In 2004, when popular online billing web application FreshBooks launched (then called 2ndSite), the browser market was extremely one-sided. Over 91% of web users connected via Internet Explorer. Firefox had just over 3.5%, Netscape less than that, and Safari didn’t even crack 2%. It was okay for FreshBooks to launch supporting only Windows and IE.
It was actually fairly common for web apps of 4 years ago not to be cross browser, or cross platform compliant — which seems absurd given that the ability to work anywhere, on any computer is a major selling point for web apps. But when 9 out of 10 potential customers — or more for some market sectors — are using Internet Explorer, why pour resources into designing for other browsers? (Note that greater than 96% of all web users were on Windows in 2004, compared to about 88% now.)
Flash forward to today and the landscape looks totally different. IE commands under just 70% of the market, Firefox is over 20%, Safari greater than 7%, and even though newcomer Chrome weighs in at just under 1%, we’ve predicted that Google’s browser will grow significantly next year. The search engine is already putting Chrome links on Google.com and YouTube, and in Gmail for IE6 users, plus the browser might start coming pre-installed on PCs next year.
The decline of IE might mean more initial development required to make sure the maximum amount of users can access your site or application, but in the long run, it’s a great thing for everyone (except perhaps Microsoft).
Josh Catone joined Mashable in May 2009 and is Executive Director of Editorial Projects. Before joining Mashable, Josh was the Lead Writer at ReadWriteWeb, the Lead Blogger at SitePoint, and the Community Evangelist at DandyID.