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Make Love, Not Browser Wars


Cloud-based software is becoming something we rely on daily, in both business and in personal tasks. There is cloud-based software for everything these days… interior design, managing household budgets, and conducting online meetings.

We can now access our information anywhere we go, needing just a few things, a computer or mobile device, Internet, and a browser. It is the last item that causes me frustration more often than not these days. No longer can I depend on just one browser for all of my needs. I need three.

The cloud-based software I use to conduct meetings will only work properly on two out of my three browsers. I use another program for expenses that works on all of my browsers, but looks terrible in my default browser. All of the buttons that are neatly aligned in my default browser seem to be randomly placed in another browser. My aggravations had always been targeted at the software I was using. Now I know better. Today, through my own work in the software industry, I have a keen understanding of the impact browser updates have on cloud-based software. Every time one of these browsers does an update, the domino effect begins.

For example, let’s say Mozilla Firefox releases an update, there is potential for any software running on it to behave differently because of that update. It then becomes the responsibility of that software provider to release their own update to work with the latest version of Firefox. So, let’s say they do that update, software works beautifully on the new version of Firefox as well as the other commonly used browsers, Chrome, Explorer, and Safari. Everyone is happy, well, for a minute.

Enter the Chrome update. That same cloud-based software provider now has to go back and update their software again to work with the latest version of Chrome. Done, everything is smooth sailing again… for another minute or so… Next up, well, Explorer has an update… and then Firefox again… Safari… and then of course Chrome again…

Now, this is all par for the course. And the current course is one of rapid change, hence rapid software development cycles. A typical development cycle in software generally involves one or two version releases a year. In January 2010, Firefox launched version 3.6 and closed the year with version 3.7. The development cycle has been significantly more aggressive in 2011 as the various browser providers battle it out for market share. In early 2011, Firefox released version 4.0. If you go to download Firefox today, you’ll be getting version 8.0!!!

These browser updates can be positive and in today’s market, they are often based on consumers’ direct feedback. In the long-term, competition between the various browser providers will inevitably lead to great products, not just in the browsers you use, but also in the software you run on those browsers. But, in the short-term, growing pains are inevitable.

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