A recent IT World Canada article outlines a decision by the developers of the Mozilla web browser to drop their further development of the browser for Microsoft Windows 8.
This is very significant as Microsoft has recently released Internet Explorer 11 (designed to fit really well with Windows 8 machines) and Google Chrome continues to grow in market share. W3Counter shows Chrome as the leader in its February report at 36.4% with IE and Firefox (Mozilla) at 19% and 18% respectively.
I know that I have personally migrated more of my browsing to Chrome or IE depending upon what I am doing. This blog is being written using Chrome as my interface, while as recently as late last summer I always worked with Firefox. One of the key reasons for my change (besides a move to a different computer for my work) was issues which started to develop with Firefox running some of the scripts that the site I use required. I have no idea why this was the case but in the end since I always have had the choice of all three on my computers I just fell to working in Chrome as a default. I have found that at times Firefox did seem to be more vulnerable to browser hacker attacks than the other two, although they all can be subject to this kind of aggravating activity.
The author of the IT World Canada article surmizes that IE 11 may be one of the winners with the Mozilla decision as users will inevitably have to test out what browser works best for them and the features of Firefox may fall behind the other browsers. Interestingly one of the conclusions that he comes to is with one less browser competitor to worry about the adoption of Windows 8 classes of OS might be enhanced since the Microsoft browser is specifically optimized to work with this OS and take advantage of some of its features.
Of course anyone who has watched the IT news since the launch of Windows 8 almost two full years ago knows that getting this OS to gain traction with users has been a real struggle. One reason for this actually is because so many users have become very comfortable with Windows 7 which has proven to be a reliable and relatively safe platform. My personal experience says that unless I move to a computer with touch capability (becoming much more common) I would not want to run Windows 8.1 the current version of the desktop OS.
"The public might think Windows 7 is more responsive, more stable, more secure, and lighter on resource than Windows 8. This is not true. The real perception problem Windows 8 has is its metro interface. On the desktop, Metro does not make sense with a keyboard and mouse. Most functions could be found simply by searching (Windows Key + F), but it is not an immediately obvious function for new users." Chris Lau
I think Chris has put his finger on Microsoft's real problem with Windows 8. It is primarily a perception problem and asking users to move from a platform they have been comfortable with for several years to one which is fundamentally a different paradigm has been a real challenge. This is one I share and until I had the experience of viewing Windows 8 through the eyes of someone who had worked in detail through its nuances I missed many of its gains. Unfortunately for Microsoft not too many users get this kind of training before they decide on an OS. Until they are forced to make a hardware change most will just stay with what they know.
The Mozilla decision to move away from Windows 8 could be interpreted as a slam against the OS and to some extent it is. On the other hand as the article points out it may be an opportunity for the Microsoft IE11 to become more entrenched and may actually help users become more comfortable with Windows 8.
One thing this story clearly indicates. In the world of computer software development the standards and the preferred software tools are constantly changing. A few short years ago Firefox was all the rage and it was seen as the new up and comer of the Windows browser world. It rapidly got the sanction of IT focused players including many support consultants. Moving away from supporting the latest Microsoft OS has to hurt its chances to stay relevant.
Of course the browser wars are not only played on the desktop OS platforms. They are also active in the tablet market where Apple has a big play with the iPad products and where Google Android in all its versions is a prevalent player. The browser experience on these platforms is a completely different situation, one for discussion another day but one which may in the end be as important if not more important than the current discussion.
Have you been a Mozilla Firefox user? What does this decision mean for your choice? Or do you even care?
Photo credit: Firefox logo®, By Mozilla Foundation [GPL (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html) or LGPL (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/lgpl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons