It’s telling that I’ve not had any browser history in Internet Explorer 9 on my Windows 7 system since I upgraded to service pack 1. I last used Internet Explorer extensively while still in school and university, restricted to those platforms thanks to the admins who selflessly gave themselves up to annoying every learner in the entire building. On numerous occasions I had to be called up by the system admin at college because I had found ways of getting around the limitation. Back then Opera was my preferred browser, offering a very neat USB install method that worked around all the security features of Windows XP. I stuck to IE 7 for as long as I could, as it was comparatively better in many ways than its successor.
Roll on to 2012, and I’ve been supporting Firefox since version 2. I’ve seen all the changes up to version 11, and I’m happy to say that I left Internet Explorer for the better.
Sure, IE 9 is easily the best version yet. A fully-featured, standards-compliant browser that doesn’t intrude or annoy is going to bring a few older users back to Microsoft’s bosom. Unfortunately, IE 9 is only available on Vista and Windows 7 – Windows 8, will herald the arrival of IE 10, with a Metro interface and brand-new plugins and APIs (more on that later in my test of the consumer preview). Meanwhile, XP users are stuck with IE8.
On the 19th this month, it turned three years old. Yeah, that’s right – 3 whole years. In that time Google has assumed dominance over Firefox and a lot of the browser wars on various websites now exclude IE 8 as any kind of solid testing platform. Even Safari stays in the game, and on a Windows machine it blows. Opera tends to play its cards close to the chest, and we’ll only see any significant improvements in version 12 of their solid browser.
So for the folks on XP – how many of you actually use it? I got tired of the page loads, the lack of decent plug-ins like Firefox sported, and any sort of memory management whatsoever. It crashed for me multiple times, and eventually grew to be so slow and cumbersome on the computers at college that I convinced the Network Admin to change everyone onto Firefox as the default web browser.
Microsoft may have released minor updates for IE8, including a new auto-update feature for hotfixes and security patches, but if you polish a turd it’ll only end up a brightly polished turd (and far more noticeable at that, too). IE8 usage currently sits at 17% worldwide, so its going to become another major thorn like IE6 was for Microsoft. So if you’re still stuck on the old XP platform, what can you do?
Firefox is very configurable, and the new nightly developer builds demonstrate that the Mozilla group hasn’t given up yet. Firefox will be on its way to market dominance if they stick to their guns and don’t deviate. Fast, friendly and secure, Firefox is recommended for the more advanced users out there.
Google’s Chrome is also at the top of the browser wars at the moment, currently beating Mozilla in market share and in various other criteria when you compare software. While Chrome might seem light on features, it appeals more to power users and those who want a browser that “just works” and looks after itself. Integration with Google’s services and Google apps makes it a clear winner for those who need an all-in-one solution. Remember Mozilla Seamonkey? There’s a special version of Chrome for security-minded users, distributed by Comodo.
Finally, Opera offers stability and extra speed for those on slower connections. Featuring many of the same technologies as found in Opera Mini for mobiles, the desktop browser features a Turbo mode to speed up page rendering and downloads by having all traffic compressed by a proxy server before reaching your desktop. While not hardware-accelerated, Opera is very standards-compliant, and often the company has been the first to implement features that create trends in the market.