The New Browser Wars: Which is Right for You?

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browser warsWe spend more computer time in our internet browser than anywhere else. We use it for e-mail, banking, chatting, searching, directions, shopping, and news. It’s such a critical component of computing that Microsoft and Apple both include browsers with their operating systems. Most people just use the browser included with their computer, and never bother to look at the alternatives.

Consider a Change

Your browser choice can change your internet experience drastically; it’s your personal window to the internet. If you don’t explore your options, you’re allowing Microsoft or Apple to control the view from that window. You might be surprised how much more you enjoy browsing the internet from a different perspective.

I’ve listed the most popular browsers available today, with their relative strengths and weaknesses. This will give you a good foundation of knowledge to help you choose your next browser.

Microsoft Internet Explorer (66% market share)

Internet ExplorerInternet Explorer (IE) is the internet heavyweight, and has owned the internet browser market for years. However, their market share is dwinding because of slow performance and refusal to integrate the newest internet standards.

IE 7 is the most pervasive version and is compatible with nearly every internet website. Programmers always test their code in IE 7 because most people use it. However, bad coders ONLY test their code in IE, and IE breaks some rules when it comes to internet standards. That’s why some websites will not work in other browsers.

IE 8 is the newest version and tries to comply with the rules, like the other browsers. However, it’s still not compatible with many sites that are IE 7-compatible. Thus, they have an “IE 7 Compatibility Mode” that you can turn on and off.

IE 6 should no longer be used by anyone, for any reason. If you still use it, upgrade NOW. (I’ll admit, some of Metro Brokers’ computers still use IE 6 because we need to upgrade from Windows 2000, but we’re working to resolve that ASAP.  Do as I say, not as I do.)

Real estate agents in the metro Atlanta area need to have ready access IE 7 or IE 8 because of compatibility with ActiveX components, which run inside of several real estate websites, such as fmls.com and gamls.com. No other browser can properly display ActiveX-enabled websites.

To check your IE version, click on About Internet Explorer from the Help menu.

Mozilla Firefox (22% market share)

FirefoxFirefox is an open source browser that has gained popularity for two reasons. First, it was the first real IE alternative (after Netscape folded a long time ago) and it has fantastic support for add-ons.

Add-ons are installable customizations for your browser. Popular add-ons help you comparison shop, integrate with social networks, block non-kid-friendly websites, translate websites, and find word definitions. There are over 5,000 add-ons, and like Firefox they are all free. Browse Firefox add-ons.

Apple Safari (8.5% market share)

SafariSafari is included not only with every Mac purchase, but also on every iPhone and iPod Touch. This makes it the first fully featured browser to be included with mobile devices. It’s one of the main reasons I personally love my iPhone, as I can hit Wikipedia or IMDB while at lunch, for on-the-spot solving of all those “What is the main ingredient of A1 sauce?” and “Who was the guy in that movie?” questions.

Apple is making strides with browser market share mostly because of the iPhone, but Safari is leading the pack in compatibility with cutting edge web standards for video and interactive content.

Google Chrome (1.5% market share)

Chrome Chrome is the newest competitor to the market, an open source browser created by the very smart people at Google. I was a little taken aback when Google released this browser in September of 2008 because I really felt the browser market had enough diversity.

However, I now understand what Google is doing. Since all of their products (Google Maps, Google Search, Google Apps, Gmail, Google Earth, etc.) run in the browser and make heavy use of newer technologies like AJAX, they felt they needed a browser that was designed to run these apps efficiently.

Chrome runs Javascript/AJAX faster than any browser I’ve seen. I love showing people Gmail in IE and Chrome side-by-side.  The speed difference is striking. I like the lightweight efficiency of Chrome and use it almost exclusively now.

The Rest

There are many other browsers available, but all together they make up under 2% of the market. Opera is the most popular of the rest, followed by Netscape (now discontinued) and Konqueror. Most people only use these browsers in special applications or when customized for a device. Opera is available for the Nintendo DSi and Wii, for example.

In the interest of brevity (this is a blog post after all), I will not explore the features of these small market browsers.

Feature Comparison Grid

Here is a list of the features I find most important when browsing the web. I’ve rated the success of each of the browsers in each category. There is nothing scientific about these ratings; they are just my unbiased opinion after having spent a lot of time using and developing for each browser.

As always, I recommend you try the products out on your own. You may find certain features that keep you coming back to one over the others. You never really know until you try.

Legend:
0 Stars Zero Stars: No support for feature
1 Star One Star: Poor implementation, little support for feature
2 Stars Two Stars: Average support for feature; will work for most people
3 Star Three Stars: Excellent implementation of feature
IE 7 IE 8 Firefox 3.5 Safari 4 Chrome 2
Compatibility:
FMLS.com / GAMLS.com 3 Star 3 Star 1 Star 1 Star 1 Star
Top Producer 7i 3 Star 3 Star 0 Stars 0 Stars 0 Stars
Metro Brokers websites 3 Star 3 Star 2 Stars 2 Stars 2 Stars
Other websites 3 Star 3 Star 2 Stars 2 Stars 2 Stars
Performance:
Speed processing AJAX sites (like Google Maps, Gmail) 2 Stars 2 Stars 2 Stars 3 Star 3 Star
Speed processing static websites 3 Star 3 Star 3 Star 3 Star 3 Star
Technology:
Extensibility (support for add-ons) 2 Stars 3 Star 3 Star 2 Stars 1 Star
Support for latest tech (CSS3 / HTML5) 0 Stars 2 Stars 3 Star 3 Star 3 Star
Quality of included features:
Spell check for forms 0 Stars 0 Stars 3 Star 3 Star 3 Star
Download manager 0 Stars 0 Stars 3 Star 0 Stars 0 Stars
Bookmarks/Favorites organization 2 Stars 2 Stars 3 Star 3 Star 3 Star
Offline browsing 0 Stars 0 Stars 3 Star 3 Star 0 Stars
Security and Reliability:
Tab independence (page crash in one tab won’t affect other tabs) 1 Star 2 Stars 0 Stars 3 Star 0 Stars
Private browsing 0 Stars 3 Star 3 Star 3 Star 3 Star
Phishing and malware protection 2 Stars 3 Star 3 Star 3 Star 3 Star
† Feature available via add-on.
‡ Feature available via download; Google Gears for Chrome, and Silverlight for IE.
Market share numbers for Q2 2009, provided by Market Share by Net Links.

Hope this helps improve your internet experience. Leave a comment and let me know what you think of today’s browsers.

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10 Responses to “The New Browser Wars: Which is Right for You?”

  1. Trygve Andersen Says:

    Use Chrome everyone, it’s just the right thing to do!

  2. Mike Busik Says:

    Do you know if FMLS has any plans on making their website compatible with Chrome.

  3. Arthur Harris Says:

    Great information.

  4. Dennis Doll Says:

    Good Info.
    Even though Chrome looks good, as an Agent I need to stick with IE7 or IE8. FMLS and MLS control my every move in this realm.

    Another question though, what about CTI? does it matter with those sites as they are so antiquated.

    (ps: MTBR14-S6 is still on IE6)

  5. Tisha Gay Says:

    Really good comparison. I vote for Chrome too.

    You might find it interesting that Google created a Chrome Comic (http://www.google.com/googlebooks/chrome/small_00.html) during its launch to help with marketing.

    Also, what do you think of Chrome OS?

  6. Charity Cason Says:

    I use Firefox a lot at home. It seems to run so much faster than IE and has less “bugs”. However, you cannot use it for GAMLS or FMLS, so that is a drawback for the agents certainly. But for other applications, I love Firefox and all of the neat addons you can install!

  7. Steve Adkins Says:

    I’ve been playing with IE8 at home. Not too sure what to think about it. MS didn’t do much to make it look better and it’s kinda clunky. Some of our MB email doesn’t work to well with it either.

    • Tyler Brenner Says:

      I ran into a couple of weird things happening with IE8 myself when browsing MetroNet and MB email. I tried out the “Compatibility View” button, which is on the right side of the address bar, and everything worked perfect. I think it changes everything to run like it was in IE7.

      I think it’s cool that they included this feature, but I still find IE8 extremely slow, especially on my older computer.

      I used to actually use a combination of browsers, depending on compatibility. I didn’t mind switching between programs, especially since both Firefox and Chrome are soooo much faster. There’s no reason to stick with only one. Just remember to try and only use one at a time, since browsers are notorious for being memory hogs.

      Recently went the Mac route, so now I use Safari, which I really like. It’s a very good browser, but I’d only recommend it if you have a Mac. Otherwise, I’d go with Chrome or Firefox.

  8. linda stokes Says:

    Eddie, you are just amazing. I learn something valuable every time you speak! Thanks

  9. Randy Ballard Says:

    Eddie,

    Thanks for the info. I was using IE 6. because FMLS had stated that they did not support IE 7. This was quite some time back. But had not seen any communication from them to upgrade. If you check their website they have a compatibility check, it says IE 6 is the minimum requirement.

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