Browser Wars

Web browsers have been around for over two decades. With the introduction of the NCSA mosaic web browser in 1993, web browsers as we know them today, came into existence. Netscape Navigator was introduced in 1994 as a free for personal use only and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 1.0 in 1995. Both were influenced by the Mosaic web browser. These two companies later engaged in what was known as the first browser war with Netscape falling from its peak of about 90% of web usage in 1995 to its eventual defeat and acquisition by AOL in 1998. In 2006, it fell to an all time low of less than 1%. It was eventually discontinued in 2008. Microsoft’s victory was aided in part by the huge resource at its disposal used in developing the Internet Explorer and the fact that it had Internet Explorer 4 integrated into Microsoft Windows Operating System by default.

It’s been a long time since 1998 and a lot of improvements and enhancements have been made to web browsers. There are many browsers available on the web today, estimated at about 100. Expectedly, most of these browsers are based on, at least, one of  the notable LAYOUT ENGINES or RENDERING ENGINES. Basically, layout engines are softwares that determines how web pages are displayed. The top layout engines are;

– TRIDENT (Used by Microsoft Internet Explorer, Lunascape, Avant, Bento, Enigma, Maxthon, etc)
– GECKO (Used by Seamonkey, Iceape, K-Meleon, Firefox, Lunascape, Flock, Iceweasel, etc)
– WEBKIT (Used by Chrome, Safari, Lunascape)
– PRESTO (Used by Opera, Internet Channel, Nintendo DS Browser)
– KHTML (Konqueror)

While for a few geeks, the  advanced features of browsers usually determine the choice of a browser, but for most people, it boils down to the following basic features;

Speed – How fast does the browser load a page.
Safety – How well the browser can handle exploits in web coding as well as keeping your online information safe.
Ease of use – How intuitive and easy to use is the browser?
Features – What kind of features are available to enhance the browsing experience. Is it expandable through add-on programs? Does it display included content (such as flash video) properly?

When it comes right down to it, the best web browser is one that allows you to view the Web the way that YOU want. Listed below, in my opinion, are some of the best browsers at doing this by offering ease of use, flexibility, expandability, speed, security and great feature sets, while simultaneously doing their prime function of displaying Web pages;

INTERNET EXPLORER, FIREFOX, LUNASCAPE,GOOGLE CHROME, SAFARI and OPERA

As at July 2010, the top 5 browsers are as follows;

Internet Explorer (6-8)    51.5%
Firefox            31.03%
Google Chrome        8.3%
Apple Safari        4.9%
Opera            2.01%

INTERNET EXPLORER

Today, Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) is Microsoft’s latest browser, a major update from version 7, and is a competent browser with enough features to meet the needs of most users though it has been playing catch-up with other major browsers on the market. It is, however, still difficult to recommend due to on-going security concerns. In the past IE has been a focus for security  attacks, and there is little to suggest that this will change. Additionally, Microsoft has a poor track record for speedily fixing IE defects.

FIREFOX

Firefox is a descendant of Netscape. Maintained by an open-source community, Firefox is available for PCs, Macs, and Linux systems, and is the second-most-used browser after Internet Explorer. The program benefits from a well-developed ecosystem that includes many thousands of add-ons which are one of its strong points, and probably undoing because of the rather problematic nature of some of these add-ons. It is available in Mac, Linux, and PC versions.

GOOGLE CHROME

Google Chrome is making a lot of waves in the browser world, and for good reason. The folks at Google did their homework when they created this browser. It is amazingly fast at loading pages due to it being based on the Safari rendering engine. Although the interface is minimalist, it is very easy to use and won’t take long to get used to. If you have been a Firefox user for a while, you will be happy to know that now Chrome is capable of being enhanced through the use of add-ons. It is available in Mac, Linux, and PC versions.

APPLE SAFARI

Apple’s Safari 5 browser has been getting better and sets the bar pretty high. It is safe to say that this is Apple’s fastest browser yet and its page load time ranks right up. Apple has definitely been doing its homework. Personally, i very much like its “clean” interface, which is the concept for the theme of this blog page. In addition to being faster and more standards compliant, the Safari user interface is more streamlined with new features.

OPERA

It’s from the Norwegian company Opera Software, which has been around since the earliest days of the Web, and is available in Mac, Linux, and PC versions. Just as Firefox which is extensible through add-ons, Opera can be enhanced using Widgets. It doesn’t have as many of these available as Firefox extensions, but again, it might not need so because a lot of the features added by Firefox add-ons are already built into the standard Opera browser.

In my own opinion, any of the top 5 browsers meet the need of most people and are very okay to use. For any average user, most of the differences between these browsers are not noticeable or ever used. One thing is sure though, Web browser performance can vary greatly depending on your PC’s hardware, the operating system, the specific browser version you’re running, and the sites you visit. That one browser performs well on one PC or on the particular site is no guarantee that it will perform well on every system or on every site.

Your choice in Web browser is about to get more interesting as all three of the top browsers on the market today – Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome – are at different stages of launching updated beta versions, each offering compelling, and in some cases unique, new features.

What remains to be seen is how the superiority battle plays out though a lot of fingers are pointing at Google Chrome as the browser to watch out for.

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