Browser wars 2009: Firefox, Chrome, & Internet Explorer

Over the last weeks, I've been working a lot with all three of the major Web browsers, and I've come to some conclusions. This isn't a review as such, it's just what I, as a user, who never has less than three browser windows and several dozens tabs open at a time, have experienced.

Google Chrome. When Chrome first came out, I liked it a lot. With version out, I still like it a lot.

I have two simple reasons I like it: Speed and security. Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine is faster than fast. Only Apple's Safari even comes close to keeping up with Chrome. The rest are just a bunch of slowpokes.

Now, many times when you read about reviews with benchmarks the differences, in real life, aren't really visible. That's not the case with Chrome vs. its rivals. If this was a NASCAR race, it would be beating them to the checkered flag by laps.

Chrome was also the only browser that wasn't cracked in seconds or minutes in the recent PWN2OWN hacker competition. In fact, Chrome never was busted.

So, why isn't Chrome my number one? Well, for one thing, it's Windows only, and I'm not a Windows-only kind of computer user. Linux is my main desktop, and I also use Macs a fair amount. What I want is a browser that will work on all three of the main desktop platforms.

Internet Explorer 8. I know many of you won't believe this, but I actually rather liked Internet Explorer 8, when I first started using it. I especially liked that I opened one tab from a link in another, the 'related' tabs have the same color. By automatically organizing the tabs by color-coding, I found that managing tabs was instantly much easier.

Since then, though, I've been hearing from people who have had IE-specific applications -- oh the irony! -- break on them. Since the only point for many people to run IE at all was so that they could use those backwards Web sites, there goes one big reason to use IE right there. By the way, ready or not, Microsoft is about to start offering IE 8 to users via Windows update. If you really use IE a lot, I'm inclined to say 'skip it' for now until they have some of the compatibility bugs beaten out of it.

Firefox 3.5 beta/Firefox 3.08. So, I'm back to Firefox for my best overall browser. It works reasonably fast, it's reasonably secure, and it will work with pretty much any site on the Web. Besides running on every desktop around, Firefox has one other big advantage over the others: its software ecosystem.

There are hundreds of useful Firefox extensions out there and they make Firefox more than just a browser. With Xmarks (formerly Foxmarks) and the Google Toolbar for Firefox, I can do more with Firefox than I can with the other browsers.

So, while Chrome is faster and more secure and IE 8 is vastly improved over IE 7 and 6, the bottom line is that Firefox and its friends still give me a better over-all Web experience. And, when you're like me and you need to find information quickly on the Web all day long, that's no small thing.

Browser wars

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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