Another round of browser wars, this time it's mobile

by Sharon Lobo    Apr 04, 2013

Browser War 3

Many of us have witnessed the two browser wars that took place for the dominance in usage share in the web browser marketplace. The first happened during the late 1990s saw Microsoft’s Internet Explorer replace Netscape’s Navigator, while the second one, which occurred in 2003 resulted in the decline of Internet Explorer’s market by a collection of newer browsers including Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, and Opera.

In the last couple of years Internet users have preferred mobile devices over desktops for browsing and the number continues to grow. Hence, it isn’t surprising that the browser makers are heavily targeting this space. Surprisingly, there have been two major announcements in the browser space on the same day. In a blog post Brendan Eich, CTO, Mozilla said that Mozilla and Samsung will collaborate on building Rust programming language and Servo, the experimental web browser engine, to Android and ARM. In another blog post by Adam Barth, Software Engineer at Google said that Google is opting Blink, a new open source rendering engine, over WebKit browser engine, which it used earlier.

We, along with our friends at Samsung will be increasingly looking at opportunities on mobile platforms. Both of these efforts are still early stage projects and there’s a lot to do yet, so now is a good time to get involved.
-Brendan Eich, CTO, Mozilla

“We need to be prepared to take advantage of tomorrow’s faster, multi-core, heterogeneous computing architectures. That’s why we’ve recently begun collaborating with Samsung on an advanced technology Web browser engine called Servo, said Brendan.

According to Brendan, Servo is an attempt to rebuild the Web browser from the ground up on modern hardware, rethinking old assumptions along the way. This means addressing the causes of security vulnerabilities while designing a platform that can fully utilize the performance of tomorrow’s massively parallel hardware to enable new and richer experiences on the Web. To those ends, Servo is written in Rust, a new, safe systems language developed by Mozilla along with a growing community of enthusiasts.

On the Chrome front, Barth has said, “This was not an easy decision. We know that the introduction of a new rendering engine can have significant implications for the web. Nevertheless, we believe that having multiple rendering engines—similar to having multiple browsers—will spur innovation and over time improve the health of the entire open web ecosystem.”

Though, Google has a first mover advantage considering a majority of smartphone used today run on its Android OS, Mozilla on the other hand should not be viewed as a weak competitor considering the success it has had with desktop of course its new partnership with Samsung – one of the largest manufacturers of smartphones. Also, Mozilla is preparing to launch smartphones based on it Firefox OS.

Meanwhile, Opera one of the favorite mobile browser, will also be powered by Blink. In a blog post, Bruce Lawson an employee of Opera said, “Blink has a lot of promise for the Web. Its architecture allows for greater speed – something that Opera and Google have long focused on. When browsers are fast and interoperable, using the web as a platform becomes more competitive against native app development.”

Today, the browser has become an integral part of the mobile phone eco-system, and the growth in adoption of cloud will only make it more significant. As businesses, continue to adopt BYOD, it will be necessary to have browsers that are device agnostic to offer a seamless work experience. While the earlier two browser wars were against Internet Explorer, this time around Microsoft seems to be nowhere in the picture. For now, it will be interesting to watch which of three browsers (Chrome, Mozilla and Opera) finally make it to the top.