Rise and Fall of Web Browsers

The landscape of web browser usage has been ever-changing since the advent of the internet.  Over the years we have had  an array of options to choose from, namely Google Chrome, Safari, and Firefox. Remember Netscape Navigator?  They dominated the web browsing world in the 1990’s and were  overtaken by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer around 2002. Internet Explorer (IE) went on to become the undisputed king among web browsers and made its way onto most computers. IE remained dominant in the web browser sphere even amidst the threat posed by new challengers Firefox and Safari. It eventually lost its crown of ‘the internet browser of choice’, in 2008, when Google launched Chrome. In the age of high speed internet other browsers raced ahead with improved functionality and performance. Here is a brief look at some of the web browsers around today.

Google Chrome

Chrome has a light footprint in its basic form that runs well on the low-price/low-spec consumer PCs but it can also run seamlessly across multiple devices such as smartphones and tablets. Chrome was created by Google specifically to quickly load web pages and interact with diverse applications on the web.  Iit therefore has a built-in Flash and PDF reader.  The clean, simple and well organized layout of Chrome works well, without the clutter of menus and tools. The browser enables shortcuts to your preferred web apps for quick access. Using your Google account, Chrome can make synchronization between your smartphone and your desktop browser easier.  Iit can help seamlessly sync bookmarks, browser preferences and extensions so that it is accessible on any computer. Chrome has advanced tab browsing with a single click, which allows users to create new tabs, rearrange them, drag tabs to open them in a new window, and also to check tabs recently visited. The Chrome architecture runs each tab independently so when a tab crashes it doesn’t cause the entire browser to crash. 

One of the main drawbacks for Chrome when it initially launched was the absence of add-ons and extensions.  To address this, Google introduced an extension gallery for more flexibility in January 2010. Chrome has been designed for a more secure experience on the web with built-in malware and phishing protection, auto updates for the latest security fixes, and it even vets websites for phishing and malware to display a warning. It also uses sandboxing to prevent malware activities from one tab affecting others and installing itself on your computer. Chrome also has privacy browsing in incognito mode, wherein it deletes all cookies and passwords from that session once closed.

Mozilla Firefox

Firefox is a free cross-platform web site browser available for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Firefox web browser has many useful features such as tabbed browsing, integrated download manager, internal search, form auto-fill, a pop-up blocker, parental control, and source code viewing facility. Firefox’s most recent updates has given the browser a much needed fillip, with a new three bar button menu tab design called Australis. Firefox’s main menu focuses on simplicity, ease of use and improved speed of navigation. It is easy to open private windows, find add-ons, and set up Adblock Plus. Firefox interface is intuitive and stocked with essential and powerful features, such as a fully integrated spell-checker to correct your work directly on the web, virtual sticky notes, and an automatic session restore. Firefox makes it easy to access saved bookmarks, archived browsing history, and frequently visited sites as pinned apps. The browser’s Smart Location Bar makes it easy to locate sites and adapt according to the user preferences. But the main reason for Firefox’s popularity, especially among developers, is its plugin capability. Mozilla has a dedicated site for plugins, organized according to type and popularity. Plugin installation in Firefox is pretty easy and as simple as clicking through a few notifications, then restarting your browser. Firefox browser is much safer and more secure than Internet Explorer as it also renders websites more correctly. Mozilla Firefox has automatic updates for security fixes to protect against viruses, spyware, malware, phishing sites and pop-ups. It also provides customized security settings for cookies, downloads, passwords and add-ons.

Microsoft Edge

As of January 12th, 2016, Microsoft no longer supports Internet Explorer (IE) 8, 9 or 10. Version 11 may stick around for a little longer with security updates, fixes, and technical support on Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10. Older versions of Internet Explorer before version 7 had serious security flaws and CSS rendering. If you want to remain loyal to Microsoft, turn to its new offering Edge, which has been launched as the default browser with Windows 10. Edge stands out among the known but niche web browsers such as Dolphin, Silk, Opera and Vivaldi.

While the look may be similar to IE, Edge has a minimalistic interface and a well-designed ‘New Tab’ page, with a light footprint on memory resources which helps cut down on page load time. Edge makes for a better user experience with faster surfing and no jerky stop-motion scrolling. IE supported Active X and legacy technologies but Edge does not. Edge is also well integrated with other parts of the Microsoft ecosystem such as Cortana and One Drive. It also has a distraction free reading mode, which allows you to edit and download pages to read them at your convenience. With Edge you can also make notes, or doodle directly on the web to share with friends, family or colleagues. Edge also includes web extensions and needs only minor code alterations for existing extensions on Firefox and Chrome. Windows 10 and Edge has enhanced Smart Screen and Windows Defender, with integrated Microsoft account functionality, improving productivity and security.

Safari

Safari web browser, built by Apple Computers, is included in Mac OS X operating system and it is also the default web browser on your iPhone. Safari is well integrated with iOS and is specifically optimized to run on your iPhone. Recently the Safari web browser has been produced for the Windows operating system too. Safari offers a remarkably fast browsing experience, with an additional feature of the Reader button on the right side of the search bar, which helps cut all the advertisements and visual distractions in any article for easy reading. The browser features include tabbed browsing, true integration with QuickTime technology, spell check, password manager, and image blocker. While it also boasts private browsing mode, quick access to bookmarks and favorites, as well as multiple webpage sharing ability, it sorely lacks the customization features. The browser does provide protection from all types of malware and phishing websites and allows you to delete private data such as your browsing history.

Opera

Opera started back in 1995, with its software running on a Google Chromium system. It is a very flexible free web browser, which is compatible across all platforms like Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Smartphones, Nintendo DS, Wii.  Opera is a complete internet suite with a new integrated mail client and chat. Opera browser is feature rich with tabbed & speed-dial browsing, multimodal interaction, privacy control, and comprehensive user support., It also enables tab stacking vertically and one-click bookmarking. Opera has security features to check websites for malware and phishingand allows the option of erasing private data from browsing history and cookies.  The browser also uses advanced encryption when you visit a secure website.

Vivaldi

The latest web browser we are going to review is Vivaldi.  Vivaldi has a simple interface for users who want a fast online browsing experience but it also has just enough advanced customization settings available for the discerning users. Surfers can stack and tile tabs and use shortcuts including those which can be controlled by swiping a finger or a mouse. Vivaldi has a panel placed on the left side of the browser, which gives users one-click access to features such as bookmarks, mail, downloads, etc. Vivaldi is fast making a name for its speed and ease of use, but the choice for a cleaner or cluttered UI is left to the user discretion, with the option to toggle panels on and off. Vivaldi is beta testing features like syncing across desktops and built-in access to your web client of choice.

Finding the Right Browser For You

The best browsers are flexible, easy to set up & install, intuitive, and can load real-world webpages quickly. They are extensible and tie in other devices & services into a unified ecosystem.  Besides surfing the web, browsers today come with a number of plugins and addons offering intangible benefits and functionality in the app itself.  Any of the browsers discussed above will meet these criteria.