At my company, Kloudshare, a big part of what we are developing involves pushing boundaries of what browsers are expected to do. Generally speaking, this is the case industry wide, as the Web browser is becoming more and more a real application delivery system.
Google (GOOG) understands this issue and has apparently been focused on some of the more glaring weaknesses of the current crop of browsers. As such, they have decided to launch a new browser called Chrome, to try to bring browsers into the 21st century.
This has the blogosphere all excited. Everyone is writing about the features of the new browser and its strategic significance. The product sounds great, but I can only get but so excited.
Why? Because as a developer, Chrome seems to me to be little more than pissing in the wind.
Microsoft’s (MSFT) Internet Explorer controls around 75% of the browser market, and that’s not the bad news. The bad news is that Internet Explorer version 6 has 25% of the market.
IE 6 launched in August of 2001. When IE 6 launched the attacks of 9/11 hadn’t happened yet. We were in the middle of the 1.0 tech bubble. In fact, if I had had kids when IE 6 was introduced, they would be in second grade this year.
And yet 25% of the market is still using it. I’m not sure, but I believe it still comes on XP installation disks. In any case, the fact that Microsoft has nothing in place to induce a higher upgrade rate is damn near criminal.
And so I must contrast all of the breathless excitement over Chrome with the fact that the browser with no. 2 market share is so bad in 2008 terms that it is just barely capable of delivering modern experiences. And even to do that, lots of engineering goes into supporting this trailing edge of the browser market.
I’d love to see a study of how much time is wasted developing special case crap for IE 6. I suspect if you added it all up we could solve world hunger or something.
All I know is that for me, as a writer, Chrome is a fun story. As a developer, not so much. As a developer, Chrome is very much a story for the next decade and has nothing to do with my 2008 challenges, or even 2009 challenges. It will be a cause for celebration if I care about Chrome at all in 2010.
The bottom line is that Microsoft has been fighting the browser wars with spitballs and plastic knives and they are still beating Firefox handily. So Chrome — from a business perspective, for the forseeable future — is totally irrelevant.
SAI Contributor Hank Williams is a New York-based entrepreneur. He writes Why Does Everything Suck? Exploring the tech marketplace from 10,000 feet.
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