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The rise and fall of web browsers

Recently, Firefox reached a milestone of surpassing 20% of the browser usage on the net. Data at wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_web_browsers) shows a very respectable increase of Firefox over the last four years. Meanwhile, Internet Explorer has had a steady decline. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is Microsoft's previous attempts to lay unilateral claim to the browser as a proprietary platform. Another reason might be the dreaded alpha-png craziness that has given web developers nightmares! Ask any respectable webhead about IE and you will often see them physically shiver.

But, hidden in the data above, which comes from Net Applications (http://www.netapplications.com/) are the metrics for Safari, which has also been increasing in usage alongside, but in the shadow of, Firefox. Many web development teams focus exclusively on IE and Firefox, but with Safari at over 7% of browser-share, it must be included in QA testing to ensure the quality of page delivery.

Two other things leap out from the numbers. First, Apple is getting more and more play in the browser space - either as the bundled Safari often installed with iTunes, or by the increase in the number of Macs that are shipping (or both). Second, Firefox has a proven itself to be a very real contender for the crown, probably significantly due to the open architecture and the exceptionally rich set of extensions and themes that plug into the platform. Indeed, no webhead would be caught without the YSlow and Web Developer extensions for Firefox. They are spectacular tools for any web toolbox.


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