If you don’t like your browser, why won’t you change to a different one?
Commentary: Users tend to stick with their preferred browser even when it works poorly for them.
Consumers should care more about browser security, which is why the primary browser providers keep focusing on privacy improvements. Google just announced plans to drive a stake through the heart of third-party cookies in its Chrome browser, potentially improving consumer privacy. Meanwhile, Microsoft is rolling out a brand-spanking new Chromium-based Edge browser, which comes with better default tracking protection than Chrome. For its part, Mozilla–long preferred by privacy-minded folks–now allows you to track those who are tracking you. There’s much the same from Apple’s Safari, privacy-focused Brave, and others, too.
But guess what? You really don’t care, do you?
Dig into whichever tally of browser market share you prefer (StatCounter or NetMarketShare or [insert your preferred option here]), and you’ll find the same thing: Stasis. Despite all the improvements to the various browser options in terms of performance and privacy, people tend to stick with what they have, seemingly forever.
SEE: How to protect against 10 common browser threats (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
You’re not the sample set
If you’re in tech, you may be protesting at this point. “I switched to Firefox from Chrome last year to take advantage of X or Y security improvement and the X% performance boost!” you exclaim. That may be true, but it’s also true that techies aren’t like the vast majority of people using web browsers, as former Mozilla staffer Patrick Finch reminded me.
Among the tech crowd, it’s somewhat common to cite security and performance as reasons for moving to a different browser. For example, Oliver Marks dropped Chrome because it was “very slow.” Subbu Allamaraju, meanwhile, switched to Firefox a few years back to embrace its improved privacy controls. Another commentator said that he “switched from Chrome to Firefox (after years) when I discovered the existence and high CPU usage of software_reporter_tool.exe.”
These are all good reasons to move to a different browser. They just don’t motivate most people.
We all live in the Chrome submarine
According to Andre Stricker, “‘normal’ (non-nerd) people do not care about their privacy. It’s a sad fact and will fire back eventually.” That may be a bit strong. I, for example, care about privacy, and it sometimes drives me crazy to see how much of my CPU Chrome is chewing up, but I also love the convenience of having my browsing history/tabs linked across my various devices. I know this is now possible with other browsers, but there hasn’t been a compelling event to move me.
This is why browser market share has remained somewhat static over the years. By NetMarketShare’s numbers, Chrome has grown its share over time, but the various positions on the table haven’t really changed in years. Chrome sits comfortably in the lead, Firefox tends to inhabit the second spot, etc.
So what would it take for things to change? There was a time when performance really mattered–it’s what pushed me to Chrome in the first place. Will things get so bad with performance in Chrome that more will follow Marks to rival browsers like Opera? Or will there be such a big security hiccup that people will move en masse?
It’s hard to say, and impossible to know. For now, the different browsers keep getting better, but it’s not exactly clear why, if consumers are simply going to keep using the same things we’ve always used.