. Marketing and simplicity win out over technical merit just about every day. IE wins because it's already there on a user's machine and it "Just works" It is because of this mentality that Microsoft can't really be beaten anymore on the end-user side of things. At best, these other browsers can steal away only a certain % of users from IE, only those who are knowledgeable enough to weigh the technical merits and come to an informed conclusion. That group though is not in the majority at the present time, and doesn't look to be in the near future.
Reply #20 Wednesday, February 2, 2005 11:13 AM

It makes no logical sense to use IE, just the basics of risk and security alone is enough to warrant the use of an alternative browser.  The reason 75% of the Malware out there can spread to other PC's is because of people using IE.  Using Firefox alone, is the best thing someone can do for the security of their system, and its FREE..

But like I said, Firefox/Moz is stealing 1-2% of the IE browser market every single month, so its only a matter of time. I've also read a few technical journals that say many firms are requiring firefox for their employees because lets be frank, it prevents spyware/malware. Now that the industry has accepted Firefox as the better solution, its only a matter of time before it takes the market - its already mainstream and nothing can stop that, with a full 30% of the market using Firefox/Moz now.

So go ahead, bury your head in the sand, and keep using IE, keep buying those antispyware licenses to try and protect yourself.. Keep running Adaware 12 times a week.  I mean, without noObs, who'd these spyware people have to infect? 

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