General Question

Nullo's avatar

Browser wars: what's the point?

Asked by Nullo (22009points) March 14th, 2011

Obviously the consumers benefit, but on the other end, we have companies spending oodles of time and money on a product that they’re going to be giving away. I just sat through a 30-second plug for IE9 – that’s a decent amount just in production costs, to say nothing of getting it aired. Granted, Microsoft has money to burn, but still.
Firefox I can understand – it’s reactionary. And IE and Safari are part of the computer’s environment, effectively serving as advertising. But Opera? Chrome? Netscape?

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10 Answers

SavoirFaire's avatar

I’m certainly not well-versed in the details, but many of these browsers collect data on you as you use them. And that’s a valuable commodity right there.

jerv's avatar

Some programs are made solely as a matter of pride. Something about writing a program that is good enough to get large groups of people to use your program instead of someone else’s strokes the ego, and some people get off on that. That is also why if you look at the code for many viruses, you will find a signature; not merely a distinctive style, but something that says, “I wrote this!”.

Then, of course, there are those that are written because they have features that other programs lack. Who started the tabbed browsing thing anyways? IE may be the most popular browser (most likely since it is installed by default in the most popular OS) but it didn’t get that feature until years after Mozilla had it. I have a hunch that it was some hobbyist who said, “Hey, tabs would make browsing so much better!” and wrote their own browser. And that is how some features get popular and integrated into later works.

heresjohnny's avatar

What @SavoirFaire said.

Also, for Google Chrome, each person using it is someone who’s not using another browser. Since most of the companies who make those browsers make money from Google paying to be the default search engine, that’s less money Google is spending.

funkdaddy's avatar

The browser is the primary path into search and search pays the bills.

Google probably came out with one to cut down on the amount of money they pay to other browser makers. Microsoft uses theirs to set your default home page and tie in to their network of services (search, mail, updates, whatever)...

Unless I’m missing something, the browsers themselves do not collect information about you without your permission. Some send back browser information on errors if you allow that but it’s usually something that has to be opted in.

Sites you visit and ad networks may collect information about your browsing habits, and there may be a few specialized browsers out there that do more, but I don’t believe the widespread browsers themselves send anything personal back to home base.

Does anyone have a source showing otherwise? I’d definitely be interested.

koanhead's avatar

I’m not sure what you mean by Firefox being “reactionary”, but I can assure you it wasn’t developed as a reaction to Internet Explorer. Firefox was originally a component of Mozilla, which was the “Free Software” project upon which Netscape Navigator was based. Mozilla was the codename for Navigator (from “Mosaic Killa”, NCSA being its sole competitor at the time) and later the name of the communication suite (now known as Seamonkey) and of the Foundation that was responsible for it, and later, for Firefox, Thunderbird, et al.

I have six different web browsers on this computer (counting wget, but omitting IE which is on a VM) and I use them all for different things.

As for an actual answer to your question, I’d have to back up @funkdaddy. This ties into the FIrefox/Iceweasel phenomenon as well.

Austinlad's avatar

Great info from the comments above. Thanks.

mattbrowne's avatar

Competing ideas fuel progress. I don’t like the word war in this context.

IE was a reaction to Mosaic and Netscape. Microsoft was abusing their windows monopoly and IE usage went up. And IE didn’t deliver. Mozilla was an open-source continuation of Netscape and Firefox a browner-only approach within the Mozilla portfolio.

koanhead's avatar

There’s a book called How the Web Was Won that details the history to which @mattbrowne refers. It’s essentially about Microsoft and how it managed to “reinvent itself” to exploit the Web. Biased but interesting reading for folks interested in that sort of history.

Blueroses's avatar

It’s brand identity, if I understand the question.

Create a simple, easy browser that doesn’t create problems and is simple for most users and offer it free. Consumers who like it, now trust your name for other products. It does pay off in the long run to promote your free product.

recce's avatar

I was thinking the war is about accepting SSL certificates. The browser decides which certificates are considered valid, therefore certificate issuers pay money to the browser makers. So basically Mozilla earns money from GeoTrust, Comodo, Digicert, etc.

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