I've spent some time getting to know most of the popular browsers out there, so lets start with the most well known browser in the world.
- Microsoft Internet Explorer.
Internet Explorer, or IE, is the browser that comes with every copy of Windows. It's ugly and cumbersome to use and has historically been slack on security to the point that in 2004 the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team [US-CERT] recommended users switch to a different browser. While Microsoft have become a lot more security conscience since, I honestly don't have anything good to say about this browser. Even the latest version seems to be a poorly implemented copy of feature sets from competing browsers.
Built by the Open Source community and the Mozilla Foundation, Firefox seems to be the current market leader. It's fast, stable and secure with hundreds of plugins, themes and add-ons available. It's usually the first thing I install on a computer.
- Google Chrome
There are a lot of great ideas being implemented into Google's Chrome minimalist browser. It's super fast and (apparently) built from the ground up for stability. However, it's very new and I found it to be lacking somewhat in the stability department. Knowing Google, it will probably be in beta for many years and undergo many improvements with constant updates. If for some reason you don't like Firefox, this is a great alternative for Windows users (currently there is no official Mac version of Chrome). As it matures, it will only get better. Google, after all, know a thing or two about how the Internet works. While using this browser, I really missed some of the toolbar add-ons and customizatioin options that I had in Firefox which brings me to...
Safari is the browser you get pre-installed with every Apple computer. While Safari 3 works great on the Mac. It's fast, stable and secure. The Windows version however, was not really what I would call a great browser... or even a good browser. Like Chrome, Apple have taken a very minimalist approach in the design of their browser, so like Chrome I once again miss the toolbar add-ons and customization options that I had with Firefox. So even on the Mac, we ended up replacing Safari 3 with the OS X version of Firefox.
Safari 4 was released recently and since it's release I've been using it on both my Mac and my Windows machine. It's got the same minimalist approach but it's been redesigned almost in the image of Google Chrome, but with the sense of style that only Apple seem to have. It's still in beta so the Windows version is as stable as a straw house in a fairy tale. As to be expected, on the Mac, it's awesome. It has the three most important things. Speed, Stability and Security.
So while I love the way it does it's "inline spell checking" which is great when I'm blogging, I may very soon finish up my evaluation of Safari 4 beta on my Windows computer and go back to Firefox, at least until Safari 4 comes out of beta.
On the Mac, Safari 4 beta has been impressive. The top sites page and the ease at which you can find something in your history make it so you don't even need to set up your browser anymore. You just start using it and it sets itself up for you. There was only one thing we missed - a particular Firefox add-on that allowed us to monitor our download usage called "Internet Usage Meter".
Readers outside of Australia: Most Internet service plans in Australia have a limit on the amount of data you can download each month. Those that can secure a plan with unlimited downloads usually have to compromise the speed of their connection. Some plans even charge you for every MB you download over your quota.
Problem solved. For all those Mac users in Australia who subscribe to TPG Internet (yes, I'm talking to all 7 of you!) There is a Dashboard widget that can monitor your download usage. It's for TPG users only and it's called, unsurprisingly, TPG Usage Meter [TUM].
End of ramble.