Hey guys, it’s far from an overly-geeky statement to talk about Web Browsers – given that everyone uses one on a daily basis and it’d be bloody hard to be reading this without one – thus I’ll skip the explanation and go straight into the article. There are an ever increasing number of web browsers available, but I’ve assembled my list of the Top 5 to compare, enjoy.
Oh and the Acid3 test score is an online-calculated measure of how well the browser meets web standards. Granted no normal user really cares about this score but it’s there for the sake of a statistical comparison as well as a use-test one.
As you’ll probably guess by the first entry – these are compared in no particular order.
INTERNET EXPLORER is first in my list simply because it came pre-installed on every Windows machine sold in the past fourteen years, I felt it should go at the top. Explorer is Microsoft’s very own web browser that has managed to defy every logical rule of industry by getting progressively worse with age. After literally owning the market of browsers in the early days, growth of other web browser developers, with Apple giving the battle cry, and the attempts by Explorer to mimic new features on other browsers – only to compromise speed and functionality when including the most minor of changes. It’s eighth, and current, incarnation saw it finally overtaken by Mozilla’s Firefox as the most used browser.
It’s longevity chiefly due to it’s antecedence, many users remain unaware that there are other browsers available and that many of them function far better. Microsoft suffered a blow last year when a major security hole in an update meant that their entire userbase was at risk, it was recommended that users install a new browser ASAP to avoid the flaw whilst it was repaired. Unfortunately this opened the eyes of many users who, after discovering the new browser, jumped ship easily – Microsoft fixed the hole in the roof but the party guests never returned. This hit, and the ruling that Microsoft cannot ship their new OS, Windows 7, with Internet Explorer means that, in my opinion, it’s days are numbered. Functionally, it does the job, but not well – with serious problems rendering web pages and a luddite-esque desire at Microsoft to tailor their browsers for the static HTML webpage that is rapidly dying out – web addicts will get tired quickly.
In fact, just trying to find the Acid3 score, which involves using it, was a painfully tedious and slow process with several crashes.
Acid3 Test Score – 12/100 (I didn’t realise it was THAT low, why does anyone use this kak?)
FIREFOX is the open-source browser from the Mozilla Foundation and my main browser. Ignoring the laconic Safari, Firefox was the first browser to show up promintently on the market and offer any real competition to Microsoft’s monopoly. Firefox was unique at the time for the use of tabs, built-in search box and add-on features (notably, all of which common browser features today for the whole market). Heavy personalisation features set it apart from any other browser on the market and allowed users to make it “their” browser. Perhaps the most charming thing about Firefox is it’s informality – enter about:config into the address bar and you’ll see exactly what I mean – it removes that professional and corporate face and feels like a very fun browser. Like many tech things, it has now gone beyond the realm of the geeks choice and is now highly used for many people: ushered in by it’s pre-installation on almost all current Linux distributions and on netbooks, a commercial success.
Depite being the, current, browser of choice – this looks set to change. I say that because, of late, the browser has been prone to frequent crashing and, as much as I love the browser in almost every other aspect, it is getting increasingly infuriating.
Acid3 Test Score – 91/100 (Not far off top, thought it would be 100 but still a fair effort all the same)
The Apple equivalent of Microsoft’s pre-installed browser is, shall we say, the hard working underdog to Explorer’s undeserved success. Until recentely sharing an interface, as many Apple applications do, with iTunes, Safari is the most popular browser for Apple fans. It was content, for many years as the default browser in Macs but once the war was declared it, like the Americans, stayed quiet and skirted around for a while, then took up arms by releasing a version for Windows. The rest, as they say, is history.
However, I am NOT a fan – though it’s a good browser more recent additions have been gradually getting more and more similar to Google’s Chrome Browser (see review below) – by the sounds of it, the Browser War is simply a game of copycats. Infuriatingly small buttons and it’s lack of personalisation features, despite appearances, means that it’s a browser that (like most Apple products) looks good but has poor real-world use. It’ll display the website well but you’ll be pissed off by the time you get there, and though there stands an option to display large images of favourite websites in an array, there is little ability to control the pages displayed and it rather displays your most frequently visited page – a lovely idea in theory but not good in reality (got pr0n?). The Chrome mimicry has salavaged it somewhat, but it remains prone to the classic Apple-syndrome that makes it subservient to Firefox (I’ve never seen a Mac that didn’t have Firefox installed alongside Safari)
Acid3 Test Score – 100/100 (Oh my! Fantastic score, shame about usability though)
Visually stunning and highly functional though it is, my first memory of using Opera was because, for a brief time, it could bypass the restrictions on my school internet connection – so everyone installed it on their memory sticks and went onto YouTube (before they fixed the hole).
Opera is the main browser that I use on my netbook, but mainly because Firefox doesn’t work properly. Unlike practically all other browsers I’m reviewing here, Opera is getting better with age – like Bruce Forsyth. Each new iteration unveils a delightful new features, notably Opera Unite, introduced earlier this year made turning your computer into a server and accessing your computer’s files from anywhere far simpler.
Other than a Safari-esque speed dial feature, but much more customisable, and it’s dashing good looks, there really isn’t much that sets it apart from the other browsers that were already available – Safari, Explorer and Chrome all had big, long established companies behind them and Firefox was the first to introduce truly groundbreaking features. Looks are important in software, and so is functionality, both of which are things that Opera does exceptionally well, but if a program doesn’t have the trusted name backing it, and there’s nothing particularly new worth switching for (the newer Opera tools have been neat but not persuasive), then that program is going to have trouble. Don’t get me wrong, it’s used by a great number of people and one of the biggest browsers available, but it’s independency has limited it’s growth, I feel.
Acid3 Test Score – 100/100 (Another 100! It really is a fantastic browser)
Having secreted their digital fluid out of every online orifice, Google felt it was time to tackle the browser market to be able to control not only what people viewed online, but how they viewed it also. They kicked off a big campaign of guides through their whipping boy YouTube to emphasise just how easy and efficient Chrome is, with particular emphasis on the capacity of Chrome to dodge crashing by running each tab as a seperate process, meaning that a crash in one website won’t bring down the whole thing.
They weren’t lying, Google Chrome is a very functional and efficient browser, it’s quite lightweight meaning it can be installed on a memory stick and loaded quickly. However, it’s looks are odd, while Explorer and Safari are tailored to fit their operating systems look, Firefox is available in two versions for that same purpose and Opera is very well designed; Chrome looks like something that you would mould out of plastic and sell in Mothercare. It is, like the Google logo itself, colourful and big buttoned (two factors that I’ll admit I said detracted from the grey, small buttoned Safari) and so looks like a child’s plaything. It’s a decent enough browser and it’s large display area gives it ample space to display web pages – but you can’t help feeling a touch patronised by it’s design and expect to see the words “My First Web Browser” written in faux-crayon written letters on the top bar.
Acid3 Test Score – 100/100 (Hat trick! Chrome is good but looks a bit too playskool for my taste)
A Top 5 in 6 parts….
This is a browser that I’m testing for the sake of having a lost sixth entry to my Top 5 – I was going to include Netscape into this but when I went to the website I found that Netscape had gone gently into that good night and was no longer available (who knew) but it did direct me to Flock as an alternative, powered by Mozilla who, of course, own Firefox.
I quite like this browser, except that it’s a walking banner ad – it’s immediate requests to enter your login details for social network and other sites, though a quite neat tool, smacks of wanting to collect data to be sold on (which is stated as part of the EULA). It’s posted with Yahoo and other corporatation logos that offer syncing and information sharing for “convenience”. However, you can understand this given how, mostly, awesome and uncommercial Firefox is – maybe this is how Mozilla pays the bills.
Acid3 Test Score – 72/100 (Not great but not bad either)
CONCLUSION is a hard factor to consider in this Top 5/6 – mainly because it all comes down to preference and no browser is, by any description, perfect for it’s purpose (Ooo, I like that) – but I think I have to give the prize to Opera, which I feel is shamefully underpromoted in this market. For an underdog, it’s done well but can’t compare to the success of other browsers despite being the only one I’ve looked at that improves with each update, it didn’t have a big name or bring out anything remarkable and I think that’s why it’s drifting in the browser ether and, much like Pluto, borders that invisible line between one of the main browsers and one of the auxillary browsers that only the really defiant of geeky people use regularly. All the browsers deserve equal merit in a lot of respects, but Opera take the gold simply because they’re undeservedly unrecognised as it stands. I think that, if Opera keeps improving and other browsers keep degrading as Explorer, Firefox and others have done recently, then we may see the rise of Opera in a very short space of time. Remember the name, one day it’ll be famous!