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The Fight for Best Browser #2

We're all very aware that Microsoft are a very powerful company and last week we talked about how they crushed the competition when releasing their browser in the mid to late 1990's. Netscape was a very prolific company of that time and when Microsoft released Internet Explorer for free bundled with their Operating System it was clear they weren't going to last long. Even to this day the actions of Microsoft are the subject of many debates, not to mention court cases, concerning allegations over restriction of competition and the abuse of a monopoly power.

Microsoft, however, got complacent and left a massive gap between releasing Internet Explorer 6 in 2001 and Internet Explorer 7 in 2006. This left a void which allowed more advanced and capable browsers to get a foothold in the market, resulting in a second series of browser wars.

Despite Internet Explorer still being an integral part of Windows, products by much smaller companies are currently enjoying a large amount of the market share amongst Internet users. I think it's only right that we take a look at some of the alternatives. So this week, we'll see how they're facing up to the competition.

Mozilla Firefox

The market share of Firefox has increased steadily since it was first released just over three years ago and it now has an estimated 16% of the browser market. It is currently my browser of choice due to its speed and compact nature, those that read my column will know this. It also has an extensive list of features. Like all good applications it is free of charge so download a copy now at www.firefox.com

Opera

First released publically in 1996, Opera is certainly one of the more established browsers currently participating in the browser wars. Considered to be possibly one of the most pioneering, Opera has had support for technologies such as tabbed browsing and mouse gestures for years. Unfortunately the browser religiously follows web standards and as such many websites simply don't display as you would expect them to. Rather unfairly this browser currently holds just an estimated 1% of the browser market and more awareness is needed if Opera is going to become a serious contender. A free download of Opera is available at www.opera.com.

Internet Explorer

This is the browser that most users will be familiar with as it is the one built in to the Windows Operating System. Internet Explorer 6 was a dinosaur and was five years old by the time it was replaced in late 2006 by Internet Explorer 7. Modern day features such as tabbed browsing and phishing support have been included to make up for lost time. The browser is, in my opinion, extremely bloated so if you have a little time on your hands then download the latest version from www.microsoft.com/ie7/ or by performing a Windows update.

Apple Safari

This browser has been running on Mac machines since 2003 and just recently Apple have released a version for Windows. Although Safari does have an overall market share of approximately 5% I'm not sure any of this can realistically be attributed to the new Windows version of the browser. Whilst I welcome Safari in to the fold, the Windows version is in my eyes buggy, doesn't perform as expected and is unnecessarily large. With such competent alternatives, future versions of Safari will have to be a good deal better in order to gain any chance of gaining market penetration. A free download of Safrai is available at www.apple.com/safari/

Netscape Navigator

I appreciate that I have already stated that Netscape were beaten in the first browser war, however the broken company was purchased at the time by AOL who up until now have done relatively little with the technology and every version of Navigator until now has been lacklustre. The latest version doesn't break any major milestones in browser development, but it is far superior to its predecessor and has the potential to do well.

With just 0.5% of market share, Netscape are going to really need to pull it out of the bag to allow Navigator to become a potential contender, but in this market anything is possible. Download a copy free at browser.netscape.com

About the Author:

Chris Holgate writes a weekly article of all things tech related. He is a copyrighter of the online Ink and Toner website Refresh Cartridges www.refreshcartridges.co.uk .



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