With word that the final version of Internet Explorer 8 may be coming in the next few days, enthusiasts are once again preparing for another salvo in the ongoing browser war. As with most other major browser updates, I'll probably find myself reevaluating my weapon of choice for surfing the web—especially since IE8 doesn't look like an embarrassing release for Microsoft.
Like many of you, I've gone through a number of web browsers over the years. After Netscape Navigator died a slow and painful death, I reluctantly used Internet Explorer for a number of years—at least until a little-known Mozilla fork named Phoenix came along. I was along for the ride as Phoenix became Firebird, and later Firefox, as we know and love it today.
Beyond its improved security features, Firefox was just so different from IE. Tabs were a breath of fresh air in the stagnant browser market, and a myriad of plug-ins let you make Firefox a far more robust tool than just a basic web page renderer. The status bar could provide email updates, weather forecasts, and more.
In recent years, I've found myself becoming further and further entrenched in the Safari camp. Like Firefox, Safari isn't perfect, but I've found WebKit to be far and away the superior rendering engine. Not only is it quite rigid with its standards compliance, but it's fast and versatile enough to power browsers in desktop PCs all the way down to cell phones. Since switching, though, I've still kept my eye on subsequent Internet Explorer releases, as well as other alternatives like Opera and Chrome. I might as well keep my options open, right?
Some browsers offer everything and the kitchen sink, but to be honest, I just don't need all of that. Here's what I don't worry about when evaluating a browser:
Regardless of what you're looking for, increased competition is making the browser market interesting again, and both content producers and consumers stand to benefit. My goal really wasn't to start a browser superiority argument with this post, but I expect that could happen anyway in the comments section. Some people like Firefox; others are happy to stick with Internet Explorer. Safari is no longer just for Apple users, either, even if some think Chrome offers a superior WebKit experience on Windows. Everyone's got their own favorite browser, but I'm more interested in what you look for when making your choice. Are you hooked on browser plug-ins, or are you interested in the most lightweight browser possible? Maybe you're just too set in your ways to bother changing at this point. Hit the comments and share your thoughts!
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