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Firefox gets better, opera hits back

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer now has to face two serious rivals.

Kushan Mitra | Print Edition: April 6, 2008

One of the more remarkable things about the internet is the speed at which it evolves, but when in late February AOL announced that it would stop support for Netscape Navigator, it was a sad moment, particularly for those who had experienced the bad old days of the internet, before broadband, and when access cost Rs 15,000 for 500 hours. But once Microsoft muscled its way in with Internet Explorer, Navigator was doomed.

The browser wars of Web 1.0 have given way to the browser wars of Web 2.0, which has spawned several new browsers. A part of the reason is that Microsoft Internet Explorer had become a big, bloated and unwieldy browser, epitomised by Version 6. An ad-supported alternative browser from Swedish company Opera had been around for a while, but the big, garish adverts made it un-aesthetic. And then came Firefox, an open-source, community-designed browser.

Now, a quick word of warning before we carry on. Some Indian e-commerce sites do not tend to work too well with Firefox or Opera, for reasons that only they understand. Internet Explorer 7 is a much-improved browser from its previous iterations even though the ‘Windows Genuine Advantage’ check you need to undergo to install is irritating.

But first, let’s talk about Firefox. We downloaded and used the beta trial of Version 3. While with all beta versions there are still some kinks, none became apparent over a few days of surfing. If you do like to embellish your Firefox with add-ons such as the Google toolbar and online book-marking tools, those will not work on this beta. But, the layout is clean, the browser has a memory, so it can predict where you want to go as you type into the address-bar and the download tool has the ability to pause downloads.

And what about Opera? We were using Opera Version 9.26 and were impressed with the browser. Pages mostly loaded well, the layout was clean and it is quick and easy to install. We really loved the Quick Dial feature, which allows you to access your favourite sites by pressing a Control+ the designated number.

The problem with Opera is that several sites do not support the browser any more, because as one siteadmin put it: “It wasn’t worth it. Since Internet Explorer 7 was so problematic to support, all our resources went there.” And going to your favourite site to find nothing but gibberish could be a problem.

So, at the end of the day what would we suggest? Well, if you are stuck with Internet Explorer 6, switch over to Firefox 2, since it is easy to install and use. If you are already using Firefox, give beta 3 a whirl, we’re pretty sure you will like it. As for Opera, it’s an interesting browser, just like different food is interesting. But if some of the sites you like are not supported, Opera is always going to be the browser you use for a change, rather than the one you use by choice.

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