Opportunity ’08: Browsers?

2008 should be an interesting year for Web browsers.

Microsoft is hoping to keep Firefox from taking even more market share with the launch of IE8, while increasingly-profitable Mozilla Foundation is putting the final touches on Firefox 3.0 to maintain the assault on IE. Meanwhile, Flock continues to carry on – finally earning kudos from critics but seemingly struggling to attract users.

So what else can we expect from Web browsers in 2008? Will IE be enough of an improvement that it will force Firefox to take a step backward? Will Firefox 3.0 will be so good that it can climb to 15% to 20% of the market? Will Flock ever be embraced? And what of Opera, Maxthon, Safari, Camino, OmniWeb, Konqueror, Galeon, Netscape et al?

Is this the year that Google finally launches the GBrowser? Will Facebook use some of its Microsoft dough to offer the FBrowser? What about foreign-launguage browsers?

What seems a little strange is that unlike the search engine market where entrepreneurs and investors are working on new start-ups despite Google’s dominance, there doesn’t seem to be a flurry of activity within the browser community. The last high-profile browser start-up was probably Flock, which attracted all kinds of hype but dropped the ball with the premature release of an alpha that was savaged.

What Flock tried (and is still trying) to do is establish a foothold by being different. For Flock, different means being the Swiss Army knife of browsers with the ability to not only surf the Web but blog, keep track of your Facebook friends, and connect with photo-sharing services.

In theory, it’s a great idea. In practice, it has yet to be embraced because there doesn’t seem to be enough interest in a multi-dimensional browser to lure people away from IE and Firefox.

So what would it take for a new browser to take the world by storm? What kind of features would it need to be viable? If Firefox can come out of nowhere (actually, the open source community) to become a legitimate rival to IE, does that mean there’s still room for a new and exciting browser start-up? And would a VC be bold enough to fund it?

More: You can check out my other Opportunity ’08 posts on the RSS reader market and vertical blog search.

Update: Henry Blodget has an intriguing post on when the Mozilla Foundation will do an IPO. He crunches the numbers, and calculates Mozilla would demand a value of $1.5-billion to $4-billion. Wow.

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  • Eric Cheung

    Just as an addition, AOL is discontinuing all product development and support for the Netscape browsers by Feb 1, 2008.

  • Mark Evans

    Maybe someone will buy the assets, and do something interesting with them. It would be nice to see Netscape make a comeback.

  • Gavin

    I think that Firefox is the best browser out there, and so no one else is fixing what’s not broken!

  • Ray no browser loyalty

    I used Firefox for 3 years – recently went to OPERA – very slick – slightly unorthodox in bookmarking – it had me cursing for a couple days – but the feature-set is all there. Best of all, it needs much less memory.
    Since the last 2 upgrades of Firefox I was crashing it 2 – 3 times daily.
    I’m GONE.

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