The Browser Wars Are Not Over – Web Standards Are More Important Than Ever

Web Standards Project logoIn reviewing the usage reports for this blog a couple of weeks ago, I realized something startling: the majority of visitors are NOT using Internet Explorer. Check it out:  since January of this year, 46% of all visitors use Firefox, 40% use Internet Explorer, 9% use Safari, and 3% are on Chrome.  In the last 30 days, Safari users were 11% of all traffic, while IE users went down to 39%.  Yeah, okay, this traffic is probably skewed because of the audience, but I’ve got Google Analytics configured to block traffic from the Matrix Group office where most of us use Firefox as our primary browser.

An analysis of traffic on Matrix Group client sites shows that IE is still the primary browser but Firefox, Safari and Chrome are gaining ground.  For nearly all clients, IE commands no more than 75% of the total audience; this is still a dominant number, but it means that 1 in 4 users is not using IE.  Sorry Microsoft, but the browser wars are far from over and any giant can be toppled (that means you, too, Firefox!).

All of this makes me thankful that my staff, many years ago, convinced me that Matrix Group should not be an IE-only shop. I still remember the staff retreat when the staff had a heated discussion about Web standards.  A few of us argued that writing standards-compliant code was expensive because the dominant browser, Internet Explorer, was mostly not compliant, which meant we had to do double html work to make sure our sites behaved properly in IE, Netscape, Mozilla, etc.  But the vast majority of the staff rightly argued that standards compliance was the right thing to do, it would give us a competitive advantage, our sites would stand the test of time better, and someday, Microsoft would come around.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still grumble when testing shows that one of our sites is behaving differently in IE vs. Firefox because I know it’s costing us and the client time and money.  But IE8 is supposed to be the most standards-compliant browser ever and it’s really great knowing that our Web sites and our association management software, MatrixMaxx, not only look great across browsers, all the functions behave consistently.

How about you?  What are your thoughts on the browser wars?  What’s your favorite browser?  And are you on the standards bandwagon?

6 thoughts on “The Browser Wars Are Not Over – Web Standards Are More Important Than Ever

  1. Definitely a good call making your webpages compatible with other browsers. I get very annoyed when I go to a page that won’t work with Firefox, and think “What amateurs.”

    When I encounter a page that won’t display Firefox properly, I just copy the URL into IE. I have to wonder how many people just skip the web page altogether. That could amount to a lot of lost business.

  2. I remember you making us ensure that sites worked on Netscape 4.7 … At the time, I loathed that policy. In hindsight, it made me a better web developer.

  3. I personally find it puzzling as to why IE is not standards compliant, when all the other browsers are and seemingly have been. Having recently plunged into development & design myself, I find it annoying that I have to do a hack just for IE 7 and earlier. Does anybody know WHY IE has not been standards compliant? Is it because MS thinks their standards are better than THE standards? I use Firefox and all of my suite software is open source now, but I have to say that I find Safari a very stylish browser, just not really sure how it measures up in terms of functionality.

    Great post, as always, thanks Joanna!

  4. as one who fought the standards fight, i still believe in it as much as i did then. yes, IE did add nearly double the development and testing time, and we’re unfortunately in a phase where supporting THREE versions of IE is smart. Of course as a developer, my thought is “if only IE6 would die, my life would be easier.” I recently read this article on the QuirksBlog which presents an interesting possibile future for IE6. http://www.quirksmode.org/blog/archives/2009/06/state_of_the_br_1.html I can totally see that happening.

  5. Thanks for the great comments!

    Lisa, our experience matches yours. IE7 users are upgrading to IE8 but there is still a group of IE6 users out there. My team wishes IE6 would just go away. Evidently, automatic updates are not enough to make everyone upgrade!

    Robert, good question about why IE is not standards compliant. Some would say that Microsoft usually wants to set the standards and has snubbed standards efforts, but at least one blogger says it has to do with Microsoft’s (and other software companies’) interest in making their software backwards compatible. http://www.raizlabs.com/blog/?p=218

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