Those days are gone.
The browser isn’t dead. It’s simply gone crazy with some kind of exploding number scheme. If you’re keeping score, Apple’s Safari is losing. Our favorite Mac browser is a mere version 5.1.
In just the past few months, Safari has been eclipsed by Mozilla’s Firefox which jumped from 3.x to 4.x to 5.x and now rests at version 6. It still looks like Firefox. Version 1 showed up in 2004, almost a year after Safari.
If you think that’s crazy, check out Google’s Chrome. It’s only been available for three years. Version 1 in 2008, versions 2 and 3 in 2009, versions 4 through 8 in 2010, and 9 through 14 already in 2011.
That’s crazy. It still looks and works like the ancient Chrome browser, circa 2008.
Poor old Opera. It’s the browser that won’t die, yet no one uses it. Now it’s at version 12, which is still less than one version per year. That’s versus Chrome’s new version every three or four months.
What’s going on? Why the crazy numbering schemes?
Even Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has aged to version 9, but it began life back in 1995, so it’s OK to cut it some numerical slack.
Truly, Google thinks different, but for no apparent reason other than to irritate Apple’s Safari crew, and to infect Mozilla’s Firefox development team.
There’s not much difference between these new versions that would qualify for a whole point increase. Maybe there’s a psychological reason to pump up the numbers. The higher the number, the more the browser gets used by more people. Mozilla’s SeaMonkey is stuck at version 2.x and few people use it.
At the current annual rate, by 2020, less than a decade away, Chrome will be at version 41, Firefox at version 33, but Safari only at version 9. Maybe we should have a law. No new browser number until there’s a new feature that a user can identify.