This is the first part in a series of posts on web browsers. The first will be an overview for everyday people. Normal average users who just want to see what’s out there. The following post will be for the super nerds out there. Stay tuned and see if you learn something.
( other wise leave your own insight in the comments )
What is a web browser
According to our lovely friend Wikipedia – “A web browser is a software application for retrieving, presenting, and traversing information resources on the World Wide Web. An information resource may be a web page, image, video, or other piece of content.”
Check out Google’s lovely intro for a bit more of an idea.
While there are many computer makers and software manufacturers out there, there are equally as many different types of browsers.
While some of these aren’t really going to break your internet experience because you haven’t heard about them, some of them will break your internet experience because you don’t know about them.
What I mean by that is this, each browser has a sort of personality that goes with it. Each browser has slightly different approaches in the way it handles the user internet experience. Just because you haven’t heard about all of Firefox’s plugins, or Chrome’s extensions, doesn’t mean that its a big deal. On the other hand, if you haven’t heard of Internet Explorer 6′s security problems, or the fact that it delivers a highly flawed web experience, then you have been missing out.Not to worry, today we are going to fix that!
So are all browsers created equal?
The answer to this is a resounding NO!!
Here are the general principles you should keep in mind:
The older the version of the browser you’re using is the less equipped it is to handle all of today’s internet needs.
Also, an older browser is most likely has security problems that make your browsing time unsafe.
Furthermore, each year new technologies come out to make the internet a more fun, and more informative place to spend time. New technologies go hand and hand with this movement. Plugins such as Silverlight, or Flash, or Divx have plagued us all at one time or another. Most newer browsers come equipped with these features and capabilities.
Modern browsers mean you can access the full power of modern web applications. There is a growing movement all across the web to halt support for older browsers. Companies like facebook, Google, and more are leaving behind the trappings of the past. To ensure you can use these sites to their full potential it is essential to make sure you are using a current browser.
So with all these choices which browser should I use?
That really depends on what you want to do. Lets look at the cooler parts of the big five.
First up is:
Internet Explorer 6:
Since this is the most widely used web browser in the world, we will cover each version.
First off, using Internet Explorer 6 is about the equivalent of driving a Model-T Ford in today’s time. You are sacrificing all of the security, features, and ease of use of a modern web browser for no reason. IE6 is buggy, full of security holes, and the hate of all web designers abroad. In the coming months more and more sites are going to become unusable for this type of browser so you should really think of upgrading.
Internet Explorer 7
Internet Explorer 8
Internet Explorer 9
Not even out of the gate yet and it has been hailed by people in the know to be the ace in the hole that will put Microsoft back in the respectable ranks of real web browsers. It is said to be able to handle all of the upcoming CSS3 that’s coming though the pipe as well as boasting full support for HTML5. (The newest iteration of the language that is the backbone of the internet) This is supposed to be the version of IE that puts Microsoft back in real competition with the other cutting edge companies of today.
This is perhaps one of the most progressive, adaptable browsers you can get. Its secure, fast, and you can make it do anything you want. Whether you are looking for a nice way to integrate you gmail or just a more efficient way to read the news, Firefox has a solution for you. Its strength comes in its diversity. Through minor software addons called plugins / addons, you can adapt firefox to check you mail, instant message with friends, or inspect the contents of a web page. In addition to the tons of addons, an almost limitless supply of themes exist so you can change the look and feel of the browser quite dramatically. This is my browser of choice and they are constantly on the move making improvements.
Being The new kid on the block isn’t fun sometimes, but Google Chrome doesn’t seem to be shy. In the short time it has been out it has amassed an impressive amount of market share and has become quite flexible with its own addons. It supports all of the latest and greatest features and shows no signs of slowing down. This is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for a fast web browser with some slick enhancements.
Watch these guys because they have had some serious innovation coming out of there for a while now. This browser has some of the most radical features of any right now. Here is a quick run down on why Opera is different:
Turbo internet speed: They actually boost how fast you see the pages you view by compressing the pages before they are sent to your browser / phone (on iPhone).
Streaming and syncronizing: Opera actually allows you to stream music and photos from another computer as long as they have their Opera web browser running (Really cool feature).
Ultra Security – Opera boasts some of the best security in the industry. I recommend at least browsing their feature page!
The last item on the Agenda today is Flock.
Flock is basically Firefox with social integration built in. The browser even allows you to add firefox addons. This browser is built around the idea of integrating all of your social media into one place. So whether you are looking for news, facebook, Twitter, or just browsing personal photos on Flickr, Flock has special tools and a special interface made to make this stuff look slicker than it ever has before not to mention easier to access.
This concludes “What is a web browser and is there really a difference?” In the next part I am going to be going over more in depth details for developers. I will be covering which rendering engines each browser uses, how they are different, and what pitfalls you need to know about for each.