Chrome's and Firefox's Plans to Unseat IE

According to the latest Net Applications numbers, Internet Explorer stills hold 60 percent of the browser market, while Firefox is stuck at about 23 percent and Chrome has doubled its share over the past year to reach 7.5 percent. Yet the two open source contenders have a disproportionately large mindshare among smart business users -- and are taking distinctly different approaches to win hearts and minds.

For Google, the main selling point of Chrome is speed. Mozilla, on the other hand, is banking on Firefox's flexibility and functionality.

[ Learn how to find the best browser to suit your needs -- and how to hack your browser in 7 easy steps | Keep up with the latest open source trends and news in InfoWorld's Technology: Open Source newsletter. ]

Google Chrome: Focused on Speed

One look at the Google Chrome download, and the message is clear: Chrome is all about speed. "Fast start-up," "Fast loading," and "Fast search" are among the marketing taglines seeking to entice users to test out Chrome. Not surprisingly, Google's engineering-driven culture is at the heart of this focus on "speeds and feeds."

And that emphasis is starting to pay off, with Chrome closing the gap on the fastest browsers out there, according to independent tests.

Computerworld's recent browser bechmark found Google Chrome 6 to be 17 percent faster than Chrome 5. According to the tests, Chrome is now only slightly slower than Opera and Apple's Safari, with less than 12 milliseconds separating the browsers.

Mozilla, on the other hand, has limited itself to reaching "near or even to" Chrome 5 with respect to JavaScript performance for its next version of Firefox. Still in beta, Firefox 4 is within the 20 percent target performance of Chrome 5, which would make it much more than 20 percent slower than Chrome 6.

But as InfoWorld's Peter Wayner discusses, when it comes to choosing the right browser to suit your needs, for many speed is not the only criterion.

Mozilla Firefox: Browser as Productivity Platform

Mozilla has always looked beyond speed in its approach to rolling out innovations in Firefox. User productivity has been one key area, with Tab Candy, a Mozilla Labs feature that aims to vastly improve productivi

ty for knowledge workers or power surfers, providing a shining example of this commitment.

Mozilla engineer Aza Raskin explains Tab Candy:

It's hard to keep everything straight with dozens of tabs all crammed into a little strip along the top of your browser. Your tab with a search to find a pizza parlor gets mixed up with your tabs on your favorite band. Often, it's easier to open a new tab than to try to find the open tab you already have. Worse, how many of us keep tabs open as reminders of something we want to do or read later?

Enter: Tab Candy.

With one keystroke Tab Candy shows an overview of all tabs to allow you to quickly locate and switch between them. Tab Candy also lets you group tabs to organize your work flow. You can create a group for your vacation, work, recipes, games and social sites, however it makes sense to you to group tabs. When you switch to a grouped tab only the relevant tabs are shown in the tab bar, which helps you focus on what you want.

Not surprisingly, the Google Chrome ecosystem is attempting to copy Tab Candy with the Tab Sugar open source plug-in project. And though both Firefox and Chrome encourage vibrant plug-in development, the fact that Google isn't tackling this type of user productivity feature itself provides further proof of Google's fixation on speed.

What the Future Holds for Firefox and Chrome

While Google and Mozilla may differ in their approach to building browser market share, they both share a vision of the browser taking on a much larger role in computing.

For instance, Mozilla recently launched the Mozilla Labs Gaming division, which is "committed to providing the game developer community with the platform and tools they need to make innovative games on the Open Web."

The power of HTML5 allows developers to create browser-based games that were previously constrained to native PC applications or game consoles.

According to Mashable, Google is also interested in the browser becoming the gaming platform of choice on PC devices.

And of course, Google has gone as far as to create an operating system that centers on the browser as the application runtime container and an application store for HTML5 applications.

It will be interesting to watch Mozilla and Google's browser investment areas in the future, particularly as Firefox and Chrome continue claiming shares of the enterprise browser market.

Follow me on Twitter at SavioRodrigues. I should state: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions."

This article, "How Chrome and Firefox aim to unseat IE," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Rodrigues et al.'s Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at InfoWorld.com.

Subscribe to the The Advisor Newsletter

Comments