Does it matter which browser I use?

By Alex Jordan, Sage Business Expert (4 min read)

Alex gives you the lowdown on the current internet browser market, discussing why you should put more thought in to choosing the one for you.

Over the past 5 years the market for internet browsers has been fairly solid with the usual suspects dominating usage stats.

Whilst there are far more browsers available than you may think, the chances are that you’re a regular user of either Chrome, FireFox, Safari or Internet Explorer, and probably couldn’t name many more.

So don’t browsers do the same thing, why does it matter what I use?

Well actually no, each browser is quite unique in its own way. For one thing, the engine that drives them varies from browser to browser, which is usually why you sometimes find that some web apps only work on certain browsers and not others. This is probably too technical for the average user, so let’s consider the common differences:

Chrome is by far the most popular browser with 64% market share in August 2015. This is largely due to a simple interface, fast load speeds and plenty of extensions (small programs that add functionality) available. As is usually the case with Google products, Chrome was built with developers in mind and Chrome’s in-built development tools are hugely popular with web developers.

FireFox ranks second with 21.2% market share. Like Chrome, FireFox is incredibly flexible with the ability to integrate extensions. It also has built-in developer tools. FireFox is open source, which means it is developed by a community of developers and therefore FireFox features are often quick to evolve with new technologies.

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Apple’s Safari have similar market shares of 6.6% and 4.5% respectively. Whilst they do between them have some reasonably exciting features, both are plagued with bad reputations.

Initially criticised for security bugs and rendering websites differently to everyone else, Internet Explorer has suffered for the best part of a decade because they never forced users to update, which made it much harder for them to address issues and give users the best experience as the web evolved. Internet Explorer generally performs poorly against other browsers, and can be much slower to open and render websites. Once the most popular browser in the world, users got fed up and moved away.

Similarly, Safari has suffered issues with speed and has likely only grown to 4.5% because of the increasing popularity of Apple devices. To browse the internet, Safari does the job. But after limited use of Safari on my iMac I got fed up with how inflexible it is and opted to move away.

And that tends to be a trend with default browsers: those who use Internet Explorer and Safari, the default browsers for Windows and Mac, tend to not have the technical knowledge or inclination to opt for anything better. If your internet usage is minimal then these browsers do the job, but anyone with the savviness to realise that they can use something better tend to move across to Chrome or FireFox.

I do feel like I’m being slightly unfair to Internet Explorer. As a web developer with an iMac and PC, I use a range of browsers to test my work and, aside from speed issues, later versions of Internet Explorer do have some pretty useful features. Unfortunately, that’s not anywhere near enough to convince me to make it my default browser, sitting a distant third below FireFox and Chrome as an order of personal preference.

However, there’s a new kid on the block! Microsoft’s Edge, the successor of Internet Explorer, has the potential to be a game changer. Performing similarly to Chrome in numerous tests, it is light weight, easy to customise and includes some fantastic tools. It’s just a shame that Microsoft are 10 years too late!

Alex Jordan, Sage Business Expert

Alex, CEO of Hyperlink Media, is a digital entrepreneur and business consultant specialising in start-ups and digital media.