Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Browser Battles

I still have vivid recollections of the 1990's browser wars where IE buried Netscape and went on to dominate the landscape. I'll never forget how when using IE you could type in the URL for the Netscape website and it would take a full minute or more for the page to be found, even though every other page would load almost immediately.

As I was rearranging icons on my desktop, I realized that I currently have ten different browsers installed on my desktop computer at work (only seven on my laptop, FWIW). I don't think that the current state of browser usage really constitutes a browser war per se (Firefox fans would beg to differ), but I do think that we are looking at some browser battles or maybe a skirmish or two.

Firefox is what I use more than any other, but I also use Flock fairly often, and am starting to use Maxthon more all the time. I use IE only when I have to, which is generally when doing certain functions within D2L or trying to view certain types of Microsoft content. I have played around a bit with SeaMonkey and usually keep a fairly recent version of Netscape installed as well as a much older version, just for old times sake, I guess. Avant Browser was the first tabbed browser that I ever used, starting several years ago. For a while it was my browser of choice although I haven't used it much during the past two years or so. Opera is still on the radar screen but hasn't really gained the ground that was predicted for it several years ago. Some people swear by it, but most people ignore it.

Flock touts itself as being a browser built with Web 2.0 in mind. You can create blog posts in Flock and post them automatically to most popular blog platforms. One feature that I am using more and more is the Flickr uploader tool as well as the filmstrip feature where your Flickr photos are visible at the top of the browser. Click on or click off, your choice. Flock integrates easily with, which I use often. Another interesting feature is Web Snippets. Basically you can quickly save text, links, and pictures as snippets (rather than an entire page) . If you use a snippet in a subsequent blog post, it's automatically formatted as a blockquote with the proper citation. Pretty cool. My two main complaints so far are (1) it seems to react more slowly than most browsers, and (2) it crashes often enough that you would think it was built by Microsoft.

Maxthon is interesting in that it reportedly has at least 30% of the browser market in China, which of course means that it has a large user base. Read/Write Web has a good writeup about it. One of Maxthon's previous claims to fame was the use of a proxy that allowed users in China to get around some of the governmental controls. I have no idea whether that is still true today or not. Maxthon lets you undo a closed tab which can save some frustration when you think you're done with a site only to find out how wrong you were. Maxthon is not the only one that does the following, but if it crashes or your system does, it will reload and ask if you want to reopen any or all of the tabs that were opened when things went sour.

I'm inclined to think that Firefox will still be my browser of choice as we move forward. Using the many different extensions available, I can do almost anything with Firefox that either Flock or Maxthon are developing, and more. Yes, I agree that having ten browsers installed is more than just alittle bit ridiculous. Maybe I'll get rid of one as part of my spring cleaning.

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