I've been a devoted fan of Google Chrome since 2008. I cannot imagine myself using any other web browser, however, once in a while I do wonder if there are any other good alternatives or even better browsers. The nature of my work lets me answer those questions and get paid at the same time, so let me get into the topic of this article.
My experience with web browsers starts with the earlier versions of Internet Explorer and Netscape. Netscape was installed on a slow computer with a dial-up network and dates back to '98 or '99. I remember that browser as very slow, demanding, and very resistant to do what it is asked. It is now discontinued, and perhaps, for a better reason. Internet Explorer, the default and pre-installed browser on Microsoft's operating systems, was the browser of choice at that time. One, you do not need to download it and waste your precious traffic as the Internet access was SLOW back then for most people. Two, o/s pre-installed nature of it gave the impression (to me) that it is supposed to be stable and optimized for Windows with all of this Microsoft proprietary lines of code. I continued using Internet Explorer for years until I had System Administrator for a roommate when I moved to Chicago. He introduced me to an open source universe, and, subsequently, Firefox web browser.
Firefox was everything I needed and even more! Since around that time I permanently moved to Linux operating system, therefore, Firefox became the only browser I used with all these add-ons and endless settings that kept me amazed, and dazzled, and interested for nearly 2 years. One thing I hated, however, was the fact that the whole program crashed when one page executed a bad Java or Flash script. You had to re-open all of the pages again, and type logins and passwords - very annoying! But there was something I discovered.
Having used Gmail and Google search for years at that point, I decided to try their, already established, product – Google Chrome. In short, Chrome is all Firefox was but with one cool feature – each of the webpage had its own running process, its own browser instance. So if one page crashes, it doesn't mean all others do (though sometimes they, all other pages, do crash along). When doing a clean install of Windows operating system, the first thing I download is Google Chrome, I do not even think about it. But when I am waiting for the Chrome installation process to finish, I catch myself wondering…
I WONDER: How many browsers out there are worth of comparing?
The answer to this question comes from a much unexpected source – Microsoft Corp. In December 2009, the European Union forced Microsoft to provide the Windows 7 European Union Edition with links to competitive web browsers. The list of all Internet Explorer competitors that are worth mentioning (according to Microsoft) is here: BrowserChoice.eu
Even though, there are twelve of the browsers listed, I think there are only 4 worth of comparing based on their popularity. The popular browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari are each above 3% market share mark, according to Netmarketshare, Statcounter. Initially, Opera was going to be included because my colleagues are using it, but I abandoned this idea as I can't think of Opera more than a mobile/cellphone browser (Opera Mini), that is beside it having less than 1% of the browser market share.
I WONDER: Which browser starts up the fastest?
I decided not to use benchmarks and tried to evaluate this question using my own perception. I always thought that Chrome started up super fast but I realized it was due to the fact that Chrome opened up Google search page while Explorer was opening its heavy and informative MSN.com page. So when you are using the same computer, the same webpage – there is really no difference which browser to use – as all of them start up about the same time plus/minus half a second. Not a huge difference.
On the other hand, on my Netbook, Chrome starts up the fastest (3 seconds), while all other browsers take at least 5 seconds. Safari may take up to 11 seconds. I guess Chrome's minimal interface is what makes it faster – it doesn't load various bars and buttons like all other browsers do.
I WONDER: Which browser is more or less stable and secure?
While working as a Technical Support staff, I've noticed that quite often we had to fix those computers from spyware and viruses, that had Internet Explorer as its only browser installed. I caught a couple of viruses through Internet Explorer (older versions) and I was never lucky enough to catch anything through Firefox and Chrome. But this "wonder" is a separate topic and could be a totally separate topic for an article.
Securing your web browser
Chrome More Secure, Firefox Beats IE9 in Hardware Acceleration
Which browser is more secure
I WONDER: Are there useful add-ons, extensions, or plug-ins available?
Internet Explorer – used to be plug-ins, now add-ons: http://www.ieaddons.com
Firefox – search add-ons here: //articles.informer.com/go/?go=https%3A%2F%2Faddons.mozilla.org&hs=1196742905
Chrome – has three categories: apps, extensions, themes
Safari – extensions
I was looking for a GMAIL checker functionality and found it for all the four browsers. Comparison of all add-ons with each other in various browsers can take years, and with constant updating and new developments of such, this task is "info useless".
I WONDER: Which browser supports Java, Flash, HTML 5 and/or new technologies best?
Internet Explorer 9 and Firefox 4 (both will be released in 2011) are going to have hardware acceleration support, which will speed up graphics and videos (Flash) within those two browsers. No news on hardware acceleration support for Chrome yet, but I am sure Google will jump on this band wagon as well. Apple's Safari is the first one (pioneer again) to release a web browser ahead of everyone that supports this new trend.
"The HTML5 test score is only an indication of how well your browser supports the upcoming HTML5 standard" (//articles.informer.com/go/?go=http%3A%2F%2Fhtml5test.com%2F&hs=2803150196). Here are the results:
Internet Explorer 9 Beta – 96/300
Firefox 3.6 – 139/300
Chrome 8.0.552 – 231/300
Safari 5.03 – after a long thinking – 207/300
Internet Explorer 9 Beta – 358 ms
Firefox 3.6 – 868 ms
Chrome 8.0.552 – 307 ms
Safari 5.03 – first run it crashed – second time crashed.
I WONDER: Is there a more flexible browser in terms of customization?
I got very sick trying to find whether Internet Explorer has any themes. There are applications developed by other companies to change the theme of Internet Explorer, but if it is not native code, so why would you want to do it? Same goes for Safari, as it doesn't support Themes, unless it is a 3rd party app.
Great themes for Firefox are hard to come by. There are a great number of them and there isn't much change between any two of them. In short, there is no theme for Firefox that grabbed my attention for more than a couple of seconds before moving on.
Chrome is, yet again, the winner. Accidently, I found this awesome theme – Brazil – and I cannot stop enjoying it: all the colors, and images, and how happy it is! You can check it out at the end of the article.
My goal was to write a personal opinion and thoughts. Of course, I went through many professional sources, trying to prepare for this article, but I did not want to bore you with endless statistics and facts. And if you are reading this, I think I succeeded in not boring you. At the end of the day, Chrome is my choice of the default browser. Safari will be used as a back up and only for one good reason – its support of hardware acceleration – browsing is fun with it, again! However, I will need to get over 2 major annoyances with Safari: 1) it lists "Open In New Window" over "Open In New Tab" (right click on links), while opposite order is a lot more comfortable and thoughtful; and 2) improper handling of tabs in Windows task bar by Safari (a tab is not an instance of the program, it just isn't). But we will see how 2011 may change everything for us. Can't wait to see!
P.S. In your comments, please mention which browser you use and why? Is it the look, the speed, any other criteria?
Here are the screenshots of the Browsers:
Internet Explorer 9 Internet Explorer 9