Software we Take for Granted

Many of the more cynical Internet users believe that all browsers are essentially the same. They would argue that the main function of a browser is to render a web page, and therefore anything else is a secondary concern.

Although this may be true in a sense, different browsers will offer a different experience to their users. Each browser has sought an edge in the marketplace. Therefore, there are some pretty good, and pretty unique features that are able to make a browser more suitable for one individual and another for another.

We Are Becoming More Sophisticated

More of us are online than ever before. With the average broadband speed in the UK upwards of 16 Mb per second we now have incredible speed with which to interact with the Internet. Even ADSL can now hit 24 Mb per second because of the improvements we have seen in ADSL2 broadband. We can do high intensity activities, and can enjoy browsing experiences at the speed of light.

More of us are shopping online, researching online and watching TV online. With this comes an increased exposure to the subtleties of the Internet. We notice speed differences between different browsers. We notice different features that make our user experience more enjoyable, and more efficient. Whereas in the past one browser may have fit all, nowadays it is becoming less the case.

It is true that most of the browsers do similar things. All of the browsers attempt to use the power of multiple cores, and also utilise the video card on your device. However browsers will do so in a different manner.

Some of the special features of the browsers are replicable in other browsers. For example, you may be able to get an extension or plug-in to do the job.

A Copycat Industry

The pace of updates to browsers is frankly incredible. Therefore, it won’t be a surprise when you see the best features from one browser being imitated in another in very little time. The bells and whistles that we saw on browsers last month, become standard features this month. Innovation is being copied across the industry.

Let’s take a look at some of the browsers and the features that make them stand out.

Firefox Deep Extensions

Every browser has some sort of plug-in or extension system. However, Firefox offers sophisticated API structures. Firefox goes a little deeper than the standard plug-ins, offering you the opportunity to write code and wraparound your webpage. Your browser with Firefox enables you to actually create a fully functional application that is built for your desktop.

Firefox was the first to offer extensions and therefore had the malleable architecture built into their system. The other browsers used extensions as an afterthought, thinking that they would be less important than they have become today. This is a major reason for the difference in the philosophy and make up of the browsers; and part of why Firefox is so good!

Chrome SPDY


Historically browsers were designed to just parse text and a few images. Nowadays, we have far richer websites consisting of JavaScript files, style sheets and many other components. The challenge is that these websites can be sluggish in their load times. SPDY is a new protocol that has been put together by Google. Not that many websites are built for SPDY, but Google claims that those that are can render twice as fast as those that are not. Currently Google Chrome is the only browser that works with websites that have been enabled for SPDY.

Internet Explorer 9 Energy Efficiency

With the increasing number of consumers utilising mobile devices, energy efficiency could become a very important aspect of browsers. Internet Explorer 9 does not yet run on mobile devices, however a more efficient browser can reduce the frustration of running out of battery on your laptop on the go.

It is very difficult to measure the efficiency of a browser in terms of energy consumption, because there may be other activities in the background that are kicked in by the browser. However, the Internet Explorer emphasis on energy efficiency in itself may put it ahead of the game. Energy efficiency may well become a core consideration for search engines in the future, and somewhere that can set them apart.

Opera 11 Email

In the past Firefox used to have email integrated into their browser. They stopped doing so. This feature is now back with the Opera 11 browser. Opera makes the browser a “complete communication tool”. Messages are stored on your desktop and notifications provided to you in your browser window when they come from all your different email sources. You can have everything integrated together in one email list, and Opera certainly does make for an interesting proposition with this tool. Opera is also extremely secure; having closed code.

Firefox 4 Synchronisation

It wasn’t that long ago that mobile phones were just for making calls and sending text messages. The progress in the smartphone industry has been astounding. We now have smart phones that take pictures that are of high quality, have 5-inch high definition displays, and have eight core processors. Nowadays, we want to synchronise across our different devices. Firefox offers this ability through its cross browser synchronisation.

The Firefox android platform on your phone can pull across history, passwords, bookmarks, and open tabs from your desktop. When you arrive back to work on your laptop or desktop, you can then pull the settings from your phone. Synchronisation means you can be flexible between your different devices and continue the flow of your work and communications as you move location and device.

Browsers these days are becoming more functional. There is no doubt that Google Chrome is the fastest, and Opera and Firefox are the most secure. Internet explorer is perhaps the most widely compatible. Each browser does have its benefits, and users these days should think about what their particular requirements are on different devices in order to get the maximum benefit from their browsing experience. Certainly Firefox and Chrome are right up there at the top of the industry due to their features and functionality.

As the Internet gets faster and faster we crave a better experience. It is well worth spending some time to work out which browser is the best you.

Mobile Web Browsing

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