The recent browser wars between internet titans like Microsoft, Google and Mozilla has left users out in the cold. While these giant companies compete to upgrade their browsers to meet the latest technology requirements, they seem to be leaving their end users in a mess with lots of browser compatibility problems. If the Firefox 4 beta was not frustrating enough, the so called stable version has its own set of issues. Likewise, despite the fact that Internet Explorer 9 has received more than 10 million downloads, yet it requires being fast tracked to meet the user habits changed by Firefox and Chrome extensions. Even the light weight Opera seems to be following the Beta disaster of Firefox 4 by alienating its market niche of legacy hardware users. In this post, we will take a look at the pros and cons of using these browsers and provide you with a comparison of the advantages and possible issues you may face by using them.
Important Note: The opinion expressed in the post is based on my personal experience as an end user and an IT professional. We do not mean to bash any browser based on personal bias opinion or to vouch for a particular group. The objective of this post is to provide our readers with feedback based on documented facts and user experience. In order to help them identify the best choice of browser for their desktop. It is quite likely that many of you might not agree with the opinion expressed in this post. We respect the opinion of our readers, however, kindly do not start a flame war in the comments section.
I have been a loyal Firefox user for many years. Despite that, I tried many of the post Internet Explorer 6 versions but found them inadequate to meet my needs. I still remember that once I was having problem opening a webpage in Internet Explorer and resorted to my backup browser (Firefox), only to be amazed with the difference of page loading speed between the two. That was the moment I fell in love with Firefox (due to its better performance) and didn’t look back, until now. Before I jump to the disadvantages of using Firefox 4, lets look at its positive features, which still make it worth using.
Firefox no doubt has some brilliant extensions. You can get anything from an effective video downloading extension like DW Helper, to session managers and even extensions to help IT professionals (such as Firebug). Firefox is coming up with some fast changes to tune itself with the latest technological requirements like HTML 5, which is suppose to be as the next major revision of HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language), the core markup language of the World Wide Web. The new Firefox 4 has also made it easier to synchronize passwords, bookmarks, preferences, etc. These features were earlier explained by our review of Firefox 4, which you can check out here.
Despite spoiling user habits with its convenient extensions, Firefox seems to be losing its charm like an old wife. I find it quite frustrating to deal with the frequent compatibility issues being experienced even with the so called stable Firefox 4 version. First came the HTML 5 issue which resulted in page loading problems of website like Windows Live Mail, then came the add-on compatibility problems and now I’m frequently experiencing issues with excessive memory consumption and page loading (Firefox unable to load page). It appears that some pages aren’t displaying pictures and videos in Firefox. Some of you might have had a better experience (I hope), however, I must assure you that I have experienced this problem on multiple computers with Firefox 4. The same website or web page opens just fine on another browser. Coming to the memory issues, suffice to say that Firefox is currently consuming 356MB of memory on my system as I conclude my day’s work.
Firefox is fast running out of air in the wake of cut throat competition from Chrome, Internet Explorer 9 and Opera. The time has passed when Firefox provided exclusive extensions, the same can now be acquired in Chrome and Opera without any hindrance. Instead of working on Firefox 5, Mozilla should rather try cleaning up their act before a large number of users begin to switch browsers.
Internet Explorer 9
Internet Explorer has been the browser giant since the beginnning. There was a time when Windows users could not even consider switching to an alternative. Back in the day the best alternative was Netscape, before it succumbed to Internet Explorer’s deadly blow of unmatchable market share. Then rose Firefox from the ashes of the dead Netscape Phoenix, to devour the Internet Explorer troll.
Did I tell you that IE9 loads in a flash? Unfortunately, this might just be the feature after which its utility ends. IE9 still needs to do a lot of work before it can match the add-on quality of its competitors. Likewise, despite being lighter than previous versions, it “arguably” takes longer to load most webpages than other browsers. Despite its recent enhancements, Internet Explorer 9 needs to match the changing habits of end users, in order to acquire a greater market share of the browsing market.
One thing I must admit is, that when it comes to providing a “stable” application, Microsoft is indeed the king of the software market. Despite the lack of resources which IE9 offers to spoil its users, it is perhaps one of the most stable browsers at the moment. With upcoming changes and buzz of IE10, Internet Explorer might just become the ruler of the browsing market again.
To be very honest, I have never been a fan of Chrome, as I often faced problem of being unable to load certain websites. It appears that for some reason the pages used to remain blank, despite the fact that Chrome appears to be attempting to connect to them. But in the wake of Chrome 11, my opinion seems to be changing in its favor.
Chrome arguably matches its competitors in every field. Whether it be lower memory consumption, fast page loading, useful extensions or a sleek and stylish look. I personally prefer using Chromium in Ubuntu as compared to its alternative browsers due to the smooth browsing experience that it provides. Like Firefox and Opera, Chrome also has the advantage of reaching out to a wide array of users across multiple kinds of operating systems like Windows, Linux and Mac. This is one ability that Internet Explorer has been greatly deprived of. When I tested Chrome 11 a few days back, I didn’t expect much, however, I found it surprisingly more efficient than previous versions with a better browsing experience than I hoped for.
Having said the above, Chrome 11 is not free of issues. The page loading problem which requires frequently refreshing pages (as is the case with Firefox 4) seems to have followed Chrome as well. It appears that Chrome too often leads to the need of reloading pages on Windows. Interestingly I haven’t seen this problem to be very frequent in Ubuntu.
Chrome 11 seems to be standing at the brink of eventual success or failure. If Chrome is able to iron out some of its recent flaws, it is likely to beat its competitors. The choice between Chrome and other browsers seems to be much dependent on habits and some improved performance which it is currently offering.
Before I bought my Intel Core i3 laptop, Opera served as a good companion for my single core system. Opera was the reason because of which I got addicted to the speed dial feature, (which I later installed with the help of extensions), in Firefox and Chrome.
Opera is quite a lightweight browser and quite useful for people using legacy hardware. In fact, I once saw a comment on a forum that a man still using Windows 95 (hard to believe) was using Opera because other browsers just didn’t work out for his inferior hardware. Opera has also begin to match Firefox and Chrome with its equally useful extensions which users of these browsers are quite addicted to. It has not lagged behind in providing support for new technology and features such as HTML 5 and bookmark sync.
There was a time when Opera occasionally did not open a few web pages and suffered from the same blank page problem which Chrome suffers from. One such example includes its inability to load the Facebook application known as Arena. Unfortunately, Opera 11 has made Opera even more redundant. It often is unable to display pages and adding an extension leads to significant reduction in performance. To summarize it, despite formerly being quite a promising browser, Opera is far from becoming the market leader in the browser market.
Opera requires fixing its performance issues to become a viable alternative to its competitors. I would personally not recommend Opera 11 due to recent performance issues.
Which browser to use?
I will not end this post in a diplomatic way and would rather prefer giving an out right conclusion (based on my experience). I strongly believe that the most stable browser among the four mentioned above, is Internet Explorer 9. Having said that, you might not be able to adjust to it due to its lack of features (particularly lack of useful extensions). The only viable alternative is Chrome, with some functionality issues which still need to be ironed out. Hence, you can use IE9 if you are fine with a minor delay in page loading and can do away with the use of extensions. Otherwise, Chrome seems like the only alternative. Obviously, it is not fair to recommend installing four browsers like I have, since my needs are for more professional purposes and constant analysis of the technology world. But keeping IE9 and Chrome might be a reasonable option to do away with the lack of performance from Firefox and Opera. It is worth mentioning here, that the new updates to any of these browsers may improve their performance further and increase the utility of a browser more than it currently is.
If you are wondering why Safari is not mentioned in this post, try using it in Windows and see what it does to the Aero effect. I know Safari is basically a Mac browser, however, our aim was to focus on more universal browsers.