February 27, 2011

0 THE Pre- Release Browser War

The past few days have seen the launch of new beta versions of IE9, Chrome 10 & Firefox 4. We take  a closer look at what's on offer.

Mention the word's internet browser and there's fair chance  that the first names to pop into people's minds are Mozilla firefox & Google Chrome. Rare indeed is  a month that passes without news of some improvements or the other, or their plans for a new version. And February has been particular hectic, with all three releasing pre-launch iterations of their forthcoming browsers : IE 9, Chrome 10, & Firefox 4.

None of these are final versions, but each one of them brings new features to the table. We at web programming tried them out, and this is what we discovered. 


At first glance, the release candidate ( RC ) version of Internet Explorer 9 does not seem to different from the beta version that we reviewed last year. There are, however, some neat tweaks to the interface.  Once can now pin several home pages to the bottom of the Windows 7 taskbar, essentially letting you open multiple sites with a single click on the pinned site icon.

Users have also the option of displaying their tabs on a separate row rather than next to the  address bar,  making things less cluttered. Still, your favorite addition  is the option to copy text from anywhere and run  a web search  on it by simply hitting, Control, Shift and L. For example, if you copy  a URL, then hitting those keys  will open the site, saving you the need to cut and paste it in the address bar. 

On the security front, a feature called  'Tracking Protection' has been introduced to stop web advertisers from tracking your browsers behavior.  There are other tweaks and bug fixes, but  what really matters  is that the software seems  faster than its beta predecessor. Sites such as Gmail, Facebook and CNN worked briskly on it. With Windows 7 becoming increasingly  available on netbooks, our main annoyance with the browser that it worked only  with Windows Vista and 7 - might be  a thing of the past. IE9 did crash a few times during the review, but it still remains a very powerful performer.

Chrome 10 beta

Although it looks identical to the earlier Chrome 10 betas, the biggest challenge  in this iteration lies under the hood. Google claims that this new version runs Javascripts faster, and can also leverage upon your graphics processor for better video play back. In simple terms, if your PC has a decent graphics card , the pressure  on your CPU  will decrease significantly, in effect, boosting the battery life of your notebook or netbook. Also, this version works a lot faster when it comes to  plain  web browsing.

The most notable change in Chrome, however, is that users will now be able to tweak the browser's performance easily. Choosing 'Options" in 'Settings'  that let you search for the item that you wish to adjust. So if you are concerned about privacy, just type "privacy" in the search box and you will be shown links to the relevant settings .

Finally, this version also lets you sync  boookmarks and preferences  across different computers running Chrome so you can have the same browsing  environment, irrrespective of the computer you are working on. 

Firefox  4 beta
The mose joke amongst the technology is that Firefox 4 has had more beta versions than Chrome 
Considering that this is the eleventh beta for the browser, there seems to be a gain of truth in that jibe. the stark fact is that Firefox 4 despite all the talk of new features and a better interface seems to be hogged down in bug-busting. 

The latest beta looks very  much like its  predecessors, although we are told it is infinitely less buggy. The most perceivable change, however, is that users can stop websites from tracking their browser habits by checking the "Tell website I do not want to be tracked" box in the 'Advanced' tab in the 'Options' menu.

That apart, we confess that we  did not see any significant improvement in the performance of the browser. Yes, there were fewer crashes, and yes, it did not freeze as much as the earlier versions. Still, there seem to be a compatibility issue with this version, where quite a few add-ons that worked on the earlier Firefox iterations do not work with this one. 

 Indeed, in terms of speed and performance, Firefox does not seem to be in the same league as the competitor.

The best beta?

After having used all three browsers , I must confess that Chrome's speed and minialistic interface makes it my favourite, and this beta just seems to have gotten faster. What is surprising, however, is that IE9 takes the number two slot in spite of it being Window Vista and  7 only browser. Firefox 4 was the most disappointing of the trio, being slow and half as sleek as its competitors.

That said, the final versions of all three browsers are expected in the coming weeks and in the interim things could change. As of now Google Chrome's rules the roost. 


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