What are My Options for a Web Browser

January 23, 2013

Without a doubt one of the most used pieces of software is a web browser. On your desktop, on your smartphone and your tablet, you use a web browser all the time.

Example of a Browser

Example of a Browser

What is a web browser?

Lets start with the basics. A web browser is a piece of software that is meant to fetch information from the web (a.k.a. the world wide web). Most can do other things to, but that is the main purpose, interacting with the world wide web.

What are the common browsers?

The most common browsers are:

  • Chrome (from Google)
  • Firefox (from Mozilla)
  • Internet Explorer (from Microsoft)
  • Safari (from Apple)

Here is a brief overview of each browser.

Chrome
Google released the first version of Chrome in late 2008. It is the third most popular browser as far as user base, but many consider it the most popular when measured in time spent using it.

Most of Chrome is open source; the core rendering engine is WebKit, which is open source. Google has released most of the source code of Chrome as open source under the name Chromium.

It’s available on Windows (XP SP2 and later), Linux, Mac OS X, Android, and iOS.

Chrome has many strengths as well, it’s fast, I would say, the fastest browser in this list. It’s very secure, protects its users well, it’s tied in with a blacklist service from Google, as well as “sandboxing” websites you are using. Chrome is great at supporting browser standards, which help people like us make websites.

Chrome also has a syncing feature, meaning you sign to a Google account in your browser, and then your history and bookmarks are synced on two or more machines. I use this feature often when switching from desktop to laptop.

Firefox
Firefox has its roots going way back. First released by name in 2004, its roots are deeper. Mosaic was the first real web browser going back to 1992. Shortly after that, many of the people that wrote Mosaic, would form their own company, called Netscape. Netscape was a totally new project, but was remarkable similar to Mosaic. Netscape would release an open source version of their browser called Mozilla. Mozilla would grow and grow, until it was so bloated many people were frustrated with it. Some Mozilla developers were upset with the bloat, they stripped out many features of Mozilla and called it Firefox. So Firefox, in a sense is the new Netscape. Not as far as the company is concerned, but as far as the product is concerned.

Now it’s available on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, BSD, and Android. It also has the privilege of being available in more languages than any other browser. Additionally, it stands only in this list as a true open source project. It’s commonly considered the second most popular browser in the world as well.

Firefox has a “live bookmarking” feature, where you can see the latest content from blogs in your bookmark, pretty neat. Firefox also does pretty decent at supporting browser standards, does pretty decent security as well. Normally it’s middle of the road in speed of rendering pages.

Firefox has an incredibility store of add-ons for the browser, one of the most customizable, extendable pieces of software to come along.

Internet Explorer
Like Firefox, IE has roots in the Mosaic browser. The first version of IE, back in 1994, was built from software from a company called Spyglass. This company, Spyglass, licensed the Mosaic source code and built their browser from it. Shortly after launch, Microsoft would bring all IE development in house.

Generally considered the most popular browser in the world, certainly it is in English speaking countries, while Chrome and Firefox tend to be in non-English speaking counties.

IE has released versions for many operating systems over the years, modern day versions are only released for Windows.

Generally, IE does not do well at supporting web standards, although, the latest versions do better than they ever have, still though, it does not do nearly as well as the others. IE has had some major security issues in the past, but generally speaking, modern versions are much better. It’s integration into the Windows desktop is stellar, a very fluid interface with the OS.

Generally speaking, it’s the slowest browser mentioned in this post, although for some reason it’s wicked fast with flash, like on youtube.

Safari
Safari was first released in 2003. At the time, Mac OS X browser options were poor, and Safari was a breath of fresh air for Mac users. Safari is WebKit based, like Chrome. And also, like Chrome, is part open source. It’s available for Mac OS X and iOS. In the past, Windows versions have been available.

Safari does not have a huge market share overall, it does have a strong hold on Mac OS X, but it’s nearly unstoppable on the mobile front. Some estimates exceed 60% of mobile web access is done with Safari.

Some of its features include, a feed reader to see updates on your favorite sites and an awesome address field. It searches through your history, bookmarks, does web searches, very neat feature.

What one do we recommend?

Well, as long as you are on the current version of any of these browsers, you should be all set. All of the browsers in this post are used by Sephone team members, and recent versions of these browsers are supported by Sephone products and services.

If you were to closely scrutinize Sephone team members browser habits, I think you would find, Chrome and Firefox used more than the rest.

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Alan has been creating websites since CompuServe was huge. Today he still is developing websites using technologies such as CSS3, HTML5, jQuery and CakePHP.

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