On the Browser Front, Competition is Heating Up

There were several important updates on the browser front this week, from Mozilla, Microsoft and Google. From where I sit, there is very healthy competition going on in the browser market right now, and if you’re a web worker who favors only one browser, there may soon be some prompts for you to switch or mix up your usage.

Die-hard Internet Explorer users will have to wait until 2009 for a final version of Internet Explorer 8, Microsoft confirmed. There won’t even be another release candidate until the first quarter. It offers malware protection and other improvements, but is taking a relatively long time in development.

Meanwhile, Google has confirmed that it will deliver Mac and Linux versions of the open source Chrome browser in the first half of next year. The company has also confirmed plans to strike deals with OEMs to put Chrome on new computers as the default browser. We discussed both pieces of news on OStatic today. The move to make Chrome the default browser on new computers is particularly significant. That’s how Internet Explorer gained its dominance.

Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker delivered a post this week in which she discussed Mozilla’s financial position, which is key to keeping Firefox popular. Google, of course, provides massive funding for Firefox, and that arrangement is in place through 2011. However, eWeek is predicting that Firefox won’t survive the proliferation of Google Chrome, because Google won’t continue to support a competing open source product.

I doubt that last point, because Google benefits from Firefox’s existence in several ways, one of which is simply that Firefox keeps Internet Explorer from having absolutely dominant market share. I use all three of the browsers discussed here, but I continue to find Firefox the best of all browsers because of the huge number of useful extensions available. I’ve been using the beta version 3.1 of Firefox and it is rocket fast, especially at JavaScript tasks.

Still, we haven’t seen so much competition and innovation going on in browsers in a long time. We’re definitely going to see this stepped up as we move into 2009.

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