What Causes Web Browser Loyalty & Browser Betrayal In People?


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;

  1. Lack of extensions and/or lack of good extensions
  2. Slow and laggy, crashes frequently and chews out the sofa leg
  3. It slows up my system by taking too much memory
  4. Switching between tabs and windows is a royal pain
  5. It doesn’t do what all the other browsers can do
  6. It doesn’t render or load Java, Flash, flashy gifs and my Facebook profile as fast as the other browsers
  7. 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:

  1. Admitting you were using an inferior browser (being wrong on the internet is difficult)
  2. Learning the ropes of the new browser is frustrating, especially if the layout and functionality is very different from your current browser
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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

I like…

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.

  • Anupam Ashish

    Firefox came off as unstable … there have been a lot of things said about Firefox .. but unstable .. u r the first one 😛

    • A family member of mine says the same thing – I think it’s because of his hardware. It’s an old AMD (bad in my book) and also cheap RAM. Good RAM like Corsair or G.skill goes a long way to overall system stability.

  • Collin Page

    I was a huge fan of Firefox back in the day then Chrome came out and it took me a little bit to get used to the Slim UI.. and the lack of Extension support really sucked.. But the speed.. Well that had me switching back and forth depending on Extensions.. But once Chrome hit Extension stage it was just game over for FF. Haven’t went back since and stopped bothering to install it on the side also.

    Poor Mozilla

  • Iouhuioh

    To answer the question: what causes me to be loyal to IE is that it has always “just worked”; it (IE 9) loads quickly, isn’t bloated, and recovers easily.

    I also use Firefox (9), primarily because of the myriad of add-ons available that allow me to do things I wouldn’t otherwise be able to; it’s a little slower than IE 9, and I don’t like the fact that a new major version is released every other week – is it to play catch-up to IE? – but it is stable.

    I’ve tried Chrome, and found it too simple and difficult to customise; basic features standard in other browsers just weren’t available. I also don’t like the inherent privacy issues by virtue of it being tied so closely to my search engine of choice; I don’t think Google has addressed this issue adequately as yet.

    • Rhyvr

      If you are concerned about privacy issues, take a look at SR Ware Iron. Haven’t used it though, but will give it a try

  • :D

    Mozilla Firefox= Best Browser Ever.

    • Karl

      You better believe it! Moz still rocks, especially for us Web Designers who use Firebug! Between the add-ons and the about: config registry, there’s nothing like having total tweaking control of your browser!

  • To be honest, I didn’t like Safari when I got my mac last year. I switched to Chrome, and didn’t change back. I am now, however, experimenting with Firefox and Opera again. 

  • I use Firefox. I’ve tried using the plethora of other browsers, but it just serves me the best overall.

  • Mo

    Opera is, IMO, unbeatable: fast, slim, feature-rich, portable, customizable…

  • I was a firefox loyalist until switching to a Mac recently, and found that the normal mac keybindings (CMD-left/right) don’t work in Gmail in FF. It seems like this was a known issue, but no one at either Mozilla or Google attempted to remedy the problem over the last several FF versions. Now that chrome has Adblock, Xmarks, and a greasemonkey script I wrote myself to change Amazon links to use my affiliate ID in the URL, I switched to Chrome and will never look back.

  • Antonio Anderson

    I think you did an okay job of telling us why you left IE for Chrome, but not so good a job of detailing why “we” change or don’t change browsers.  I think you focused too much on your own experience for this article since it is framed as an “in general” discussion of the topic.  That, is where these comments will come in handy.

    I bounce back and forth between Chrome and Firefox these days, making a switch when an update causes a hiccup that interrupts my “work” flow, at least for as long as it takes me time to find a solution or work-around.

  • Rajat Malhotra

    I have been using Opera ever since it started – I clearly remember version 2.something. Firefox came out and bragged about tabbed browsing and I was like “WTF”… that is a blatant copy of Opera. That was about 9-10 years ago. 

    Two years back, Opera had started giving some problems while rendering pages so I tried to adopt Firefox. The first thing I did was install extensions/add-ons to give Firefox ALL the features that came built-in with Opera. It took me not less than 10 extensions (sessions manager, downloads in tab, password “wand”, speed dial, page loading status bar, re-open last tab shortcut, start-up dialogue, search shortcut by adding prefix, smooth scrolling, etc to name a few). This only made Firefox more of a memory hog than it originally was – and I hadn’t even installed some of the more useful extensions like youtube downloader, tab stacking (which was again an Opera first), Ad-block (which again comes inbuilt with Opera).

    I then upgraded to Windows 7 and thus got the IE9. I have used it and while it is excellent in terms of speeds, page rendering, compatibility with websites, java performance and memory management, it is too barebones. It lacks the features that come in-built with Opera and can be added to Firefox. Meanwhile Opera had reached version 11.something and it was mind blowing. All of the features with compatibility with 99% of the websites I use most often.

    I recently bought an Android mobile and tried to adopt Chrome just to create a link between my laptop browser and my mobile (since Google keeps everything in sync and integrated). I like Chrome and in fact I even prefer it when I compare it to IE9. But again, it lacks features. And most of Opera’s features are not even available for Chrome. And NO, games and apps are not features – if I wanted games, I’d buy an Android tab. I now use a portable version of Chrome as my secondary browser mainly if I am surfing on Google websites (Gmail, Google calendar, G+, youtube, picasa, Google reader etc).

    To sum it up, I use Opera as my primary browser only because of the features it offers and new features it comes up with. Chrome is my secondary browser for Google sites. IE9 just exists on my computer as a public browser and is what I call a “prostitute” – anyone using my laptop can use IE9 🙂


  • Steven Abeyta

    Great article! Happy to have found something on this subject. I’ve had very intimate relationships between Chrome, Firefox and a little with Opera on the side. I fell back in love with Firefox after a long relationship with Chrome. I love Chrome but we broke up when I had an affair with Firefox. Chrome was just a lot slower for me than Firefox and I don’t know why. I have about 20 or so Add-Ons installed and don’t notice any slow downs. Firefox has all the bells and whistles and is fast for me. So Firefox will remain my girlfriend. 🙂

  • It’s Firefox for one reason only: THE PLUGINS.

    Other browsers are faster. Other browsers are slicker. But only Firefox gives me the plugins I need.

    • Adblock Plus (and no, the neutered and ineffectual Chrome version does NOT meet my needs… try to whitelist a directory within a blacklisted domain, and you’ll see what I mean)
    • Beef Taco
    • BetterPrivacy
    • Cookie Monster
    • Copy Link Name
    • DownThemAll (another BIG reason)
    • Firebug (and all the assorted helper plugins)
    • HTTPS-Everywhere
    • HTTPS Finder
    • JSView
    • Tab Mix Plus (yet another one)
    • and about a dozen more minor plugins

    All other browsers rank in as very poor substitutes without proper (and extensive) plugin-in support on par with Firefox. I only ever use them when I have no other choice.

    Could Firefox be faster? Sure. Could it have better memory management? Yes. But I have found it to be the most stable, most flexible and most extendable browser out there. And for those reasons, I will not switch.

    Besides, I have been using essentially the same browser (in terms of codebase, heritage and ideology) for the last 20 years — since NCSA Mosaic. I am probably not going to switch without a damn good reason.

  • As the author herself pointed out, this post was more of personal experience being narrated, hence, opinionated and biased. This is not meant to be a grounds to prove that one browser is better than the other. Have your own picks, and enjoy the ride 🙂

  • Raj

    Nice article. 

    Good way to think about using browsers as relationships.  I had a relationship with Netscape years back as IE did not know the new tricks from the book of Love.  I tried Firefox and it knew all these positions (read extensions here) which showed me a world of possibilities.  Over time, I had flings with Opera and Chrome.  Though the latter was faster (…not really what you would want), there are lots of other things you look in a browser.  I had occasional flings but I came back and she forgave me. 

    • Raj

      I am faithful to Firefox for life. 

  • Gill

    I love Opera because it has so many built-in features that I always miss when using a different browser. Opera is also the only browser to introduce innovation, which the other browser makers usually end up copying.

    Back in the olden days, I used to use NCSA Mosiac, then Netscape Navigator, then Internet Explorer, then Phoenix/Firebird/Firefox and now Opera. I’ve used Chromium extensively as well, but it just doesn’t compare to Opera in terms of features and feel. In fact, I would go as far to say that Chromium feels slow compared to Opera in a usability sense.

  • Algorhythm511

    In the end, it really doesn’t matter very much unless you are a web developer or work for one of the browser makers.  I don’t know why people get so worked up over this topic.  I have used a wide variaty of devices some programs that were default I continued to use and some were alternates.

    They are all free you can have them all.  I just don’t see why people make such a big deal over which free piece of software you have on system.  It’s not like you made a major purchasing decision.

    Funny thing is that of all the default software that you can also install alternatives for, the only one that causes arguments is the browser.  You don’t hear people arguing over an alternate picture view vs window’s default picture viewer.

    I think this whole big deal about browsers is soooo stupid.  Personally I have tried a few, but for the most part I don’t really care. 

  • Algorhythm511

    In the end, it really doesn’t matter very much unless you are a web developer or work for one of the browser makers.  I don’t know why people get so worked up over this topic.  I have used a wide variaty of devices some programs that were default I continued to use and some were alternates.

    They are all free you can have them all.  I just don’t see why people make such a big deal over which free piece of software you have on system.  It’s not like you made a major purchasing decision.

    Funny thing is that of all the default software that you can also install alternatives for, the only one that causes arguments is the browser.  You don’t hear people arguing over an alternate picture view vs window’s default picture viewer.

    I think this whole big deal about browsers is soooo stupid.  Personally I have tried a few, but for the most part I don’t really care. 

  • Sivaram Naveen

    I have 4 browsers , IE 9 , Opera , Chrome , FF9.
    Rarely use IE and opera (only when browsing from low speed internet – Turbo mode)
    I switch between Chrome and FF9 . FF8 was little memory hungry like its predecessors , but FF9 is rock stable. I dont really like chrome coz Its too rigid to get the way we want. FF gives you total control of placement of icons , moving bars , extensions etc.

    On a fast internet connection , does it really matter ? I mean the milli second delays ? FF9 is fast too.

  • Lian Ferrand

    The picture above about the person hugging Google Chrome, jokes on him that when he throws Internet Explorer away that his computer will break. (Unless if he’s not using Windows)

    Not saying that I’m a fanboy, I rarely use Internet Explorer, but I’ll say they’re all good. Except for some, the some that suck.