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Every single (even moderately successful) web browser’s logo has been round… Why?

History of Web Browser Logos

The most obvious explanation is that Internet Explorer had a round logo and, considering it enjoyed a 95% market share in 2002, everyone else fell in line (Netscape switched to their round logo after IE had already made massive gains). Secondly, with the importance of putting forth a world wide web vibe, it seems logical that you would end up with a bunch of globes.

But what about Internet Explorer itself? Why are the IE and NCSA Mosaic logos round? Was it on a designer’s whim? Considering these products were mostly if not entirely the work of engineers; it’s a bit more practical than that.

When NCSA Mosaic came out in the 90’s it was the first graphical web browser. With an accessible UI design, and killer features like icons, bookmarks, and pictures, it’s what really kick-started the online information revolution. It had a status indicator which was the logo itself. This indicator had to display indefinite progress, so it was basically an elaborate spinner. (e.g. the current Mac OS X beach ball or Windows spinning hourglass.) Spinners are circular in concept and dynamics, otherwise, they would be a progress bar or something else non-cyclical used to indicate definite progress.

Netscape and Microsoft followed suit with their graphical browsers. They implemented logo-based spinners in the upper-right corner of their browser interfaces to indicate page loading progress while we were staring at blank screens hooked to dial-up connections. That way you knew something was happening. The logo-as-spinner element has taken a backseat since then, but it seems like the marketing vocabulary for the web browser was set.

It’s interesting to note that Opera, with the widest departure from the globular design trend (the only one with no blue, as well) is also the least successful of all the browsers here, despite recent gains on current fringe platforms like Nintendo Wii and mobile devices. A similar observation can be made about Mozilla’s browser: eking along in obscurity for years, until finally releasing its rounded-logo browser version. With its new globular look, it quickly became the only serious challenge to Microsoft’s dominance of this space. (Obviously, these are cases of correlation, not causation. However, looking at the list with a designer’s eye, it’s hard to miss.)

It will be interesting to see what the first major web browser without a globular logo design will be, but if the current slew of upstart browsers is an indication, we’re in for quite a wait…

New Web Browser Logos

Oh, and apparently blue is just as worldly as the globular shape. ALL the logos in this post, except for Opera, contain blue/green of some sort. In fact, it’s by far the dominant color in nearly all of them. Is this more IE worship? Probably: subconscious or blatant, imitation is still the sincerest form of flattery.

After all, what company wouldn’t like to replicate IE’s 2002 95% market dominance of the browser-space?

Links to the Browsers listed in this article:

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