Under new EU rules computer users will now be offered a choice of web browsers, but which ones are the best for architects?
Time to explore the world of browsers
Following the European Union’s recent enforcement action, Microsoft has been forced to unbundle its Internet Explorer web browser from the Windows operating system. This means EU users will now be offered a choice of web browsers to install.
Internet Explorer enjoys a massive 61% share of the browser market, but this is probably down to users not bothering to exercise a choice. It is the web browser that many people love to hate.
On the plus side, Internet Explorer uses some unique technologies (for example ActiveX) which allow functionality beyond what is envisaged by the World Wide Web Consortium. However, it is sometimes these same technologies which contribute to it having the worst reputation for internet security. Speed tests have also indicated poor performance for running java scripts embedded in web pages, page load times and amount of computer memory use.
Mac users have been unable to use Internet Explorer for many years, after Microsoft discontinued development of the Mac version. Apple users tend to use the built-in default browser, Safari. This is also available for Windows users, and may perform better than Internet Explorer in some respects. But most people see little advantage in swapping to another browser controlled by a large global corporation.
Google’s new browser, Chrome has a technical performance similar to that of Safari. Google launched it to provide users of its web-based Google apps service with the best possible service. Until recently it was the only web browser supported by a large advertising campaign and this may be contributing to the fact that it recently overtook Safari in popularity.
But Google can’t resist collecting information in its enthusiasm for internet domination. Every Chrome browser has a unique ID giving Google the ability to watch and learn from your web browsing. For those seeking to retain their privacy, help is at hand in the form of Unchrome (www. abelssoft.net/unchrome. php) — a utility that promises to return your Chrome browser to anonymity.
Opera is a browser that grew out of a research project in one of Norway’s telecoms companies.
It prides itself on the breadth of devices and computer platforms for which it is available. However, its position as the preferred outsider is stolen by Firefox.
Firefox is used by almost a quarter of all web users. It offers excellent performance and has the best reputation for security. In addition, as an open source project under the benevolent guidance of the Mozilla organisation, Firefox provides the means for the web to continue to develop in response to its users and not merely for the financial advantage of privately owned companies.
While we are unlikely to ever delve into advancing the shared code that underpins Firefox, as creative professionals we can surely share the open source coders’ desire and enthusiasm to be able to help mould the (virtual) world around them.
Hugh Davies is a co-founder of IT consultant Lomas Davies