Firefox Paradox

A particularly astute reader of this blog has been emailing with me about an issue that results from the emerging popularity of alternative broswers, led by Firefox.

As I’ve posted a couple times, my audience is somewhere between 25% and 35% Firefox users.

And I made the assertion in my most recent post that developers of web sites that don’t work well with Firefox need to do something about that.

So here is the paradox.  Firefox is great for the user because it provides a new open source browser that the community of users can maintain and improve. I use it almost exclusively unless I come across a site that doesn’t work well with it. Then I fall back to IE.

But Firefox is not great for the developers of the websites because now they have to support another platform.  Since the death of Netscape in the late 90s, web site developers have only had to support one browser, IE, and that has made their life so much easier.

That’s not true anymore.  Over 5% of the Internet audience uses Firefox and probably another 1-2% use Safari, Mozilla, and Opera.  And these alternative browsers are all gaining market share against IE.

My reader suggests that he could apply his scant resources to making his web site better for the IE users or he could apply them to making his web site available to the Firefox users, but he may not be able to do both.

And this situation gets worse if we end up with three popular browsers.  What happens if Firefox and Safari each end up splitting the market with IE at 30% each?  And what if Google is really building their own browser based on Mozilla and Firefox.

Then every web developer has to support three or more platforms and that may lead to less innovation on the web as more resources get applied to supporting the browsers instead of pushing the envelope on new functionality.

I don’t think that’s where this is all headed, but its a concern.  My reader and I are interested in what all of you think about this.  So please comment liberally to this post.