Saturday, March 31, 2012

How Browsers Behave....The Good, The Bad & The Ugly 2

We continue with our primer for those who think that all browsers are the same.
Read In New Wide Format (or Internet Explorer Users)

Firefox And The Drive Towards Open Source Dominance in Software
Firefox was first released in November 2004 by Mozilla Corporation.  The philosophy of the company when it comes to offering free software where any programmer can contribute to its code represents a revolt against the commercial model of proprietary software.  Although Firefox is the flagship product, It is not the only one.  They make an assortment of products like SeaMonkey, (a suite of programs cross platform, consisting of navigator, the web browser, a news client, email, an HTML editor and IRC client) Camino (a web browser for OS X), Firefox for mobile (a web browser for Android phones), Thunderbird (an email and news client program), Sunbird (a cross platform calendar) and Minimo (a web browser for windows smartphones).

Part of what makes Firefox so good in rendering web pages is it's rendering engine Gecko.  Since it is open source, many developers add features to it and develop it further to support the latest HTML standards.  Another part of the power of Firefox is the number of its extensions or add ons.  These are small programs that run within Firefox that allow you additional features.  All browsers have the ability to support extensions but Firefox has the larges number of them.  As of March 2010, it had 11,637 of them.  Anyone using Firefox and not using at least some of these extensions is missing out on amazing additional features.  85% of Firefox users have added extensions to their browser.  You may click here to see a the list of extensions under many categories where you can sort them by features, most users, top rated and newest.  Generally Firefox is considered slower than Google Chrome and Internet Explorer but more fully featured due to its large number of extensions.We have included a short video from Macworld about some interesting extensions for Firefox.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link:

Chrome: Google's Attempt to Capture the Web
Chromium Logo
Chrome was released in September 2, 2008, initially for Windows.  Google Chrome is considered by most to be the fastest browser.  In 2008, Google also open sourced a large part of the programming code of Chrome into a product called Chromium.  Chrome does not yet have the full power of Firefox, but it is catching up.  You may go here to see the most popular extensions available for it.  Obviously, if you wish to use Google's services like maps, docs, calendar, gmail, Chrome is the ideal browser.  It also integrates very well with an Android smartphone as would be expected.  We have included a short video of some of the better liked Chrome extensions.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link:

Chrome uses Webkit, which is the rendering engine used to display web pages.  This Webkit standard is also used by Apple, Nokia, RIM and Samsung among others.  It originated with Apple but was further developed by this consortium.  In 2005, Apple open sourced Webkit which allowed Google Chrome to emerge using this standard.

Google Chrome was designed with the "acid" tests in mind.  In the previous article in this series we mentioned this commonly used test.  We include a short video demonstrating how this test is used on several of the top browsers.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link:

The important thing to remember about this test is that it is not a real measurement of how well a browser does in rendering a web page according to the current web standards.  It is subjective and picks only certain aspects of what a web browser has to do.  This was commented on by Mike Shaver concerning the Acid3 test written by a Google employee named Ian Hickson.
Acid 3 could have had a tremendous positive effect on the web, representing the next target for the web platform, and helping developers prioritize work in such a way as to maximize the aggregate capabilities of the web. Instead, it feels like a puzzle game, and I can easily imagine the developers of the web’s proprietary competitors chuckling about the hundreds of developer-hours that have gone into adding another way to iterate over nodes, or twiddling internal APIs to special case a testing font. I don’t think it’s worthless, but I think it could have been a lot more, especially with someone as talented and terrifyingly detail-oriented as Ian at the helm.
Safari:  Apple's Polish for Its OS X and iOS Devices
Apple has been pushing Safari to be the top browser in terms of speed, for a while it was, but now has been surpassed by Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox.  Out of all the top four browsers, it has the least number of extensions, but the list is growing.  Macworld published a great article on 100 of the best Safari extensions here.  For a more updated list of the top 10 extensions according to Mashable look here.

Safari does integrate better with your iPhone or iPad than other browsers.  So far the integration is not complete, but it is a growing trend.  One example is the reader built in apple app in Safari.  It clears all the ads and distractions in a web page and neatly strips it down to just the text for easy focused reading.  This app uses Apple's iCloud to synchronize with iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad).  The already mentioned rendering engine, Webkit, used in Safari is the same one used in all iOS devices which means that Safari on the Mac or Windows versions will see the webpage in the same way as Apple's mobile devices.
We include a short video showing the Safari reader.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link:

The world of web browsers is constantly evolving.  They are upgrading the versions and there is fierce competition for who is the fastest and most secure browser.  For now, although our opinion is somewhat subjective, we prefer Chrome.

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