We all use web browsers. But the question is: which one is the best? Let’s try to find out.
The first web browser was created in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the World Wide Web. It was then that the idea of a worldwide network for sharing information became a reality and the Internet slowly began to take shape as we know it today.
What programs do we use to surf? Of course web browsers, which in their latest versions are very different from their ancestor from 16 years ago. They offer a huge number of functions, plug-ins, visual themes – the options are so many that the average user is not able to cope with choosing the right program by himself. Most PC owners (about 60%) use Internet Explorer built into Microsoft Windows. In our test, a very popular, free Mozilla Firefox browser and the child of Norwegian developers – Opera, which is gaining more and more followers, will face off against the leader.
Convenience of use
Microsoft’s product has one major advantage over the competition. It comes with the operating system, does not require installation or even configuration. However, the possibilities it offers are small in comparison with Opera and Firefox. Both of these browsers have accustomed their users to an extremely user-friendly interface that allows you to gather all the pages you are browsing in one window and navigate to them using tabs. In IE, each page requires a separate window, which not only take up space on the taskbar, but also reduce the freedom of work.
Opera’s advantage, on the other hand, is the ability to manage page windows inside the main program window. You can freely arrange them in any order, modify their size, duplicate them, close them and move them around to, for example, make it easier to rewrite text or check it.
In Firefox the options related to windows are much smaller (you can’t even resize them), however, the freedom of modifying the content of the bars arranged on the screen looks tempting. You can add buttons virtually one by one, place them in any order – in a word – adjust the appearance and operation of the program to your own requirements. It is similar in Opera (only in IE you can modify the content of the bars in blocks), in addition, the user has a bar on the left side which allows access to certain options of the program, such as the contact manager, mail client or history.
Unlike the other tested browsers, Opera is a tool that provides a full set of tools needed by an average Internet user right after installation. There is the aforementioned mail client (which checks the contents of the mailbox from time to time and downloads it in the background while browsing), as well as a messenger allowing you to connect to the IRC network.
However, the competition is not idle in this area. Both Internet Explorer and Opera have a huge range of extensions that increase their functionality (for IE, a large number of them are paid). In the case of a browser from Norway, a solution worth mentioning is the possibility of using ready-made “setups” – small programs changing appearance and settings of panels, mouse gestures and menu contents.
Microsoft has also given its users a pretty wide berth by including links on the extensions page to recommended third-party programs that make IE work a little better. Often, however, these are separate applications that take up additional disk space and cause some trouble.
Among the browsers taking part in the test, Opera stands out with a very useful feature. Namely, if while filling in a form we want to go to the previous page to check some information, then after returning to the page with the form (by pressing the “Forward” button) we will see that all the entered data have been saved. This is extremely convenient, and combined with the window layout options, it saves a lot of time and makes work easier.
In terms of quality, aesthetics and modifiability of graphic schemes Microsoft’s work is far behind the competition. IE provides virtually no options for changing the appearance of the window. As a rule, this does not interfere with normal use of the program, but perfectionists will certainly like the huge selection of graphical themes available for Opera and Firefox. The themes are plentiful and regardless of the color scheme used in the system, everyone will easily find something that will suit them and satisfy even artists. And the creators of the so-called. And the creators of the so-called `themes’ associated with the products of Mozilla and Opera Software are true masters in the selection of colors. Their creations are usually neutral to the eye, and regardless of the content displayed on the page, they blend in perfectly without being too eye-catching or distracting.
According to CERT Polska report published on 16.02.2006, Internet Explorer users are in the worst security situation. The percentage of critical vulnerabilities in the total number of vulnerabilities (the highest among the tested browsers) was 40%, while the percentage of patched vulnerabilities was only 89% (the oldest unpatched critical vulnerability was found in August 2003).
It is also worth mentioning that among the tested programs only Opera did not cope with displaying files in .pdf format and also only Opera has problems with integration with some external programs used for downloading files. Both Internet Explorer and Firefox perfectly coped with these tasks (Mozilla’s child only after installing the FlashGot plug-in).
Without a doubt, Internet Explorer was the worst in the test. Its limited capabilities and a large number of errors placed it on the third position. Unequivocally indicating the winner is impossible, because the choice of users will depend on personal preferences. Both Firefox and Opera represent similarly high quality and functionality. Both programs are powerful and allow for numerous customizations. A user who can afford to spend a little time configuring the program and downloading add-ons to it will certainly choose Firefox, which will give him the opportunity to customize it 100% to his needs. A person who prefers a complete solution and cannot afford to waste time configuring the browser will choose Opera, which contains all the tools that a modern Internet user might need.