Your “browser” is the software program you use to view web sites. The vast majority of Internet users employ Microsoft’s Internet Explorer for this. However, new players have been shaking things up a bit, and here’s why business owners need to be aware.
Some of you may remember the Internet “browser wars” of the late 1990’s. It was partly what caused the anti-trust case against Microsoft at the time. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was direct competition for Netscape Navigator. If you’ve never heard of Netscape Navigator, it’s probably because Internet Explorer crushed it.
While websites are all created on the same platform, each browser looks at them through slightly different glasses. This means your visitors may not see the website you want them to see. This was less of an issue in the past 6 or 7 years because almost everyone used Internet Explorer. However, a few things have changed:
- Firefox – This is a free Internet browser available for download on Windows or Apple computers. It’s well supported by developers of ‘add-on’ functionality and is growing in market share. Originally only an uber-geek choice, Firefox has entered the mainstream.
- Safari – While previously too small to matter much, the growing penetration of Apple computers into the market must be considered. Apples come pre-installed with the Safari browser. Apple has also made Safari available for Windows computers. This means that the die-hard Apple home users may increase Safari’s market share by installing it on their office Windows PC.
- Google Chrome – In the long standing tradition of shaking things up, Google recently released its own free Internet browser called Chrome. The jury is still out on whether or not it will have much of an impact on the market share splits, but we need to pay attention to anything Google is doing.
All of these new browser choices, along with new releases of Internet Explorer mean that you need to be ever more aware of what tools your visitors may be using to view your website.
Overall, all browsers support the same basic features. However, there are some minor differences between them all that can cause images not to appear, menus not to function properly, or text to be pushed off the screen. I suggest that someone in or out of your organization be given the responsibility to view all the pages of your website through each browser to ensure your message is being conveyed as you intend. This test run needs to done with each update to your website and with each new release of the four browsers.