When you want to get on the Web, what browser do you use?
Most users don’t even think about it. That bright blue stylized “e” on the desktop is all you need—maybe.
Just as there were other search engines before Google, there also were Web browsers before Microsoft Internet Explorer. Hard to imagine in either case, but it’s true.
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (also known as “MSIE” or just plain “IE”) is the most prevalent browser in the market.
This stands to reason, since Microsoft’s Windows operating system is the most widely-used operating system in the computer market, and Microsoft Internet Explorer is installed—some would say inextricably linked, these days—as part of the OS.
For those keeping score, Microsoft Windows accounts for more than 90 percent of the operating systems on computers accessing the Web while Internet Explorer is the default browser on more than 80 percent of all computers accessing the Web.
IE isn’t the only game in town, however.
< *c>The history
In the beginning of the Web, there was Mosaic, the first Web browser, developed by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) in 1993. It was the basis for how most modern Web browsers function today.
Mosaic was followed a year later by the birth of the darling of the dot-com era, Netscape.
Netscape was the first “big gun” of the commercial browser market. Free for personal or educational use, and $50 for commercial use, the Netscape browser propelled the Web into a cycle of constant innovation.
In 1995, Microsoft awoke—like the hibernating bear—and realized the Web and the Internet might just turn into something. They released Internet Explorer 1.0 for Windows shortly after the release of Windows 95.
And it was free. For everyone. The easiest way to convince people to use something is make it free—and it was the basis for the investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1998.
Jump forward to 2004 and we can see how the mighty have fallen. Netscape’s browser now garners a slim nine percent market share.
< *c>Now the alternatives
So, you’re tired of the fact that Internet Explorer won’t let you block pop-up ads? Or concerned by the fact that there have been hundreds of security flaws discovered in Internet Explorer in the last eight years?
Maybe it’s time to try a different browser. And there’s great news—you have a wealth of choices.
The biggest major competitor, even now, is the Netscape 7.1 browser. It’s a comprehensive package—the Navigator browser, an e-mail client, an instant messenger application (incompatible with MSN Messenger, unfortunately), and improved pop-up blocking.
Unfortunately, it’s still a big package—just downloading Netscape 7.1 could take you several hours on a dial-up connection.
Mozilla (mozilla.org) is a great browser, but an oddity. It’s Netscape—but it’s not (Netscape is based on the free code from the Mozilla Project). It’s also the basis for browsers called Firefox and Camino, which are both excellent products, as well.
Opera Software (opera.com) has released version 7.0 of its alternative browser. It offers a slim, efficient browser, a built-in e-mail client (say goodbye to those Outlook Express security holes), and runs on all major operating systems.
The downside to Opera? It’s not free—you need $39 (U.S.) to sing this particular song.
There are both good and bad implications in having more than one browser on in the market. The positive effect is that, for users, if you’re not happy with a product for whatever reason, you can always switch.
Don’t like Internet Explorer? Try installing Opera, or Mozilla, for a change of pace.
The negative effect is that, for Web developers like myself, we have to constantly try to work around glitches and errors that show up in one browser, but not another.
The History of Browsers
IE Security Issues