Monday, June 5th, 2006
His most recent (long!) article covers the latest browser market-share figures, and compares browser performance and usability on the Mac. He points to the overall drop in IE market share over the last few years:
The accompanying chart shows the change in shares from October 2004 (shortly after Firefox 1.0 was released) to April 2006, and though the drop in IE share looks small, itâ€™s actually almost 10 full percentage points. Likewise, though the increase in Safariâ€™s share looks small, itâ€™s actually more than doubled over this time periodâ€“from less than 1.5 percent to over 3.0 percent. Firefox has gotten the most attention, and deservedly soâ€¦ itâ€™s gone from about 2.5 percent to over 10 percent since October 2004â€“a quadrupling!
You can debate the reliability of such statistics all day long, but I don’t think anyone would disagree that Firefox has changed the game and given all web developers some hope IE will eventually “just work”.
The Safari issue, and overall Mac market share, is very interesting. I know everywhere I go I see more and more Macs used by two important groups of people: prominent hackers and college students. Go to any tech conference and you’ll probably see 75% of the speakers using MacBooks. Don’t underestimate the power they hold over both newer programmers, who look up to the hackers, and non-programmers, who often turn to their “nerd friends” for advice on future computer purchase. As for college students, a whole generation of iPod and MacBook devotees become middle aged Mac loving adults with a lot of disposable income.
As Safari is the default on Macs, it will becoming increasingly more important to support for larger organizations as well as programmer-targeted sites and tools. Hopefully, it will become easier as certain annoying bugs in Web Kit get wiped out (try to find an open source rich text editor that completely works in Safari – I dare you!).
Of course, the common complaint from open source developers or lone programmers is “How do I support Safari when I already own linux/winXP pcs and can’t afford a Mac.” There are some remote VNC service options, such as BrowserCam, though I can’t imagine trying to debug and iterate over a remote VNC connection. Maybe it will just become a requirement for a web programmers to have some sort of cross platform setup, whether its Parallels on Mac OS X or some sort of emulator on Windows. Or maybe a win32 port of WebKit is the answer. Is Konqueror on Linux close enough to substitute for true Safari testing?
So there aren’t any easy answers to the Safari problem right now for PC users, and I think the issue will only grow with time. Has your team added Safari to its list of “first-class supported browsers”? Do you see it happening in the next three to five years? Who out there can port Firebug to Safari, and by the end of the week, please?
Posted by Rob Sanheim at 6:30 am