Browser Wars – Are You A Casualty?

Though people use browsers every day now, it was not always so. It is amazing to see how much has changed over the years that the internet has become something that people other than defense contractors and educators use.

These days everyone is familiar with at least the names of the most popular browsers, Internet Explorer, from Microsoft; Firefox, from the Mozilla Foundation; Chrome, from Google; Opera, from Opera Labs; and last on the list of well-known — Safari, from Apple.

Each one of these has their own good and bad points, and though I call the contender from Microsoft Internet Exploder, it has shown that the guys at Microsoft do know how to progress. It is simply annoying that their idea of progression never means taking the lead, in any way. Good enough is the word for the internet browsers from Redmond.

Today there are many people whipped into a frenzy by the speed of a browser — they must use the very fastest browser available, though it might mean that other features are passed up for that speed. While I acknowledge that waiting is something I don’t like to do, I also don’t jump from page to page in a staccato fashion that would exaggerate the speed differences of the various browsers. Other than Internet Exploder, the very slowest of the currently available browsers, all the contenders are plenty fast for all of my wishes and needs.

I notice he difference in browsing speed from Opera 10.1, my current favorite, to SRWare Iron 4.0, but the difference is not such that I will throw up my hands in the air and scream ” I can hardly wait for Opera 10.5!” Opera 10.5 alpha, you see, is currently outpacing Chrome by a decent margin, yet I am not so anxious to gain the speed that I will tolerate the pre-alpha problems with the Opera builds. These are not crashes by the way, they are features that are not yet fully implemented.

I have not personally installed Firefox on one of my machines since the 2.x revisions, but I do see the progress, and I remember what I liked about it. This familiarity comes from its use on other’s machines, where I get a chance to flog it. Unfortunately, what I liked about it, the extensions, was also what I hated about it. The extensions were never kept up to date, and so the ones I used either stopped working, or had to be coerced by means of kludges. Either way, it was a pain in the butt. Life is too short and all that…

I have tried various builds of Safari, and hated them all. Perhaps they work well on the Mac, but for Windows they are not a good experience. The builds don’t allow as much customization of the interface on Windows as the early Chrome versions did.

Since I almost never use Internet Exploder 8, I can’t comment on the various things that can be done to customize it. These customizations could be nirvana in a thimble, but the overall speed of the browser, and the reputation for being the first to be hacked (a well deserved one) makes me steer clear.

There are a few others that are less known, but they are largely derivative, and I prefer to deal with genuine articles ( I see the conflict with Iron vs. Chrome, but that is a matter of privacy).

The thing I would say to many that find the changes either confusing, or tedious, or perhaps even stupefying; it does not have to be that way.

For each of the browsers that are mentioned here, there are ways to accomplish what you wish with each one. Some will be more difficult than others, but it can be done. If your browser choice doesn’t have the sandboxing of Internet Exploder 8, and you want that feature, Chrome, or Iron builds have it. Beyond that, if you like Firefox, or Opera, you can use third party, free utilities to secure the browser, and need not further worry.

I use Opera because I like the way it works. I like the ability to right click and fill in forms on the web. I like the way the history can be brought up on the screen ( yes, they all can, but I like the layout of the Opera setup). I like several of the skins, and find that switching among them makes me never get tired of the look, yet I don’t have to play junior scientist the way one does with Firefox and skin changes. Chrome and Iron have this ability, and I like them for that also.

One thing that is making my daily use of Iron seem less a pain is the great extensions available. This is one area where Opera lags, and I wish it did not. There is no StumbleUpon widget for Opera, the Gmail widget is erratic, and other things that Chrome has extensions for, Opera has no widgets in reply. At times, as I look at what is available, I tend to wonder what planet the developers of some of these widgets are from. It is annoying, but the basic performance and comfort of Opera makes me stay with it.

So though the Chrome /Iron interface is very spare, the extensions are making it seem very much more useful when I want to use that facility. Otherwise, Opera works, is secure, fast enough, and I find its stability and memory usage very acceptable.

When you find what works for you, work with it to get all the kinks and oddities under control — all browsers have nits to pick. Once you get the choice tuned, stay with it unless something huge happens. You’ll be happier and much less cranky after long sessions. You’ll also be able to resist the click-happy exploits of the home benchmarking crowd.

For those interested, the latest revisions of each of the browsers has once again been tested at Betanews, as they seem to be completely caught up in the wars. Check it out, but don’t get caught in the quagmire.