Know Your Enemy (Web Browser Rivalries)

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about various web browsers. Opera can/can’t do this. Firefox can/can’t do that. There’s only so much you can do to promote one product when you only know rumors or outdated facts about another.

Opera users: If someone told you that Firefox was better than Opera because it doesn’t have ads, you wouldn’t take them seriously. You’d know the ads have been gone since last year, and you’d wonder what else they have wrong.

Firefox users: If someone told you Opera was better than Firefox because Firefox won’t let you reorder tabs, you wouldn’t take them seriously. You’d know that Firefox 1.5 did just that, and you’d wonder what else they have wrong.

And neither of you will convince an IE fan that Opera is better because of tabs and a built-in search box because they’ll tell you that IE7 has both.

When you’re trying to convince someone that X is better than Y, and they know Y very well, you’d better know Y well enough not to make statements that the other person knows are false. When you do, you’ll lose credibility, and the rest of your argument — the part you do know well — will suffer for it. (I suspect a lot of software flame wars get started this way!)

So here’s my suggestion: If you want to promote Opera, go and download Firefox 1.5. If you want to promote Firefox, go and download the Opera 9 beta. Either way, try out the IE7 beta (if your Windows version will run it) or fire up Safari (if you’re on a Mac). Mess around with them enough that you’re familiar with how they work, what you can do with them, and how they handle your favorite web pages. That way the next time you face an IE fan (to the extent that IE has fans), or a Firefox fan, or an Opera fan, or a Safari fan, you’ll be armed with accurate information.

As for the post title — I don’t think it’s necessary for the major browsers to be enemies. I think there’s plenty of room for cordial competition rather than a cutthroat struggle. But “Know Your Enemy” is a better attention-getter than “Familiarize yourself with the competition.” 😉

*This post originally appeared in two slightly different forms on my blog Confessions of a Web Developer at the My Opera community and on my Spread Firefox blog.

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