So. Opera revealed it’s version 10 vision. Great read. Happy to see them once more claiming that their primary competitor is IE, not Fx.
Let’s try to look at this from a wider angle. IE7 is getting near, with the release date set, currently, to October 2006 (not sure about this…)
The world is getting prepared:
- Safari 2.0 is gathering market together with wider adoption of MacOS. Safari 2.0 is very fast, lightweight browser that has all of what Mac user may want and is a default browser on operating system that gains market now.
- Camino progress also depends on MacOS. Camino is getting near it’s 1.1 version now, and should be ready before IE7.0.
- Seamonkey is already on the market, with same feature set as Mozilla Suite 1.8 and ugly icon. Seamonkey 1.1 should be released soon. (what’s new?). Seamonkey seems to be a good choice for many business customers, who’re seeking full internet suite in one.
- Firefox will have version 2.0 by then, where the focus is shifted to User Interface and User Experience. Not too much in terms of technology, a lot of small fixes to make the life easier. Seems to be the best choice for majority.
- Opera is read with Opera 9, before IE7 we could get one or two minor updates, but even with what we have now, Opera is very fast and powerful suite for users who like to feel the speed, out of the box solutions, and want “something more”.
- K-Meleon is hardly known to anyone, lacking any buzz, while it’s a pretty damn fast browser, that may serve you well! Update: Wow! Those folks are really trying to stay out of the buzz too much… K-Meleon 1.0 is there! For almost 2 weeks! And they didn’t care to update their website! Huh! They really deserve some buzz :} K 1.0 has a lot of new things and works great!
- Flock – youngest kid in this playground. Focused on young people, using web a lot, blog-generation, web2.0, call it whatsoever. It has it’s unique feature set, pretty good reviews, and before IE7 it’ll get it’s 0.8 version with plenty new stuff on board.
- Konqueror in it’s 3.5 version, support web standards very well, is unfortunately limited to Linux users, but is a browser of choice for most KDE folks.
- Epiphany – Gnome’s browser of choice
- Kazehakase – Japanese browser, I don’t know too much about it, beside that it’s actively maintained with latest release on May 2006.
It seems that we have something to offer to this 90% of users *instead* of IE7, right? All of those browsers, beside of Flock, are in their mature state now. They can be offered to users as the ultimate solution, day-usage browser. All of those browsers, beside of Opera are open source, which means that some new browser may appear soon basing on any of them. What’s even more important – all of them have pretty active community!
Are we ready to attack IE’s market? Yes, we definitely are. With this variety of choices for user, with this wide angle of features (and I didn’t even mentioned extensions for Firefox!), I’d say we cannot to much more for the user to make the browsers more ready for competing with IE.
Of course, it doesn’t mean that there’s no space to progress… Far from that. There’s a lot of space for new features, and in fact this is the moment when we can start working on those features. We reached the level of standard support, speed, feature set, quality, that meets IE’s one, and *now* the teams can focus on real feature development :} I’d say that browsers have around 5-8 years of life before they’ll morph into something else becoming the part of Desktop Environment of any kind.
To finish my summary of current status for all free people of earth (not middleearth yet… ;)) who wish to help in the upcoming battle, I’d like to add that we’ll have three rounds of this battle. At least. Think of it as a strategy game:
First round is now. Everything that will happen before IE7’s release date is our attack. IE is hardly blocking, and is not trying to counter attack yet. It’s a perfect moment for us to attack hard and make everything possible to make IE weaker before the second round. We have no way to defeat it yet, but we can win a better position before second round. The only thing that can make us loose position are environment things like security, media handling, internal wars between ourselves.
Second round will start with IE7 release. From that moment I predict that the attack will be impossible to block. It will be stronger than anything that happened in browser market ever. With advertisements, marketing, media, there’ll be a lot of buzz.
Third round will happen a few months later. When Opera will release O10 and Mozilla Firefox 3.0. It may be a counter attack. It may be very crucial moment, when all the expectations for a good browser from Microsoft will not be fulfilled.
So it seems that from our point of view, we’ll have two moves. First, and the third. I cannot predict what will happen later, maybe Microsoft will release IE7.5 soon? Or 8.0? What will others do depend a lot on the situation after those three rounds. We’re all way smaller than MS and we can react faster. Only MS must plan everything year or two in advance, so their strategy must ignore recent changes on the battlefield.
First move is used rather well. We could do more, but we’re doing good. We shouldn’t expect any radical market share changes, but we’re slowly progressing, getting more and more every day, with most of it going to Firefox now. We’re a bit too much ignoring media. I’d say that media handling is our most important preparations part before round two. We need to make them remember the signal – we’re free, we’re modern, we’re secure, we’re fast and it’s here where the progress happens.
Second round may be used by us. As every Aikido sensei will tell you, the more strength the attacker uses, the more of his strength you can turn against him. We’ll have to be Aikido warrior. The key is a message. We need to stick to the Microsoft marketing with our own message. “Switch to newer version of IE” will be their message? Let’s add “Or any other browser, which are developed faster, are more secure and have more features!”. The comparisons will make us weaker, we’ll not be able to fight head to head, because MS did a damn good job to fix the key marketing features we could use. Tabbed browsing is extremely good key feature because once someone start using it, he’ll do everything possible to explain it to others, and it’s rather easy to promote it with terms like “speed”, “comfort” etc. But it’s ot that easy to promote SVG support, WebForms, client side session storage, widgets, or shelf. It’ll be hard to reach users with this signal.
We need to stay calm, wait till the wave passes by, and join it. Repeat our message, tie it with Microsoft’s one, and we need to have support from media. If media will compare IE7 with other browsers all the time, majority of users will get their knowledge about IE at the same time with new message. There’s more to discover…
Of course, majority of users will never read any message about it, they’ll even not know what this IE is beside of that it’s “the Internet”… but after the security update from MS they may have problems with their new browser. See new features. And understand that they just got the new tool, so they *may* start seeking for info about it, became more interested in IE7 related articles, or ask for help their more experienced friends. And we can be there. In all of those places. And we must do everything possible to be there by that time.
Microsoft will want to get rid of IE6 fast. They’ll use a lot of resources to scream loud “Change the browser”. We need to help them spread this message everywhere 🙂 And use it.
Third round is a counter attack. Microsoft may or may not make a serious mistake in the second one. If they’ll fail with security, then we’ll be way stronger here. Any major security hole will be a disaster that we must use well. Once more – media handling. We must be prepared. We must cover any security related message. All the major players – Opera and Mozilla – must speak about security. If there’ll be security hole in our browsers, we must fix it ASAP and react immediately. If there’s a hole in IE7, and Ms will not fix it very fast. We need to reach with our message to media and users.
Then, depending on how the situation will looks like, we’ll have new releases. O10 and Fx3. They should happen once the media became bored of describing IE all the time and start be hungry for news once more. We should be prepared to read the user reaction on IE and we must have terrific products by that time. Users will be more aware than ever of browsers, their existence, the fact that they can change one etc. Fx 3.0 and O10, and all the other next versions, should provide the ultimate answer for those who’ll have any concerns. On the side note, around that time KDE will probably be ready with KDE4 which’ll also work on Windows. It means that we will have new apps on Windows like KOffice 2.0 and Konqueror 4.0…
That’s all for now. That’s how I see it. This game will be very hard for us. We already reached most of the users who wanted to switch, were ready to switch and were waiting for us. Now there are two areas. First one is where the Flock and Opera are heading. The areas that are less known, Opera in small media, Flock in blog world, we may expand there – but we don’t know yet how deep we can reach it. Second one is the users who don’t know how to switch, are not interested or too confused. We need to reach them with the help of computer sellers, ISP’s, media, and their friends. I hope that all the browser’s vendors know what I wrote here, and are prepared. We’ll see soon…
Disclaimer: My goal is not to wipe out IE from the market. My goal is diversity. The market, to be fresh and vibrant, needs to have 3-4 major players, and be free of the threat of one player blocking it. IE7 seems to be a average browser, and deserves average market share. We need to ensure it’ll not stand like this for the sake of the web future.