The article misses the mark
I believe the author brings forth some interesting points but I don't see it as explaining how today's browser landscape was actually painted; I seem to recall things somewhat differently.
Fresh out of Herzing's Institute (Private College) as Programmer/Analyst in the mid 1990s I was top of my class but couldn't land a programming job. I actually kept in touch with a colleague student of mine whom I kept "coaching" at the time and who is now a millionaire; I'm still paying off that student loan.
The very first job I found fresh out of Herzing so I could buy some other crafty dinner than Kraft Dinner was as a Technical Support Agent for the first Montreal ISP: Generation Net. What I experienced there would seal my IT/Programming fate. I was working the evening shift which I didn't care for and a good majority of my calls were from customers having issues with web pages not rendering the same when viewed from a Mac or a PC. In between the Hardware guy who yelled at me in a rage when I asked him a simple question and Legsy, that sexy blond chick who had a web page somewhere and who actually came into the offices to pay her monthly fee, I had some quality time on my hands to look at the HTML programming side of things, the womb in the code that would give birth to different looking twins.
When I discovered the amount of exceptional blocks of code in your run-of-the-mill HTML page trying to please one browser and then another.... I was absolutely shocked, even transpierced. For I recognized in the same instant both the power of HTML, which had remained unbeknownst to me through my formation as a Developer, and my revulsion at the thought of NOT being able to write code once, that would render fine across many browsers. It was then that I decided NOT to waste any time writing HTML and just stick with Desktop development, safer, sounder and more manageable; a mistake that would catch up to me more than 10 years later. I left that ISP after only a few months of employment in a fiery exchange with the actual founder, when in a meeting it became clear I was not going to land the day shift I had been promised.
I was a very good Programmer, the best of my class in actuality, but I was an even better creator, inventor, innovator. But with bills to pay and food to put in my mouth, I couldn't play the "application" and "interview" game like I thought it would pan out and I found myself having to take on another "Tech Support" job. But I watched and read with keen interest, as the browser war that was brewing finally burgeoned.
I saw Netscape, the towering Browser King, get dethroned by all mighty Microsoft with what I call its extremely successful "conquer at a loss" strategy of baking Internet Explorer for free into its OS as nothing more than really a shove-it-down-your-throat browsing alternative. I could not believe my eyes when in a matter of just a couple of years, Netscape lots its crown to the behemoth that was Microsoft. But it was then that I begun to understand something that I believe the author has not underlined in their article; Microsoft was not only going for the kill, but it was going its own way with HTML browsing and standards, incorporating proprietary solutions into its browser, thumbing its nose at the barely established HTML standard.
Not acknowledging web applications in the author's article as a fundamental reason why IE gained acceptance leaves too much out, in my opinion, for the Authors piece to have the full credibility it may have otherwise deserved because these web applications, in my opinion, where what gave way to about a decade worth of a stable platform from which to sow the $eed$ of growth, mainly so, in the Enterprise. This evil that the proprietary, reworked HTML standard that MS had spun out was to be mostly outweighed by the benefits it bestowed upon the Sys Admins. But that Empire had already begun to fall.
Opera. End of the 90s, a small privately owned start up emerged and began to offer an alternate solution. One that would strive and struggle to stay the course of what the HTML standard was, in its full specification glory, but also in Spirit. The web had to stay open, it had to stay free and for this purpose, Opera was born. I can not remember more of an open battle for what open web standards should be, or become, than the one between Opera and MS (maybe other than Samsung VS Apple); it even let up to an open letter (posted in some paper(s)) by the Opera founder/owner to none other than MS's co-founder Bill Gates, denouncing their approach to web standards. The effort would eventually over spill into a spat between Opera and Microsoft, brought against the European Union and a filing by Opera on privacy issues and allegations of anti-competitive practices by Microsoft.
Known in certain circles as the Porn Browser, Opera did way more than step on Goliath's little toe, it actually brought forth innovations that the browsing world much benefited, it even Innovated at a code/algorithm level. "Paste and go", "Customizable popup menus" were just a few examples that the usual surfer would notice, but more obscurely, though more importantly, Opera would push the HTML standard in the Browser space not only for its own self, not only against MS, but signaling every browser maker that this was how browsing was going to go down in the future. Opera nearly died its own death trying to enforce this Mantra, to the benefit of us all, but to its inevitable demise. Private VS Corp. Corp was to win.
At the same time, and in my honest opinion, that is when we found Netscape finally laid on its deathbed and whimpering, ushering the birth of its successor in Spirit, what was already known as the Mozilla Foundation, which was going to "fortuitously" take a piece of the pie while MS and Opera were battling it out for King of the browser Hill. Firefox was in its embryonic stages but it would rapidly gain acceptance fueled primarily, in my opinion, by the Open Source community that breathed continuous life into it and the slithers of stable voids that the battle of David and Goliath was leaving behind in its wake, that Firefox could grab.
Firefox gained its market share as an usurper, in my opinion. I will here pause to say that I do have a bias against Firefox for its delivery, its lack of a vision, lack of Spirit and lack of Titanium Balls wielding. I believe it had all the justifications to go after way more than just market share. It could and should have done more for the web as a whole. But it didn't. And that, was its more than predictable downfall; which is still ongoing.
Fast forward to today. What was Microsoft to you as a kid? What was MS for the Enterprise? It delivered visions and dreams to kids, delivered predictable bottom lines to the Enterprise. But the bane of Corporations would not take exception this time around either. A new behemoth was born, it was fast, open web, open source and it was about to slap IE back to the stone age: Welcome Google Chrome.
Opera folded up and decided to drop their private rendering engine; after innovations that would rock even the Mobile world where it dominated for quite a few years.
Chrome is now the standard by which browsers are measured such as with their self-admittedly borrowing and acknowledging innovating ideas from Opera, and such as their "paste and go" menu option, for example, but more so by their wholeheartedly embracing current and upcoming web standards, to the point where Google and their Chrome browser have now become the defacto standard by which Browser efficacy as a whole, speed and bells combined, are measured.
Thanks to efforts by the little guys and then by the Visionary, big and small, I can now sit down and write a Mobile application that runs in a browser and I can say that for the first time in more than 20 years, my web page or web application will render acceptably the same, whether viewed on an Opera, Chrome, Safari or IE browser on a PC, MAC, LINUX or Chrome OS, and even whether viewed on a Mobile or Desktop application.
I guess my programming side and the rest of the browsing world finally inadvertently met halfway.
Thank fuckin gawd.