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Cybernaut

Browser utopia

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Surfing the web is not a one-size-fits-all experiences Different computers see things differently, and different browsers have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to interpreting web pages. People who use the web a lot also appreciate features like tabbed searches, easy to use bookmarks, and other plug-ins and gadgets that vary from browser to browser.

While most people just use the browser that comes with their computer, Internet Explorer for PCs and Safari for Macs, a growing number of people are looking for third-party browsers to support their needs and provide added security while surfing the web.

In the second quarter of 2008, about 74 per cent of visitors to a select group of websites used Microsoft Internet Explorer, compared to about 18 per cent Firefox, six per cent Safari, and less than one per cent Opera. There are literally a dozen options out there, but some barely register.

Those usage numbers are about to change, given the surging popularity of Firefox and the fact that Opera — a little known browser previously — produced the first browser to score perfectly on the Acid 3 test, which basically means that it read a website that contains every format, web programming language and plug-in (e.g. Flash, Shockwave) on the planet.

Adding to the excitement, Firefox 3.0 (www.firefox.com) was released last week with a strangely huge amount of media attention an more than eight million downloads in the first 24 hours, while Opera 9.5 (www.opera.com) was released the week before with more mainstream recognition than ever before.

I’ve never used Opera, but decided to see what all the ruckus is and downloaded it last Thursday.

According to a benchmarking test at Cnet.com (www.cnet.com) using the SunSpider JavaScript application, Firefox processed the scripts at 5,500 microseconds with a margin of error of three per cent, while Opera scored 7,280 microseconds with a margin of error of 1.5 per cent?

Firefox used about 127 MB of memory with 12 tabs open, while Opera used about 117 MB.

Opera worked better for people that use search on their cell phones but want to keep all of their computer settings and bookmarks. The new location bar also got favourable reviews, as well as their magic wand password management feature, resumable downloads feature, and an icon-based sidebar, and synchronizable notepad.

Firefox’s strength continues to be its speed and the level of customization available with plug-ins, sidebars, and icons. The plug-ins I use the most are the Wesabe uploader (www.wesabe.com), StumbleUpon (www.stumbleupon.com) and a feature called Read It Later that is available through the Firefox add-on portal, and that has become indispensable to me.

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