browser battles are back on the boil
Alan Zisman (c) 2006 First published in Business
November 7-13, 2006; issue 889
High Tech Office column;
It’s beginning to feel like browser wars all over again.
case you missed them, the original browser wars took place in the late
1990s, when Microsoft, upon
discovering it had missed out on the first
phase of the Internet explosion, took on then-reigning Web browser
champion Netscape with
distributed IE free, unlike Netscape, distributed it widely as part of
Windows, and arguably made it the better browser. The result: Internet
Explorer achieved more than 90 per cent of browser-share, while
Netscape (now owned by AOL)
has a user base hovering around two per
with no perceived threat, Microsoft stopped improving its browser. IE6
was released in 2002, and, other than releasing a seemingly
never-ending string of security patches, the company appeared for a
long time to have fallen asleep.
several alternative browsers had dedicated fans, it took the 2004
release of Mozilla Firefox to
wake up the sleeping giant.
offers features like tabs, allowing a user to tidily keep multiple web
pages open. It was also widely perceived as more secure than Internet
Explorer. Firefox use has steadily grown, and is now estimated at
somewhere over 10 per cent, while accounting for higher percentages of
the visits to many more technically-oriented websites.
The result: Microsoft has now released
Internet Explorer 7.
Firefox, it finally allows users to load multiple pages into tabs,
using the same keyboard shortcut to create a new tab. And like Firefox,
there’s a built-in search field, which can be easily set to the user’s
choice of search engines.
nice features: a phishing filter warns if a user goes to a site that is
on a Microsoft hot-list or displays suspicious behaviour.
clicking on a web page’s orange RSS icon makes it easy to subscribe to
these increasingly popular news feeds. Improved security makes it more
difficult for Active X-powered “drive-by installations” of malicious
software without the user’s knowledge and consent.
Less to my liking: IE7’s updated user
interface (like Microsoft’s upcoming Office 2007) lacks menus.
the same limitations of Active X controls that improve security may
also make IE7 less compatible with some financial or commercial
websites that formerly worked only with Internet Explorer.
you’re an XP SP2 user, however, expect IE7 to show up in Windows
Update, and, depending on your settings, you may find your computer has
automatically updated itself.
A week after IE7’s release, the open-source
folks at Mozilla
released Firefox 2.0, that browser’s major update.
Microsoft playing catch-up to Firefox, Mozilla focused on less dramatic
changes to its browser. The new version is a bit sleeker, faster and
more stable but looks pretty much like the previous version.
IE7, it warns when you visit a known phishing website (though Firefox
refers to such hazards as “suspected web forgery”).
IE7 works only for users of recent (and reasonably up-to-date) Windows
versions, Firefox includes versions for Mac OS X and Linux, and
supports all versions of Windows from Win98 on.
nice to see Microsoft getting serious again about improving its web
browser (and company representatives have started talking about what to
expect in a not-yet-announced IE8), but overall, Firefox remains a
better tool for browsing the web.