andEs Corner: Battle Of The Browsers

In the beginning there was mosaic. But this soon vanished into the history books as netscape appeared on the scene. Then as Bill Gates realised that the internet was important (seems amazing now to look back and realise that initially Microsoft ignored the world of www for years) through the early 90s there was the first war, between netscape and internet explorer. As with Star Wars it seems that despite the evil empire having defeated the blokes at netscape, the rebels did not give up but reformed under the banner of open source and in the safety of the mozilla foundation.
During the noughties, the Foundation reborn, with the Firefox browser, managed to take over about 30% of the universe from the Evil Empire.
But then suddenly what looked like a simple FA Cup Final turned into the whole of the champions league qualifications as another evil empire, Apple, launched their own ship named Safari (mostly on the iPhone), Opera always hiding at the outermost reaches of the galaxy seemed to mature with V10 and then the 3rd evil empire, google, joined in with the shiny Chrome.

Over the past year I have tried out most of them as my firefox 3.0 became unstable and sooooo slow but:
1. As I am running on a mostly linux, partly windows setup, no mac or iphone I could not test Safari.
2. As I am slightly aware of security issues and want a standards compliant browser I would not test IE.

So for me the battle is between Opera, Firefox and Chrome… Let the battle begin…
The speed dial function is FANTASTIC!
The whole installation is simple as it just comes with MOST of the things you need like flash and java support.
For me this is the BEST out-of-the-box solution.

Not supported on all web pages. Notably google wave which seems a bit of a mean tactic  of the 3rd Evil Empire. But it can immitate other browsers with a simple mouseclick.
A little bit tricky to add delicious icon – infact this is the biggest minus in that it is not very configurable. But if you don’t tweek a lot then it is fine. I do tweek a lot. Always and everywhere!

There are also a lot of features that I never got round to using, like sync of bookmarks (cos I use delicious for this) which other people are raving about.
Well this is the hardest to review as it is changing literally by the week. For example there are now extensions which was a minus point about 2 weeks ago.
Very sleek and simple and minimalistic user interface.
Stable. Due to each tab not being able to effect the others it is much easier to stop or kill a rogue tab.
Also seems to come with most functionality just working.

There is still the supposed fear that google will get ALL of the info about you on the internet. I have no idea how much data is passed back to google.
There is not much of a chance to configure things like how much disk space it should use. Chrome is currently chewing up over 100MB of my disk and growing and I can’t do anything about it (on a 4GB eeepc 100MB is a lot!!).
For this reason I started looking at what the Foundation was doing now almost a year after I left them.

FIREFOX (V3.5 / V3.6.2)

The extensions. For everything you could possibly want there seems to be an extension available. i.e. having tasted the speed dialing in opera I found an addon for firefox which did just that. I also managed with strata theme to look pretty similar to chrome.
Brilliant adherence to standards.
Works pretty much everywhere.
Available for all OSes and now with firefox mobile even for your phone.
Has THE best support forums for all OS versions.

The extensions. The downside is that many extensions make FF either unstable or ridiculously slow. And finding out which one(s) is not easy.
UPDATE: I just went round in circles and after being REALLY restrictive with my addons (on my eeepc I have  “classic compact options”, “compact menu 2”, “delicious bookmarks”,  “speed dial”, “stop or reload button”, “download manager tweak”, “handy tab” and the stratini theme) ff is now stable + fast.
With this setup I seem to have the best of all worlds.
And of course to look after my SSD I have set via about:config the following:
browser.cache.disk.enable; false
Also removed the search field (cos I have defined g to be google, w to be wikipedia and d to be delicious). Incase you didn’t know: you can add ANY search field to be used in firefox by doing the following:
1. Right click inside the search box.
2. Choose “Add a Keyword for this Search.”
3. Pick a name and shortcut key for it (e.g. “d” for delicious). The shortcut key can then be used to search in address field. So that “g liverpool arsenal online” will search in google for “liverpool arsenal online”).

I can say now there is no clear winner and it all depends on what you want to do. But firefox for me just replaced chrome to become my default browser again. It looks like in the releases between 3.0 and 3.5, firefox has come a long way and also it makes sense (at least on my eeepc) to be restrictive with addons. Especially those which analyse the content of pages: surprisingly addons like adblocker which are supposed to improve performance tended actually to slow the whole thing down.

So I guess my recommendation today (late 2009, early 2010) is:
1. out of the box winner: opera
2. tweekers dream: firefox
3. speed alone: chrome
4. best supported (i.e. least problems when viewing web pages): firefox
BUT I expect chrome to challenge both over 2010  so expect to see the 3rd Evil Empire seriously attack the old Evil Empire as soon-to-launch chromeOS (where chrome browser is an integral part) looks to be heading to become THE cloudOS (well maybe still behind jolicloud but with more money… looks like another blog is forming in my mind … The battle to be the perfect cloudOS …).

But I also think it will be interesting to see what else the browser evolves into if you look at Opera’s Unite / integrated web server and also things like Mozilla Weave.


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