Internet browsers are battling like its 1999, only this time on a smaller computer screen: the smartphone. Or so says The New York Times's Claire Cain Miller, in laying out the "wars" between Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Apple's Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Google's Chrome, and Amazon's Silk. Miller claims this conflict has just begun to heat up, but we can already see which browser has pulled ahead — and which others stand any chance in battle. Here's the early take, with superlatives!
Most Popular: Safari
If we're going by sheer numbers, at this point, Safari, the browser that comes built in to that beloved iPhone has the biggest market share, according to numbers from Net Market Share.
Though iPhone users can download apps to support other, more-popular-on-the-desktop browsers for their phones, Apple makes sure Safari runs on different, faster servers than any Chrome app, for example. The phone settings also make it impossible to change the default browser. So when you're clicking links in email, the iPhone will automatically redirect users to Safari. Now that's market share.
Most Likely to Succeed: Google Chrome
Though Safari gets the most taps, it doesn't carry over the same love from desktop computer users, where Internet Explorer and Chrome dominate, as these Global Stats show.
Given that IE comes installed on every PC, Chrome has enjoyed a pretty impressive run, winning the love of many who have gone out of their way to download the browser. Google only came out with an iOS version of its beloved browser last June — but there are at least a few reasons people won't switch over from Safari, as we explained back then. Still, as Google's Sundar Pichai told Miller, the company believes that as more people turn to their phones for shopping and gaming, Chrome will provide the best experience.
Best Comeback Effort: Internet Explorer
Got to hand it to the relic for trying to reinvent itself and its image. In addition to its hip "Browser You Love to Hate" ad campaign, Microsoft has attempted to see the future coming and designed its browser accordingly. Using HTML-5, Microsoft designed the browser for tablets, encouraging developers to build websites with touch in mind. Those reading news articles, for example, swipe instead of touching a tiny "next" button with their fingers. We applaud the efforts, but thanks to the platform it was built on, IE sometimes sends users to "a garbage page designed for mobile phones circa 2005," as BuzzFeed's Matt Buchanan pointed out.
Unlike other web browsers, RockMelt looks different than just a downsized version of the desktop browsing experience. Instead of having the standard list of links, users get a much more photo driven experience, as you can at right. RockMelt also has a social component, incorporating a share tab with all your various social media accounts. Definitely the most creative of the mobile browsers, it has not yet caught on with a major mainstream audience.
Least Successful So Far: Firefox
It only has less than 1 percent of the market share now. The company has made mobile a priority, but we haven't seen anything too wild out of the company, besides for some minor social incorporation.
The Silent Killer: Apps
How often do you even use a browser on your smartphone? Only as often as there's not an app for that. Apps were made for phones. They work fast; they look pretty. Browsers are kind of a last resort for Internetting on your phone. Maybe if these companies succeed in creating a browser experience that feels more natural to a tablet or smartphone, then we won't feel that way. But until then, apps are the new browsers.