Article: Web Browser Faceoff

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Here’s a challenge:  could I compare the four major browsers without spilling more than 125 words on each? And somehow reference Lolcats? I recently did just that for Concrete, the student newspaper at the University of East Anglia. Here’s the article, in it’s entirety:

Web Browser Faceoff!

by Tyler Kearn

Microsoft Internet Explorer:

Compared to the other web browsers listed here, Internet Explorer is the slowest, the buggiest, and the most susceptible to viruses, hackers and spyware. Also, everybody uses it. It is far and away the most popular browser because it included in every version of Windows. Internet Explorer isn’t bad. Website designers know that the vast majority of people use IE, so pretty much every website out there works with it. Plus, there are some pages or web apps that only work in IE. It’s just that it’s hard to be nice to IE when other browsers that are safer, offer more features, load faster, and do not crash just as I find the funniest Lolcats pic ever.

Mozilla Firefox:

Firefox has seen a large rise in users recently, and for good reason—it is the safest and most extensible browser out there. Firefox is open source, meaning that programmers collaborated on the code, and that bugs and security problems tend to get patched much more quickly. Firefox is free, and available for any operating system (Windows, Mac OS, Linux). One of the biggest advantages of Firefox is the huge library of “add ons” that is available for the program. These are little extensions that contribute functionality like letting you control iTunes from inside the browser, giving you a preview of web pages from a Google search, or letting you skin the browser with leopard print. Firefox is pretty fast, very stable, and very competitive.

Apple Safari:

Safari is the web browser that comes with the Mac operating system, but is also available for Windows as a free download. Safari’s renders web pages very quickly—Apple says 2x faster than IE—and it renders them in that aesthetically pleasing Apple way. The browser is supposed to look like etched metal, and it smoothes over fonts in a way which makes them inaccurate but pretty. As per all things Apple, there is not much about Safari that can be customized or added if you want more features or you don’t like the Apple look. Far worse, Safari has had a good share of security issues, and Apple won’t talk about them until they fix them. For this reason alone, it might be best to consider one of the other browsers.

Google Chrome:

Chrome, the newcomer to the scene, is an open source browser from Google. Right now it is for Windows only, but Google says that will change. It’s arguably the fastest browser on this list, and it has mechanisms to help prevent crashes. Chrome is based on the same underlying architecture as Safari, but Google rewrote the JavaScript engine to be faster as well. JavaScript is the web language behind things like, say, Google Mail and Google Docs, making Chrome the best browser for dealing with those kinds of web applications. Chrome is minimalist to the extreme—it’s just a web window with no frills and hardly any menu options. Until it gains more features, many might want to look elsewhere for a primary browser, but it shows a lot of promise.

Summary:

There are tons of issues that I didn’t even touch on in this summary. People have written thousands of words comparing each little detail of these browsers against each other. Ultimately though, the three most important attributes of any web browser are always going to be speed, stability, and security.

Internet Explorer comes in last on all three counts. The rest of it isn’t as clear cut. Firefox is easily the safest browser, which for me puts it on top, but it is a little slower than Safari and Chrome. Safari is fast but lags a little in security, and Chrome is faster still in some circumstances, but it’s still very new and needs to be fleshed out.

It’s also worth noting that Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Mozilla are all busy at work on the next version of their web browsers. Betas of Internet Explorer 8 (which supposedly helps with speed and rendering accuracy, among other things) and Firefox 3.1 (which is supposed to have a JavaScript engine to rival Chrome’s) can both already be found online. Any of these releases could potentially change the game.

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