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Your Website on the Battlefield: What You Need to Know to Survive the Browser Wars

In an ideal online world, web developers would be able to write code that works the same for every browser. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The browser wars rage on, divisive and chaotic as ever. Worse, even: there are more sides, on more battlefields, than ever before. Websites and developers have even more challenges to face as the environments they're expected to perform on are becoming more varied than ever. The key to ensuring that your website is as successful as it can be online is to optimize it for the browsers and platforms your audience is searching from.

The New Combatants: Chrome, Safari, and Many More

The number of browsers involved in today's browser wars makes the Internet-Explorer-versus-Netscape days of the nineties look positively quaint. Windows is still the dominant operating system (OS) on desktops, but Internet Explorer has continued to lose share in the browser world as the web spreads–rapidly–to other platforms. But even among Windows users, Internet Explorer is lagging in popularity behind Google Chrome and Firefox.

The New Battlefields: Mobile Devices Including Smart Phones & Tablets

Nearly all of the shaking up in the browser world can be attributed to the increasing dominance of mobile and tablet platforms for accessing the web. Safari, a minor blip in the Windows-dominated world of desktops, is king of the handheld browsers thanks to Apple's popular iOS devices. On mobile and tablet, Opera is still a scrappy underdog with a solid user base. The Android native browser has been officially replaced by Google Chrome, but there are still plenty of older Android devices in the field that still offer it as the default.

In addition to the new and radically different browser landscape, mobile and tablet browsing reverses the trend on the desktop: the screens are getting smaller and smaller, which means your site must be responsive to look its best. The shrinking screen has also increased the popularity of high-density displays, including but not limited to Apple's Retina display, which make adjusting for smaller screens a more nuanced procedure than just counting pixel width.

What About the Future?

The latest interface innovations are just hinting at tremendous changes in the landscape. For now, Google Glass puts very tiny output in the corner of the user's visual field, so that it doesn't interfere with real life. But Oculus Rift strives for a completely immersive experience. I think, as we adapt to a new paradigm of interfaces, portable computing will quickly blend the two. Virtual screens will fix themselves in front of your face when you want to focus only on a computing task, or will bind to a fixed location when you want to walk away from a workstation. Subtle reality augmentation will tie content in unobtrusive spots until you focus on and expand them. Content won't just wait at a destination in cyberspace anymore, but will be connected to the places where it’s needed in the real world. The “Internet of Things” is upon us.

Will the website of tomorrow need to be three-dimensional? Will bits of it need to be linked to a map of the world? What will it mean to be responsive when visitors to your site have infinite control over the way they look at your content?

Maybe you're not thinking about these far-fetched science fiction ideas. It's enough to prepare for the present. But as the present turns into the future, the browser wars will surely take on new and exciting forms. For now, the best thing to do is ensure that the developers of your website are focusing on the platforms and browsers that your audience is using. us if you would like to discuss your site’s performance and how it can best weather the browser wars.

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