The Internet Browser: The Last Mile of SaaS

Familiar with barriers? Everything new, everything disruptive, everything revolutionary encounters barriers. Each of us encounters barriers on a personal level everyday. Sales people definitely know about barriers (and how to get around them). Since PipelineDeals is a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) product we encounter our own barriers everyday. Barriers may be real or perceived. I tend to focus on the real ones, as the perceived barriers are usually tougher to crack.

The last major real barrier preventing cost-effective and widespread adoption of SaaS applications is the Internet Browser. Arguably, broadband was the straw that broke the camel’s back in the first Internet software bubble. If you look back at many of the businesses that failed in 2001, many fell through due to the lack of a large enough Internet connection to make them pleasant to use. For the most part, the advent and spread of broadband in the form of DSL, Cable and Fiber in the home and workplace has negated the broadband issue. The browser is the last bastion of a real barrier to SaaS and is arguably a drag on today’s Internet economy.

The recent proliferation of SaaS and web-based applications places a large burden of responsibility on the browser. The browser and operating system combination is paramount to the user experience and constitutes the last mile of delivery for any SaaS application. The complication comes with the splintering of the operating systems (Windows, Mac, Linux) coupled with the continued fragmentation of the browsers (IE 6, IE 7, Firefox, Safari, Opera, Mozilla, Camino). Take a look at these actual stats from PipelineDeals for the trailing 30 days:

Browser and OS Combo                    % of Total Visits

Internet Explorer / Windows                        58.9%
Firefox / Windows                                      24.1%
Firefox / Macintosh                                      7.7%
Safari / Macintosh                                        6.2%
Firefox / Linux                                              1.6%

(Note: This is a little deceiving as Internet Explorer (IE) has its own internal complications for SaaS delivery between IE 6 and IE 7. These are only the top five – there are 15 other Browser/OS combos cumulatively rounding out the remaining 1.5%)

The financial drain on companies doing cross-browser, cross-OS testing and QA has to began to pile up and there is no end in sight. The competitive landscape in both the OS and Browser landscape, while ultimately good for the customer, is an undocumented tax on web development. The OS is too large of a battle to be settled easily as that battle has been around since PCs were invented. However, I hold out hope that the Browser Battle is not insurmountable. All of the SaaS companies alive today and coming in the future would welcome one browser to design to, perhaps even if that one browser was inferior. Maybe Mozilla and Firefox is the right answer to the one browser equation as it removes the selfish (and self-serving) corporate interests from the equation. I am sure this solution has some detractors too. Until the one Browser day arrives we will continue to work to make sure the last mile of PipelineDeals is pleasant for everyone.

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