With the release of Windows 10 recently, Microsoft has endeavoured to bring the browser wars back with its new web browser Microsoft Edge.

History of the Browser Wars

It all started back in 2004 when Internet Explorer 6 (AKA IE6) was still the king of the country with its complete monopoly over the market. Along came Mozilla Firefox and decided to challenge the browser and introduced features such as tabbed browsing and improved support for the latest web standards that IE6 lacked. In a matter of five years, Firefox had grown rapidly and acquired several hundred million users. But it did not stop there.

Firefox was passively on the offensive, slowly bleeding out Internet Explorer with its continued updates and support for newer and faster web technologies. Microsoft defended itself and released IE7 in 2006 which slowed down the offensive of Firefox. But from out of nowhere came the true browser golden age led by Google Chrome in 2008. Around that time, Firefox had climbed up to twenty percent of market share which left Internet Explorer at 75 percent market share.

With three major browsers in the market, the game had changed. Google Chrome’s rapid release cycle model meant quick improvements and faster updates with better support gave Firefox competition that was much more serious than anything it had faced before.

Chrome as King

Fast forward to today and we’re looking at a totally different scene. Google Chrome now dominates the market, bested Firefox in 2012 and overthrowing Internet Explorer as king of the browsers by 2013. Various browser statistics from different companies has revealed that Chrome’s usage share is as high as 50%, but still not as close as IE’s past lead.

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It’s not all smooth riding for Chrome though with reports of battery drains on laptops and heavy resource usage these past couple of years. And in response, Google has addressed these issues by updating its browser to block Flash and tweak its rendering behaviour in order to squeeze out performance as much as possible.

The Future Prospects are Indecisive

Looking at the present, Internet Explorer has come a long way from its troubled past, Firefox is still with its dedicated user base, Safari is powering on with the iOS system for Apple users, and lastly Opera, who are still quietly spectating from the sidelines. Seemingly the browser wars may have ended in 2014.

Chrome – Google Chrome is still ascending, albeit more slowly. It’s nice integration with Google’s other services (Gmail, YouTube, Google Search) as well as capabilities for web based apps (much like Microsoft’s ActiveX without the security flaws) has pushed Chrome along at a steady pace.

Internet Explorer – Internet Explorer is still struggling for respect, and is often shunned by web developers who rightfully resent from having the build hacks and workarounds for old unsupported versions. Microsoft has admitted that they have messed up and have announced plans to drop support for all older versions of Internet Explorer (except the latest one) but this doesn’t take effect until January 2016.

Firefox – Mozilla’s Firefox is still chugging along with a few minor bumps here and there. It’s uncertain if Firefox can keep holding on in the future. Its search deal with Google ended in November last year and the aftermath hasn’t been too great with its five year search partnership with Yahoo. Now, it’s focusing its development onto Firefox OS and the mobile sector resuming development for Firefox on iOS.

Safari – Safari has become more important on mobile devices than its Apple desktop counterpart as more people acquire iPhones and iPads. Safari has total control over the iOS platform and forcing other browsers (such as Google Chrome) to use the Safari rendering and JavaScript engines. For increased privacy, Apple has configured Safari to block third-party cookies by default (reduced tracking) and send a Do Not Track command by default.

Opera – Opera is still a sideliner and is barely hanging on with its small dedicated fan base. Although it adopted the same layout engine has Google Chrome back in 2013, some pages still render differently between both browsers. There much to like about Opera, they like to do things differently to the other big players.

In waltz’s Microsoft Edge – Out of the darkness comes Microsoft Edge with its new look, new name, new features, and new engine. Edge might have what it takes to kickstart a new browser war of the future. Although the only drawback is that it only works on Windows 10, it may be a real competitor to Chrome and Firefox in the future.

What Microsoft Edge brings to the Table

Basic components of a web browser have been the same for ages. We are all used to the address bar, bookmark folders, and control buttons all being there. But other ingenious innovations have actually changed the game such as tabbed browsing and the Omnibox on Chrome’s combined address/search bar. Both have changed the way we interact with the web.
So what does Microsoft Edge have in store for us? To be different from the rest, Edge comes with Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant built-in. Cortana is a voice control system much like Google’s Voice Search and Apple’s Siri. It was comes with a reading mode (like Instapaper and Safari) that makes web pages more readable.

Microsoft Edge introduces a new layout rendering engine, EdgeHTML that proves to be fast much like Chrome’s Blink engine and Firefox’s Gecko engine. Although it’s not entirely new (it’s based on Internet Explorer’s Trident engine but heavily stripped down), it’s focused on being fast without the load of Trident. That said, Windows 10 ships with two browsers preinstalled: Edge and Internet Explorer.

So far, Edge looks promising and many have praised its design and functionality. Although it lacks cross platform support and mobile apps, it’s a browser to be excited about. Microsoft may finally be able to change the game and restore itself to former glory.

With Microsoft Edge now included as standard alongside Internet Explorer on all new Windows 10 products a browser war between Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft is definitely on the horizon.

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