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What Difference Does a Browser Make Anyway?

To the dismay of most tech-savvy professionals, many people in the business world are completely unaware of what browser they are using - or even that there are wide variety of browsers the one can use to surf the internet.

In fact, you can actually tell quite a bit about someone by what browser they are using: based on a person's browser of choice, you can make fairly accurate assumptions about their familiarity with Internet technology, preferred operating system, and preferred computer brands.
For example, the following generalizations can be made with some basis for reason:

BrowserProfile of User
Netscape Netscape was officially declared dead at the end of 2007. But is lives on as a Firefox-based browser used primarily by elderly folks who still use AOL to get online. You can expect any customers using 'Navigator' to take lots of care and patience as you explain the basics of the Internet to them while guiding them through their project.
Internet Explorer - "IE" Internet Explorer is today what AOL was in 1995 - the easiest way most people know how to get on the Internet. It comes with all versions of Windows and is the default browser... by default. Web users who surf with IE are generally unaware that they are using this specific browser, and it is common for them not to know which browser they use at all, "I just click the "E" button on my screen and I'm online." So for starters, you know this isn't an Apple user, and you can deduct that they know how to turn on their computer, but beyond that, you can assume that an IE user knows very little about any distinctions between browsers, and likewise, is generally not very knowledgeable about tech related issues. This client is also likely to require quite a bit of hand-holding in understanding the basic technologies behind website development.

Firefox Firefox is one of the three gold-standards of brower performance, with a robust framework that can handle lots of open tabs simultaneously and provides a wide array of plugins to expand browser performance. Firefox users are typically better adapted to using the Net and other web based technologies and are more willing to learn how to use new tools and technologies related to running their business or operating their websites. Clients who use Firefox generally pick up functionality and web marketing strategy concepts quickly and are able to internalize and adopt their business models to available technologies, making them much easier and responsive when managing their projects.
Chrome Chrome is another gold-standard browser, as a Google product, it is well integrated within the entire Googleverse - and provides many plugins to enhance usability, though arguably less customizable than Firefox. A commonly cited downside is that Chrome loads a new 'instance' of the program in your computer each time you open a new tab - so for users who like to have many tabs open at once, Chrome can bog down system performance - especially on slower computers. Still, clients using Chrome are generally web-savvy, heavy users of Google's other products, rapid adopters of technology, and often do not cross-over to Apple products.
Safari Safari was developed by Apple - so you can generally assume that anyone using it is also using a Mac, iPhone, or iPad. Users who KNOW they are using Safari are generally the 'tech-crowd' of Apple's fanbase, while users who DONT KNOW what browser they are using, comprise the legions of Apple users who can only use computers with one-button and a touch-screen - many can only use iPhone and iPads. If a Safari user does know their browser, then there's a good chance they will be somewhat knowledgeable about technology and you will be able to work with them to resolve the conflicts they experience as Mac users - if not, then they may be even more work to manage than IE users, given that Apple products are often preferred by people who are confused and challenged by PCs.
Opera Opera was originally a paid app with lots of innovative, high-performance features - clusters of techies in Eastern Europe pirated and adopted it before it was set 'free' - but by then Firefox and Chrome had already feasted on IE's thrown-away market share. This was compounded by the fact that Opera is not directly tied to any search engine (Chrome), hardware brand (Safari), or development community (Firefox). The result for Opera is that it still struggles to stay alive, and is occasionally included as a browser on mobile devices. Opera users who swear by it are typically rather high-tech loyalists who take some pride in taking the 'road less taken' - as clients they may have be quite knowledgeable about the technologies involved in creating their project, but watch out for personalities that try to dictate technology decisions based on eccentric preferences ('You MUST use PYTHON to build my entire site")
Maxthon Maxthon is a bit of a renegade project based on IE by a company in China - originally called "MyIE2" - it provided advanced features such as tabbed-browser windows, and faster performance. It is typically used by PC users who prefer it to IE, and is highly versatile and customizable. Clients who use Maxthon often have a specific reason they prefer that browser to Firefox and Chrome, and often spend a lot of time customizing their browsing experience - and their entire computer experience in general. Maxthon clients often have some basic to advanced understanding of programming and technology, and are often make for highly tech-savvy customers capable of picking up data entry and administrative configuration settings for their sites rather easily.
Any Other Browser Of course, there are many other browsers out there - and even new ones being built every year, however, anyone using a browser not listed in this table is likely very, very particular about their browsing experience. There may be some cases where computer devices come with other pre-loaded generic browser software, but other than that, clients specifically using alternative browser software may be quite challenging to manage. Asides from having to cater to site adjustments specifically for their off-brand browser, you can expect them to be highly sensitive to things like the loading time of each feature added to their site: which is not to be overlooked, but the process of testing and trading out multiple technologies to determine peak performance can be tedious and time consuming - be sure to budget accordingly.

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