Sunday, January 2


Yes, that typo was on purpose and designed to make you "lol".

Let's see... browsers. Over the life of the web I've gone from using Netscape to IE to Firefox to Chrome. I've also dabbled with Opera, Safari, Seamonkey, and a few others, but they've never been my primary browser.

At the moment I am using Chrome 8, the latest stable release, as my primary browser, but I have - get this - Chrome 10 beta, Firefox 3 stable, Firefox 4 beta, Opera 11, IE 9, and Safari 5 all installed just to play with, or use when Chrome 8 seems incompatible with something, or to compare look, feel, and speed amongst all the major browsers on certain tasks like loading pages (text-rich or graphics-rich), videos, flash, and so on. I also like to see how extensible each one is, how minimal I can make it, how useful and thoughtfully laid-out its interface is, and so on. The reason for the betas is just to see what's in the pipeline - I never use them when I'm doing something I care about, mostly just get the latest builds periodically to see a glimpse of the future.

What is your favorite browser and version? And why? Just because it's the default for your OS and seems to work fine for what you do (a perfectly good answer), or have you compared a bunch as have a list of actual reasons why you like one better than the other? What is most important to you in a browser? Stability, compatibility with web standards, speed, user interface, tools and extensions, supporting a company you like, or something else?

By the way the fastest browser as of 1/1/11 (<cool!) that I've used is by far Chrome 10 beta. Though I would NOT recommend you use it, as it's far from stable. The fastest "official" (non-beta) browser right now I think is Safari on the Mac (debatable, but it seems to be for most tasks), and Chrome 8 for Windows (IE 9 is faster for some limited tasks, but not overall). Chrome 8 seems slower than version 7, though, and 9 - which should be out very soon - doesn't promise any speed boosts. I blame it on more people bloating it with more extensions - one of the things that doomed Firefox when version 3 came out and which 4 is trying to address.

Chrome 10 will probably be the fastest still by the time it reaches "official" status, though I wouldn't put it past either Apple or Mozilla to surprise us with something just as fast by that time. I wouldn't bet on it though. Betting against Google is a sure way to lose your money. Also, I predict Opera will remain in the middle of the pack as far as speed, but be the most full-featured and in some ways most user-friendly browser out there. You should give it a try sometime. If you have a fast connection, it' plenty fast, and it has more options to customize and extend it, not to mention more built-in apps (it's really a suite, like the old Netscape was, rather than just a browser), than any of the other offerings. I quite like it, and version 5 seems like the best yet.

I'll keep testing it on sites that use lots of so-called Web 2.0 technologies like Ajax, Flex, Ruby, FBHTML (Facebook), HTML 5, and so on, and report back what I think of it when I am more comfortable in doing so. Probably this means I'll force myself to use it for all my normal daily tasks for about a month and then report back on my experiences, good and bad. Here are links for the various major browsers, btw (excluding beta builds - google those if you want them as I don't want to be responsible for crashing your computer)...

Google Chrome 8
Apple Safari 5
Mozilla Firefox 4 beta (I just broke my own 'no beta' rule, but 4 is almost out...)
Opera 11
Internet Exploder 9 (also technically still a beta, though they recommend it over version 8! Stupid Microsoft.)

Be aware that my primary experience is from within Windows 7 Home Edition 64-bit on a medium-performance rig. Your mileage may very if you use another version of Windows, or Mac OS X, Linux, or any of the new army of mobile device operating systems - or old hardware. I can't possibly test every version of every browser on every version of every operating system on every piece of hardware! (Unless someone paid me to do it, in which case I would undertake the task cheerfully.)

If you really want my recommendations (I usually tell people to do their own research, and you should), I'll say that in my opinion only, if you use Windows 7, then Chrome 8 is the best browser at the moment, followed closely by Opera 11. I'll be intrigued by the official release of Firefox 4 and use it heavily when it comes out to see if Mozilla has got their groove back. If you are on Mac OS X Snow Leopard, I'd either sit tight with Safari 5 or use Chrome 8. Firefox is not a bad choice but again until version 4 becomes official, I wouldn't bother even messing with 3.x - it's too buggy and slow. I have now idea how Safari 5 does on Windows or how Opera 11 does on OS X - probably not even worth trying to find out. I would also caution everyone to stay away from IE 8/9 on either platform. They're finally making strides toward complying with net standards that all the other browsers use, but they've got a ways to go. And they continue to have an unfair advantage by bundling their browser with their OS, and by not allowing you to truly uninstall it. Until they make it a standalone app that must sink or swim on its own without help from it's parent OS, I'll never use it nor recommend it just out of principle.

And if you want my recommendations for Linux or Ubuntu browsers, sorry, I haven't a clue.

Good luck whichever browser you use, and be sure to report any positive or negative experiences here so that we can all learn from them!

EDIT: I just found this benchmark of the "big 4" Windows browsers (unfortunately, this excludes Safari), and some of the betas I was talking about above, on the fairly reliable site Lifehacker. As my gut told me, and their numbers confirm, Chrome and Opera stomp Firefox and IE into the ground at everything. And Chrome 10 with its brand-new "Crankshaft" engine looks to be the most exciting browser on the horizon. One nice thing is that ALL browsers (yes, even IE) seem to have gotten better over the last handful of years, probably because of the increased competition. There are fewer and fewer proprietary functions and more and more compliance with web standards like HTML 5. This is a good thing. Compatibility and security trump sheer speed and fancy features every time in my book. Here's hoping that the future brings true open-standard web fonts, a browser-agnostic extension model, mandated HTML 5/XML 3 compliance, and default robust low-level security across the board as well. This would excite me more than any speed increase or GPU-assisted 3D Flash gimmicks, though the average Joe will always go for the glitzy stuff, of course.


billybytedoc said...

I am Mac only but I find Safari to be the best on Mac. I do have Chrome on my computer but don't use it much and have not fairly compared it with Safari.

Fortunately for us, Microstuft gave up on Exploder for the Mac a long time ago.

Metamatician said...

It makes sense that Apple, who designs the hardware and the OS, and who has been a leading member of the W3C standards consortium, has had a hand in developing H.264 video, AAC audio, M4B audiobooks, and HTML 5/CSS 3, would have the best browser on their own platform. It can take advantage of all the OS APIs and even lower-level libraries, and also be perfectly standards compliant.

They have more trouble when they try to make the Safari "chemical" fit perfectly into the whole range of Windoze PC "receptors" out there, since that world is much more wild and woolly, not at all within their total control. So while I think Safari is a GOOD browser for the PC, it's certainly not the best.

Both situations are very understandable and to be expected. I'm sure Google's forthcoming ChromeOS will run remarkably well on a Google branded netbook, and run the Chrome browser faster and better than any other. Benevolent dictatorships are always better than messy democracies.

The only company whose products actually seem to FIGHT with one another and NOT provide the user with a seemless experience is Microsoft - their development departments are so segregated under Ballmer that the right hand doesn't know or care what the left hand is doing, or any of the other body parts. They've improved in some areas but are still basically a joke... a huge kludge of a corporation. They make Sun and Oracle look stable and well thought-out.

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