It is hard for me to think of a software war that sees more action than the browser wars. Today the browser is probably the single most important program on one’s computer. We live in a world where not having a computer connected to the Internet is unthinkable (kinda makes me wonder how I survived my first 5 years with a computer, huh mom and dad?) Yes, the browser is that indispensable window to the world that makes up most of our lives. Name one other program in your arsenal that sends as much time running as the browser.
At anytime I have about 3 browsers on my computer, and I’m constantly cycling through them as my tastes change. If I find a deficiency in one, I move to another for a time until something else arises. However, on the whole I juggle my time between Safari 5 and Chrome 10 (mostly because Safari is needed for launching my school’s VPN). RockMelt is used from time to time, though my love of the browser has waned overtime. Firefox has long been absent from my arsenal because version 3.6 is pretty slow.
So today, with the release of the much-awaited Firefox 4 that vastly improves Mozilla’s offering, I’ve decided to compile a guide to browsers. Hopefully you can all make some better-educated decisions about which programs you’ll allow on your computer. Each has their pluses and minuses that I hope to weigh in on, from UI design and utility, performance and stability, and real world convenience of design. As well, I will be running a few benchmarks to give you some quantifiable differences. Pretty graphs and everything! But don’t just look at the data, make sure to browse on and see my opinions on the real feel with each browser.
In the world of computing, I face few dilemmas more daunting than which browser to use. About 6 months ago, on the eve of Firefox 3.6 release, I even published a basic break down of the multiple browser options so I could weigh their pros and cons. Ironically, in those 6 months I have removed Firefox from my list of usable browsers. Today, I share my time between Safari and Chrome due to their more aggressive update schedule and use of the faster WebKit engine. Unfortunately I can never decide which one to stick to. I love Chrome’s split process model, the omnibar for searching, and its restore on crash feature. However, Chrome doesn’t play nice with the security needs of my University’s VPN so I still have to launch Safari in order to get online. Running two browsers = waste of resources. Safari seems just as fast as Chrome, but lacks some of the features I like on Chrome. It’s a juggling act between the two as my tastes change.
That juggling act may be getting more complex in the coming weeks. Today, a friend of mine directed me towards a project called RockMelt. This is a new browser labeled as a “social network browser” running on the Chromium platform (the open source project that Google uses to make Chrome). The most novel thing about RockMelt are two columns, one on each side of the window, reserved for social network access. The right column has your Facebook profile, Twitter feed, and ideally other streams that you can pin to the column for constant updates. The left has your friends profiles and other information. RockMelt is designed around the notion of sharing, going so far as to include a share button in the menu bar for quick access to Facebook. Alternatively, you can simply drag links into your friends’ icons to share web pages.
RockMelt seems like a really cool project. I’ve registered for an invite to the closed-Beta which should be coming in the next few days so I’ll tell you all how I like it. Coming off my last post about looking for aggregation software and their failures to be replacements for Facebook, RockMelt could be the answer I’m looking for. Here’s hoping that RockMelt runs quickly, is stable, and plays well with GW’s VPN requirements.
Check out RockMelt at their website, and watch the video to see it in action: RockMelt
Today was an interesting day for browsing the internet, and one that has simply added to my dilemma. Today Firefox 3.6 was released, an update to the venerable browser that brings more speed, better performance, and scraps the inefficient themes system for the more streamline and gorgeous “Personas” customization. The Personas are actually extremely good, with several thousand ones currently available ranging from standard Firefox skins to Hello Kitty to Transformers. It’s a far better system than the older themes which created uneven UI that often slowed the program down. With all these enhancements, I wonder if I should use it.
Huh? What are you stupid? Some of you might be thinking this. Firefox is one of the most popular browsers in the world. It’s incredibly fast and customizable, why would you use anything else? Well, sorry to burst everyone’s bubble, but Firefox isn’t exactly the ultimate browser, in fact no one is. That’s the problem with the browser world today, we have so many options to choose from and many of them are virtually the same. I for one, have used Safari ever since version 4 – I’ve found it to be incredibly fast and very clean to use while Firefox is a resource hog on my computer. But Firefox is another completely viable option, as is Chrome (or Chromium if you’re using the Mac beta), Opera, and even Internet Explorer in a pinch. So what to choose? Continue Reading