The crowded field of web browsing

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It is amazing how open the world seems once you realize you have options. Once you discover life exists beyond high school you can do whatever you want and for that matter be who you truly want. Whether it be apartment, car, washer/dryer, or mattress as soon as you start making adult decisions you find out the true value of a dollar. But in technology it seems these lessons occur with every new innovation. For instance there are a multitude of smart phone, laptop, and desktop options, but even what initially seems so trivial can immediately become paradigm altering. The best example of the power of choice in tech may just be the web browser.

When web surfing first started resembling what it is today, it was the mid 90s. At that time home PCs were overwhelmingly the home computing tool of choice and therein the main tool for web browsing was Internet Explorer. Of course many people were reaching the internet through services like America Online still but many of those subscribers didn’t understand how to surf web without the use of Internet Explorer.

Now for the time, place, and content available on the world wide web, Internet Explorer was a fine tool. Saying you were proficient in web technology in 1997 is akin to an American citizen today saying you’ve visited Cuba; it’s not completely foreign, but the sample size it is rare. The 90s iteration Internet Explorer offered many familiar features like bookmarks, navigation, refresh, copy/paste, and font manipulation but compared to what’s offered today it is childs toy.

By the early 2000s competitors started to crop up. The biggest splash came with the release of Mozilla Firefox. It loaded pages faster, was more stable, tabbed browsing, warned users to security concerns, and the ability to manipulate content through third-party add-on software. These features were game changers, and for what seemed like the first time, casual web users discovered they had a choice in web browsing. Slowly other alternatives started to gain traction in home computing; Netscape, Apple’s Safari browser, Opera Software’s browser, and before too long Google got into the mix with Chrome.

Leave it to a web services company to redefine the standard in web browsing. In its short nine year life span, Google Chrome has not only supplanted Internet Explorer as the number one web browsing tool, but it is used by more web users than its competitors combined. Built with a similar ethos to Firefox, Google brought new thinking to how web content can interact with users. Suddenly browsers offered bookmark and sharing across devices, dynamic and interact sites such as Google Documents and Google Drive were able to word process and design content across multiple users, and innovation and security were ramped up through the direct involvement of the very people who used the tool.

While Chrome may be currently be king of the hill, there’s no guarantee it will be there forever. Upstart browsers look to unseat Chrome like Vivaldi, which focuses on user shortcuts and acts more like a mobile browser with zooming and content swiping, or Maxathon which doesn’t incorporate a great deal of extensions focusing more on quick content loading and the opportunity to download all media displayed on a page.

Today, choice is abundant in the browsing arena. Choice abounds so much it actually killed off Internet Explorer, with Microsoft replacing it with a new “Edge” browser just last year. Will it retake the mantle IE lost? Anything could happen, but with dozens of browsers on the market now, it’s hard to see users regressing to the friendly face of Microsoft.

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb


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