Why do the browser wars exist? Why do companies spend so much money on browsers, only to give them away for free?

Asked on Reddit.

I don’t consider myself much of a business analyst, but I’ve been following a lot of the news stories around browsers, and I felt I had some insight to share:

Firefox makes receives money from Google for making Google the default search engine, and the more popular Firefox is, the more leveraging power they get to negotiate more money. Also, a lot of contributors to the Mozilla foundation are open source idealists, so they want FF to succeed for that reason alone.

Google has huge control over the web, but has almost no power in the desktop app arena. Google wants everyone to switch to web apps like Google Docs instead of Microsoft Office, so they have a lot of motivation to force browsers (any and all browsers) to become more powerful so that better web apps can come out. The easiest way for em to do that is to release a kickass browser, which would force all the other browsers to improve to catch up.

Opera wants brand name recognition, because although they give their desktop browser away for free, they make money by licensing their browser to embedded devices like the nintendo ds and cell phones.

I’m not sure what Microsoft’s plan is, except to make sure Google doesn’t win, both in the sense of having Bing be the default search engine, and not to allow Google to fully dictate the direction web apps are going in.

I’m also not sure what Apple’s plan is, besides the fact that Apple likes to control all their software on the Mac, meaning they’d release Safari for Mac no matter what. Why’d theyd port Safari to Windows, I can’t say, except maybe to gain mindshare and ease more Windows user to convert to Mac maybe.

 
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