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features /  column
editor content by: editor
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webslinky: war of the browsers
This week, getting around.

It's quite easy to take the humble web browser for granted. Chances are, if you're reading this, you're using one right now. Take a long hard look at it.

The duties of the browser have changed quite dramatically since the first, Tim Berners-Lee's WorldWideWeb, which was created simultaneously with the first website. It only had to bother with displaying (and linking) basic text and images, whereas now browsing the web is a denser and often much more multimedia experience.

Even so, most modern web browsers do the same job in pretty much the same way (in fact, the more similarly they display content the better) – but there's a surprising variety to choose from. Most recently this has included Apple's curious choice to release their once Mac-native browser, Safari, for Microsoft Windows. This is interesting because it isn't even particularly popular on the Mac, but it might be a clever way to increase the reach of the Apple brand, perhaps following the success of iTunes for Windows.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, competition is especially tough due to the hippy upstarts at the Mozilla Foundation and their Firefox browser, which rapidly grew in popularity thanks to features such as tabbed browsing (allowing users to switch between multiple pages within one window) and extensions (customisations which add new functionality to the browser itself), when Internet Explorer remained unchanged.

While Firefox might be putting in a sterling effort to knock IE from its throne, there are yet more contenders lurking in the shadows – including the surprise rebirth of Netscape Navigator, and a trendy “social surfing” browser called Flock, which melds functionality with all these networking and sharing services.

Meanwhile, Opera, the other dark horse of the browser battlefield, is fast becoming the brand of choice for web browsing on other platforms, offering various mobile editions and a tremendously successful Wii “channel” which makes it a delight to operate YouTube on a proper telly.

There's even a browser called 3B that will render web pages in a social 3D space so that you can experience craning around your own virtual head in order to look at something.
Is this progress? It must be.


David Thair 14 June 07
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previous web columns
webslinky #136
cyber money

webslinky #135
the news

webslinky #134
spam

webslinky #133
lolcats

webslinky #132
practical magic

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