Dave Taylor

Which Internet Browser Is Right For You?

By: Dave Taylor
April 1st, 2009

For the last few years it seemed like Web browsers were becoming passe commodities and that we were going to end up with a browser from each operating system company and one indie browser, Firefox. Now, though, seems like there are tons of 'em. What's worth checking out and why is there such a resurgence of interest in the Web browser?

Dave's Answer:

Interesting question. You're right that a few years ago it seemed like there was a lull in the development and evolution of Web browsers and that we had Internet Explorer for Windows (from Microsoft), Safari for Mac OS X (from Apple) and the third party solution Firefox from an open source programming collective. And that was pretty much the state of Web browsers.

About two years ago, however, savvy software developers noticed that there was a very important trend appearing: the Web browser was becoming more and more the program within which we spent all our time. People were skipping standalone email programs like Outlook or Apple Mail in favor of Google's Gmail or Yahoo Mail, skipping standalone document editors or spreadsheet editors in favor of online office applications and even finding that services like Meebo let you have your instant messaging fix without launching a separate application.

In a word, the Web browser was becoming the operating system.

Suddenly the company that controlled the Web browser had tremendous power to influence our online computing and communication experience and it become very important for a lot of companies to try and win that race.

The first major entrant in the New Browser Wars was Google, with its "Chrome" browser. When it was first released people still scratched their heads and said "why would a search engine company want to bother with a Web browser"? When you look at the full picture of what Google has to offer, from email to an entire suite of Microsoft Office-like applications, all built to work within a Web browser, you can realize that it's Google's chance to quite literally take over your computer. Writing a completely new operating system to replace Microsoft Windows is impossible, but writing a Web browser that lets you have the same basic functionality all with so-called "cloud" or network-based apps? Brilliant. Make it cross-platform so it also works on the millions of Macs out there? Doubly brilliant.

Microsoft and Apple weren't going to take this laying down, so now we have an extraordinary level of competition happening in the browser space, with Microsoft letting us have a sneak peek at Internet Explorer 8 and Apple, just in the last few weeks, has released Safari 4 in "beta". The primary area of development in both? Speed.

But that's not all that's going on in the browser space. Firefox continues to evolve and even browser companies that have been dormant for years are resurfacing with updates and new designs, including Omniweb, Camino, Opera and an interesting reengineered version of Firefox called "Flock" which builds a variety of social networking capabilities right into the browser.

It's clear that more and more of us are spending our time within the Web browser, so these evolutionary steps are a great thing. The challenge is to decide which of the many new choices are going to best for you.

Links: Apple Safari, Microsoft Internet Explorer 8, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox will get you started.

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About the Author: Dave Taylor has been involved with the Internet since 1980 and is internationally known as an expert on both business and technology issues. Holder of an MSEd and MBA, author of twenty books and founder of four startups, he also runs a strategic marketing company and consults with firms seeking the best approach to working with weblogs and social networks. Dave is an award-winning speaker and frequent guest on radio and podcast programs. AskDaveTaylor.com http://www.intuitive.com/blog/