Some common questions that can stir up a war in the most peaceful of situations are; iPhone or Android? Mac or Windows? Cats or Dogs? Why do these simple and harmless questions cause us to argue as if the life of a loved one depends on us being right and the other person being wrong? Possibly because it is our conviction that we’re using the best product there is. Something very similar happens if you try and tell someone they use an inferior web browser and that they should switch over to a better one aka the one you use. This post discusses what might be going on in a person’s head when they choose to stick to a web browser. People have been known to switch browsers and if you’ve been following recent stats, you’ll know that Chrome has beaten Firefox and that Internet Explorer is losing its user base. The question is what makes a person switch from one browser to another and what earns a browser a user’s loyalty?
Why Did I Abandon My Web Browser?
Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of web surfers in this world, those who use the default web browser that comes with their OS and those who opt for another one from the get go. So what compels someone to ditch the default browser?
The Default Browser is Terrible
Switching from the default browser to another one means you are forgoing an already installed and available program on your OS for something else. It also means that while you might be ready to make the change, if you fail to find another web browser that is better, you are likely to keep using the current one. Your judgment on what a better browser is, will be based on how your old one performed and how the new one is better. Reasons why a browser might suck are;
- Lack of extensions and/or lack of good extensions
- Slow and laggy, crashes frequently and chews out the sofa leg
- It slows up my system by taking too much memory
- Switching between tabs and windows is a royal pain
- It doesn’t do what all the other browsers can do
- It doesn’t render or load Java, Flash, flashy gifs and my Facebook profile as fast as the other browsers
- You’ve heard bad things about the default browser and are scared to try it
The Other Browser Is Just Better
Any two web browsers can have more or less the same features and even similar interfaces but that alone will never be the deciding factor when it comes to picking a browser. It comes down to how well it works and how many of its features are actually useful for you. As browsers came and went, each had one specific thing that it did really well and was the main reason why a user preferred to use it. When browser wars were nothing more than a little brawl, Netscape held out against Internet Explorer for as long as it was the most feature rich browser there was. Opera on the other hand, which has been around almost since Netscape’s inception, has held out reasonably well through the browser wars and much of its survival can be attributed to Opera for mobile platforms.
Once Internet Explorer started upping its features, its popularity grew steadily until 2005, Netscape’s share diminished until the browser itself died or rather, it unleashed Firefox. The fact that features are what sells a browser becomes apparent when you look at the growing popularity of Firefox and its extensions. With the development of Firefox (known back then as Phoenix) in 2002 and the debut of Safari in 2003, people had a wider choice in web browsers and features mattered even more. Opera, maintained its share throughout and gained users steadily. From that point forward, browsers have battled it out not only on the feature front but also on interface (a major reason for Chrome’s popularity) and how well they perform their primary function i.e., loading and displaying web pages. The bottom line, the better the features, interface and performance, the more popular a browser will be.
Why Do I Love My Web Browser?
If you get down to it, it is somewhat meaningless to ask why someone changed their web browser; the fact is they’ve changed it and will now take anyone in a fight just to prove it is better.
My Browser Understands Me…
Fast forward to today, browser wars have matured and we’ve all taken sides. The browser war which was primarily fought on features now has a user’s emotional attachment to deal with if it’s going to win anyone over.
Warning: personal experience being related. I tried Chrome because I heard it was faster than Internet Explorer 6. Internet Explorer was the last version that I used of Microsoft’s browser because I was too lazy to upgrade and also because I didn’t think it would ever get better. I found Chrome wasn’t just fast but that it was really really fast. At the same time I fell in love with the Omnibar. Before Chrome, I’d open Google every time I wanted to search something and then type in my search. Tabbed browsing was something that just blew me away. I never wanted either of those things but when I saw them, I realized how inconvenient it was to use Internet Explorer. I never used Firefox, not then and not now, because it came off as unstable (constant crashes) and knowing the Firefox 7 had a bug that made your extensions disappear only makes me think I made the right choice in choosing a browser. Internet Explore has caught up now in most, if not all features, but I am reluctant to give it another chance.
Your favorite browser is your favorite because it does for you what few others have been able to do for you, making another switch means:
- Admitting you were using an inferior browser (being wrong on the internet is difficult)
- Learning the ropes of the new browser is frustrating, especially if the layout and functionality is very different from your current browser
- Customizing the new browser to work for you and finding solutions or a work around to problems you had already resolved in your old browser will take time and effort
- Browsers are updated quite frequently to the point that for some like Chrome, Firefox and Opera, version numbers are now less relevant. With updates coming so fast, it is highly likely that the feature you are switching over for will be incorporated in your current browser and the switch will a complete waste
- If you use different extensions, you might have to sign up for other services, you might not be able to tweak you mail or keep your bookmarks organized as well. The new browser might not import your preferences from the old one the right way even if you stick to the same extensions and services
Chrome is by far preferred for its minimalistic and clean look, its speed, faster start up time and the fact that if one window crashes, all others won’t. For the average web surfer, this is a perfectly good reason to use the browser. Developers, on the other hand, will rightly favor Firefox because for years it’s given them excellent support and is still unmatched when it comes to providing a good testing and development environment and those killer extensions in its vast repository. For both Chrome and Firefox, extensions are a huge part of browser loyalty and one great extension is enough to keep you hooked to a browser. Internet Explorer was sadly late on the extension front and suffers to this day because of it. Similarly, Opera users will stick to their beloved browser because of the great desktop to mobile support it provides. The point, there is a reason behind everyone’s loyalty. Safari, while a great browser, might be limited in its users because it does not run as well on a Windows PC (the dominant desktop platform so far) and because the number of Mac users is small compared to Windows users.
What’s wrong with all the other browsers?
They’re ugly? Not really. Other browsers might just be as good as our favorite browser but being ‘just as good’ isn’t going to get you to switch. Just as Google+ being as good as Facebook wasn’t reason enough for people to switch, similarly, if a browser is just as good or slightly better than our favorite, we aren’t going to make the switch. We have grown to love our extension, we love the password manager, we love the sync feature, we love the pop-up blocker, we love the security, there is something I every browser that keeps a user hooked.
Think of moving from one browser to another like getting a puppy for your birthday when you were a kid. You’ve fed it and trained it and it has a special place to sleep on in your bed, you wouldn’t just stop loving it because it’s grown up and not as cute as it used to be? You’ve fallen in love with it over the years and you are now emotionally attached; no starry eyed cat can ever take its place. At AddictiveTips, 8 people use Chrome, 2 use Firefox and one uses Opera. Only one admitted that given undisputed scientific evidence that their old browser was better, they would actually consider giving it a try.
Your old browser is something like a bad ex that made you suffer so much that you’ll never forgive or forget it and you are even less likely to betray your current browser for a third one, you might occasionally cheat but it will be nothing more than just a fling. The question is, what keeps you hooked to your browser? Given undisputed scientific evidence that your another browser is just as good, if not better, than your current one, would you switch? Which browser did you switch from and why?
If you liked this post, you might also want to check out our compilation of the best browser extensions and add-ons of 2011.