Return of the browser wars

Move over Internet Explorer and Navigator. Today there is a range of new browsers slugging it out.

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By  Gareth Van Zyl Published  January 13, 2009

Microsoft Internet Explorer

Look and Ease-of-use: The one thing Internet Explorer has going for it is its look. It does have a clean look about the web pages with rounded off text and an easy-to-use navigational bar. Also, Internet Explorer is actually quite easy to use with icon links representing the browser's major features such as the favourites, RSS feeds and messenger.

Security: Because 90% of internet users use Microsoft Internet Explorer, you can expect that the browser will have a number of security vulnerabilities owing to hackers targeting bugs in the browser. According to Secunia (a security advisory site), Microsoft Internet Explorer has the most security vulnerabilities out of all browsers at the time of writing.

Features: Microsoft Internet Explorer has a range of interesting features, such as a pop-up blocker, phishing filter and the ability to even add add-ons such as Cooliris, the popular Piclens viewer.

Verdict: The ease of use of the browser and the fact that the browser is used widely means that most websites are designed with this browser in mind. However, the browser doesn't have a reputation as the fastest or safest browser, and Microsoft Internet Explorer will never stack up against Mozilla Firefox in terms of the variety of add-ons.

Mozilla Firefox

Look and Ease-of-use: Depending upon whether you use Windows OS or a Linux OS, Mozilla Firefox adapts its windows interface accordingly to match the style of the windows your OS uses. The font quality is not necessarily the same as Microsoft Internet Explorer, but pages still look good. Also, you can change the look of the browser according to a particular theme add-on, such as the NASA theme add-on, which displays a rocket taking off in the corner of the screen every time one navigates to a different website.

Security: Because Firefox is open source, communities of developers are out there to ensure that the browser maintains a high level of security. Any security hole that is discovered is quickly reported on and quickly dealt with. According to Secunia, Mozilla Firefox is one of the browsers that has the least security vulnerabilities at the time of writing.

Features: A major feature of Firefox is its ability to integrate a myriad of highly useful add-ons. From Stumbleupon to Firebug (for developers), to FoxyTunes and more, there are a range of add-ons that web-users can choose from. And the fact that third-party developers are developing add-ons means the browser will become more dynamic and varied in choice as time passes.

Opera

Look and Ease-of-use: Opera doesn't have the most aesthetically pleasing look of all the browsers. Maybe it's a subjective opinion, but the black-lined bar at the top is a bit of an eye-sore. Other than that, the ability to scroll web-pages using this browser seems really fast - it makes scrolling down web-pages a smooth experience.

Security: In terms of security, Opera seems to be relatively safe with regular updates. It also has a large community of developers and according to Secunia, Opera ranks as the safest web browser alongside Mozilla Firefox.

Features: Opera is not the most feature-rich web-browser in the world. It has the option of allowing users to add widgets, but these widgets seem to be more playful than useful. For example, a lot of the widgets are frivolous in nature such as the Torus widget (Tetris but in a 3D circle; if that makes sense) and the Aquarium widget. Having said this, some of the widgets are interesting, such as the browser security rater which lists the current number of security holes on the most widely used browsers.

Verdict: Opera is a browser that has initially been developed for the mobile market, but it has become more popular as a web browser. This browser is easy to use, quick and secure, but its functionality in terms of widgets seems limiting.

Safari

Look and Ease-of-use: Safari is obviously bundled with the Mac, but Microsoft users can also download and use the browser, and users will realise that the browser has that smooth Mac feel about it, with a smart-looking interface and smooth rounded features. The text visibility on this browser is also quite rounded, very similar to Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Security: Considering that there is an increasing number of Mac users using Safari, the browser could become a future target for hackers. However, according to Secunia, Safari is safer than Microsoft Internet Explorer and more risky to use than Mozilla Firefox and Opera.

Features: This browser does have some interesting plugins, such as 1Passwd that allows you to use one username and password for various sites. One downside with a lot of these plugins is price; just like many things with Apple, you have to pull out your wallet and pay up.

Verdict: A great looking and fast browser. But it's just a little disappointing that Apple has an obsession with having users pay for plugins.

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