Release Histories for all Major Browsers

I thought it would be interesting to list the release history for major versions of each of the big browsers.

Two factors that I believe will play a role in eventually abolishing browser version numbers are the rapid release schedule, and auto-updating — both of which, if I’m not mistaken, are Google Chrome inventions.

Each version history table timeline has a single colored row that represents the browser release that took the longest.

Internet Explorer Version Release History

Internet Explorer

Version # Release Date
1 August 16, 1995
2 November 22, 1995
3 August 13, 1996
4 October, 1997
5 March 18, 1999
5.5 Jy 8, 2000
6 August 27, 2001
7 October 18, 2006
8 March 19, 2009
9 March 14, 2011

Points of interest:

  • The 5 year period between IE6 and IE7 is probably what killed Microsoft’s reputation in the eyes of many web developers; they waited way too long to upgrade a mediocre piece of software while allowing Firefox to take over and innovate uncontested
  • IE6 was released 15 days before 9/11; I guess catastrophic, world-changing events happen in bunches

Firefox Version Release History

Firefox

Version # Release Date
1 November 9, 2004
1.5 November 29, 2005
2 October 24, 2006
3 June 17, 2008
3.5 June 30, 2009
3.6 January 21, 2010
4 March 22, 2011
5 June 21, 2011
6 August 16, 2011
7 September 27, 2011
8 November 8, 2011
9 December 20, 2011
10 January 31, 2012

Points of interest:

  • In the early days, Firefox underwent a number of name changes, starting out as Phoenix, then Firebird, before finally settling on Firefox
  • I couldn’t find an exact date, but it seems that the Web Developer Tools add-on was released some time in 2006
  • Firebug was initially released in January 2006

Chrome Version Release History

Chrome

Version # Release Date
1 December 11, 2008
2 May 24, 2009
3 October 12, 2009
4 January 25, 2010
5 May 21, 2010
6 September 2, 2010
7 October 1, 2010
8 December 2, 2010
9 February 3, 2011
10 March 8, 2011
11 April 27, 2011
12 June 7, 2011
13 August 2, 2011
14 September 16, 2011
15 October 25, 2011
16 December 13, 2011
17 February 8, 2012

Points of interest:

  • The versions above are rounded numbers representing each major stable release; smaller incremental releases (which Chrome does a lot of) are not listed here
  • The first beta release of Chrome was version 0.2

Safari Version Release History

Safari

Version # Release Date
1 June 23, 2003
2 April 29, 2005
3 June 11, 2007
3.1 March 18, 2008
4 February 24, 2009
5 June 7, 2010
5.1 July 20, 2011

Points of interest:

  • Apple actually released Safari 4.1 (not listed above) at the same time as version 5
  • The 13 months between version 5 and 5.1 allowed Chrome (which released rapidly and also uses WebKit) to jump way ahead of Safari in supported HTML5 and CSS3 features

Opera Version Release History

Opera

Version # Release Date
2 July(?), 1996
3 December 31, 1997
4 June 28, 2000
5 December 6, 2000
6 November 29, 2001
7 January 28, 2003
8 April 19, 2005
8.5 September 20, 2005
9 June 20, 2006
9.1 December 18, 2006
9.2 April 11, 2007
9.5 June 12, 2008
10 September 1, 2009
10.5 March 2, 2010
10.6 July 1, 2010
11 December 16, 2010
11.1 December 16, 2010
11.5 June 28, 2011
11.6 December 6, 2011
11.61 January 24, 2012

Points of interest:

  • Prior to version 2, there was no public release of Opera
  • Before researching this stuff, I didn’t know Opera had been around so long; they’ve had numerous opportunities to increase their market share but their major release gaps seem to have worked against them

Final Notes

All data was compiled from the individual Wikipedia articles for each browser, and a few related articles.

I think the Chrome release schedule and method is best. Browsers should upgrade automatically in the background, and releases should occur frequently.

From what I can see, part of the reason that IE, Safari, and Opera have become less relevant is the fact that they’ve had major gaps between releases.

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25 Responses

  1. I was recently wondering about which browsers we should still be supporting and I realised I had no idea what the latest release of firefox was, doh. Thanks a lot for this!

  2. Here’s hoping that one day we can just test support for “Firefox, Chrome, IE and Safari” without version numbers on the assumption that everyone has auto-updated. I doubt we’ll ever see a point where we can develop for one, fit for all but here’s hoping to that too!

  3. You should also mention that Opera was pay only until 2000. After that the users could use the browser for free with some ads in it, you could pay to remove the ads. The ads were removed completely in 2005 making Opera a completely free browser. Great article

    P.S. Awesome comment preview :)

  4. Scott Vivian:

    You are missing a bunch of releases for Opera – they have several .1 and .2 releases. IIRC 9.2 was a reasonable size upgrade, definitely bigger than a Chrome major-number-version.

    I was a huge fan of Opera back when they were the only alternative to a horrible Internet Explorer. I’ve never been able to pinpoint exactly why they didn’t gain share back then. Many sites were designed only for IE so they broke in Opera, but that doesn’t explain how Firefox managed to break through. Nowadays, Opera is a bloated mess.

    • Yeah, looks like you were right. I think my research of Opera’s history was a bit more sloppy than the others (can you blame me? — it barely qualifies as a “major” browser). So I added a few of the in-between releases. Thanks.

      • Sepp:

        Do you really want to be taken serious with this attitude? This statement (“it barely qualifies as a “major” browser”) and not even adding the latest release (yeah I know, very difficult to find this URL via Google… http://www.opera.com/docs/history/) does not speak for your “research” qualities.

        • It’s not a major player in the browser market, except in a few countries. I don’t consider Opera very relevant at all.

          That being said, they’ve had one of the best browsers (quality-wise) by far, for a very long time. It’s unfortunate that nobody uses it. But I stand by my words: It’s not a major browser, because hardly anybody uses it.

          And I’ll update to include 11.6+, thank you. I didn’t want to include so many point releases, so I left it at 11.5. But if it’s going to offend you, then I guess I have no choice. :)

          • Sepp:

            Safari is not a “major player” too. In which countries is Safari in one of the top 2 spots on the desktop? The users are mostly mobile users on iPhones and iPads, like Opera with its Mini and Mobile users. On the desktop hardly anyone uses Safari. Even the biggest Apple fanboys I know use Firefox or Chrome on their Macs.
            I have no problem with people using other browsers, but I can’t understand people discrediting Opera as being no major browser with millions of users around the globe.

          • Agreed, Safari is not major, and probably not as relevant as Opera. If I recall, Safari also had a couple of other point releases I didn’t include, so I wasn’t unfairly leaving out Opera’s point releases.

            But like I said, Opera is a great browser. I would never deny that. If not for Chrome, I probably would have switched to Opera a long time ago. But their market share in most countries is extremely low, so it’s difficult to say they are “major”.

            Anyhow, thanks for the feedback. I have no problem being called out on anything I say. I’m certainly not flawless, but I do occasionally have strong opinions. :)

          • Scott Vivian:

            I do agree with some of your sentiments; Opera is of least concern during much of my site development. However, I would count them as a major player for a couple of reasons.

            First, 1-2% market share is still a pretty big number in a global market of billions. 1% could easily be hundreds of visitors a day, maybe thousands. Second, they are a completely independent browser engine, whereas all other browsers (large and small) use Trident, Gecko or Webkit.

          • It is also hard to discredit Opera (not that anyone was here) as this browser’s support for HTML5 form elements kicks all the other browsers asses! :)

          • This is a great article and I support your assertion (that Opera isn’t really a “major player” – at least in terms of market-share) 100%. Opera’s popularity has only been declining over the years and though stats vary, all I have seen (from various sources, all major) show that their market-share is currently WAY under 1% (probably closer to 0.5%). Anything under 2% is imo barely worthy of mention.

            That said, I have always loved the browser and even applied for a position for them here in Oslo once. A great company and a terrific browser! I wish they were more popular, but we must face the facts, people.

        • TC:

          According to Google Analytics, over the last 30 days among our 1700 non-profit websites’ visitors, all IE versions combine for #1 easily at 39%. Safari is 2nd at 18%. Opera is 12th at 0.21%. Among regular joes, Opera IS far less relevant. We’ll see what Facebook does with it though. FF and Chrome are 3 and 4, respectively.

          For specific versions, IE 9 and 8 are 1 and 2, respectively, at 20% and 15%. Opera 12 comes in at #52 with 0.21% usership. 16 Safari versions come in above that. Not much of a race between Safari and Opera.

          • TC:

            :) I should add that IE6 comes in 28th at 0.29%, far ahead of Opera 12 still.

  5. Paul:

    Quick releases are the key to a good browser. With all the changes in CSS3/HTML5 and with new vendor prefixes CSS they need to be updated often.

  6. Interesting stuff. I knew Opera was fairly old as I remember giving it a shot in the late 90’s. Didn’t thought it was from 1996 though, that’s crazy. It kinda baffles me that they are such long-term players, yet they are so unpopular. After more than 10 years you would expect them to be more popular..

  7. Victent:

    The first browser I use is IE6.Didn’t know the first version of Opera released in 1996. Old enough.
    Can’t believe Avant browser is older than firefox . As I know, the first version of Avant browser is released in 2002. All these listed are big browsers.But Avant is a small browser who survived from the competitions.Awesome!

  8. I like all these browsers, because all have their own specialty.
    Firefox has a great deal of quality plug-ins and extensions
    Internet Explorer is well known and supported on most sites.
    In Google Chrome, Source code is openly available.

  9. I wonder why in statistics Firefox 3.6 is more popular than couple never versions? (Maybe update wasn’t auto)
    http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_firefox.asp

  10. Thanks for a terrific article. I am wondering what happened between February and August this year (2012) since Firefox went from version 10 to version 15 in that time. Six months, 5 versions. Craziness! :)

    Would love to see an update to this, with current figures and perhaps even market shares, if possible. Cheers!

    • Yeah, I have it on my to-do list. :) But generally, the most important dates are listed in this, and for the most part I just wanted a one-stop reference for browser release dates because I always find myself googling for this sort of thing, and searching through Wikipedia for exact dates.

      Thanks for the reminder.

      • I was thinking it would be nice to know when each browser started with auto-updates. I can’t remember exactly when it happened for Firefox, but I think around version 5 (?). Stuff like that is interesting to me.

  11. Francesco:

    How about updating this?

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