ProBeat: Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are bringing back the browser wars

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This was a big week in browser news: Google launched Chrome 64 and Mozilla released Firefox 58 in the span of just over a day. But the timing isn’t what’s interesting (both browsers get new versions every six weeks or so) — except for the fact it coincided with Mosaic’s 25-year anniversary — it’s the significant additions and improvements that point to a bigger trend. The browsers wars are heating up again.

I pay close attention to browser updates. It’s a bit of an obsession of mine, but I do justify it, to anyone who will listen, by saying that browsers don’t get enough coverage relative to how much time we spend in them.

2018 will be about ads and performance

2018 is already looking like it will be much more eventful than the last few years. This is largely thanks to Google — unlike Microsoft, the company is not taking its lead in the browser market for granted. Google is doubling down on the user experience by focusing on ads and performance, an opportunity I’ve argued its competitors have completely missed.

Chrome got a stronger pop-up blocker this month, but that’s nothing compared to what has already been announced for 2018. Google’s browser will soon no longer autoplay content with sound, take on third-party software injections, and crack down on unwanted redirects. Oh, a built in ad blocker is coming next month.

And that’s just what Google has talked about publicly. There’s undoubtedly plenty in the pipeline that slated for release this year.

Meanwhile, Mozilla has released a major revamp of Firefox, dubbed Firefox Quantum. That was version 57, we’re already on 58, and there’s a lot more from where all that came from. The speed improvements are massive, and coupled with Tracking Protection, they blow Chrome out of the water.

Mozilla is finally back in business. I’m not at all saying Firefox will, or even can, unseat Chrome, but it’s finally worth taking into account again.

Apple and Microsoft are still big players in the browser space, but they continue to move very slowly. Nevertheless, Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention push in Safari is worth … tracking, and Microsoft’s Continue on PC efforts show plenty of promise.

Mobile and beyond

I could be completely wrong that 2018 will be a pivotal year in the browser wars, and if there’s nothing that gives me more pause than the state of mobile browsers. Because of the Android-iOS duopoly, there simply isn’t anywhere near as much innovation on phones and tablets as there could be. Add to that Apple’s requirement that all iOS browsers use WebKit/WKWebView and the general domination of Blink/Chromium on Android, and you’re left with a boring browser battle.

Former president of Microsoft’s Windows Division Steven Sinofsky put it best:

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