Friday, August 14, 2009

Crediting only Firefox for retriggering browser innovation is unjust

I've been keenly following the development of Web browsers for many, many years now. I remember trying out Opera way back in 2002. And I remember trying out Firefox 0.9, and I also remember installing Firefox 1.0 (the very day it was released). Even today, I use five browsers - Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, and IE.

One thing that baffles me often is the disproportionate amount of credit given to Firefox, for "bringing innovation back to Web browsers", and for "reigniting the browser wars". Sure, there is no denying that Firefox did become the first alternative browser post the year 2000 to have gained widespread adoption among the masses. However, it is not true that Firefox alone deserves the credit for attempting to bring innovation to Web browsers.

That credit, in my opinion, should be shared among three browsers - Opera, Safari, and Firefox (even the old-horse Mozilla Suite may be included). It's funny how the public thinks that Firefox innovated tabs, when Opera browser had been carrying them for years before Firefox even existed. It's also funny how Chrome and Safari flaunt those thumbnails they display on their new-tab pages as their features - when it was Opera which innovated this feature with Speed Dial, way back in March 2007 (read here, here and here). And it's also funny that no - and I mean no - news story ever mentions the 2003 launch of the KHTML-based Apple Safari, packed with many innovative features (Firefox was launched in 2004), when talking about the resurgence of the browser wars.

It's worthwhile reading the Wikipedia articles on Safari and Opera to learn how these browsers have been innovating rapidly - at least as fast as Firefox. The article about features of Opera is even more impressive (remember, Opera was launched back in 1996). Also, I've uploaded screenshots of many official webpages of Firefox, IE, Opera and Safari. These give a good idea of the features of each of these browsers.

So the next time you read an article that overwhelmingly credits Mozilla and Firefox (like this recent article on NYT), remember to give the respect that is due to other browsers - such as Opera and Safari - and the credit that these browsers genuinely deserve.

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