How many browsers do you know? From the old world text-based browsers like Lynx to the current topper in browser market, Google Chrome, there are innumerable browsers. Also, your hunt for the best and most compatible browser doesn’t end there. You have to know which browser works better based on the website you are visiting. Some websites have a certain type of content that doesn’t probably work with a browser you have. You may really need a number of browsers on your computer in order to view all kinds of websites.
In this article, let me tell you about the compatibility of each browser and give you ways to identify which browser works for your need.
Here is StatCounter’s global statistics of browser share from the beginning of this year.
Top Browsers Per Country from Jan to Mar 2013
As you can see Chrome is the world’s browser choice, while IE and Firefox are close behind.
Browser Layout Engine
Before we can go ahead and talk all about these popular and unpopular browsers you have lying around, we have to talk about the heart of a browser—what we generally call the layout engine.
The major browser engines that we have around are KHTML (used in Linux distributions), Trident (from Microsoft, forming the basis if IE), Presto (powering Opera), Gecko (Mozilla’s open source engine powering Firefox), and WebKit (which powers Apple Safari, Google Chrome, and almost all of iOS and Android smartphone browsers). Out of these browser engines the most important ones that we need to discuss are WebKit, Gecko, and Trident.
KHTML has never been popular in the major desktop environment, as Linux as an operating system has never been popular among end users. Heard of a browser called Konqueror? Presto has been dumped very recently by Opera Software in favor of WebKit.
The important thing to note is that all of these browser layout engines do support almost all of the general web markup schemes, stylesheet languages, and scripting languages. There are only minor exceptions, such as Trident’s slightly partial implementation of the noscript tag.
HTML Compatibility Checks
If you are a web developer and want to know whether your website works with popular browsers out there, go to Browsershots.org. Check your website in hundreds of different browsers, in Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux platforms to get screenshots of your page on them.
One of the latest developments in the Web is the advent of HTML 5, a thing you would know about if you were reading Blue Bugle. Most of the future websites will be compatible with HTML 5 specifications. As you are thinking right now, your browser also will have to support HTML 5 and other related standards to display the web page properly. How will you find out?
Go to HTML5Test.com and it will immediately tell you the HTML 5 score of your browser, like this:
I use multiple browsers on my computer to browse as well as for various testing purposes. As you can see, Chrome 25, which is my primary browser, scores 463 points on the test, while IE 10, the latest incarnation of Internet Explorer scores 320 points.
The highest score ever was achieved by a more or less unknown browser known as Maxthon with one point more than Chrome 25. I had tested out Maxthon, which gave a tabbed-interface to IE, back when Firefox came into popularity for that tabbed browsing feature.
Here is a chart from HTML5test.com over the years. As you can see Chrome consistently is at the top.
One thing that differentiates browsers like Chrome and Firefox is that they are open-source. They are under development constantly, rather than through an iterative update as rolled out by Microsoft, Opera, and Apple for their browsers. This is one of the reasons why an open-source browser is the most compatible.
Following European Union Microsoft competition case, Microsoft was forced to open this website, browserchoice.eu, through which Microsoft tells the users about browsers other than IE that work well with the web standards and Windows operating system. In that list, you will find constantly updated list of some great browsers. Right now the list includes Chrome, IE 10, Firefox, Maxthon, Opera, Rockmelt (which is a Facebook-incorporated social browser, Lunascape, Comodo, Avant, Sleipnir, K-Meleon, SRWare Iron, in that order.
It is quite difficult to say which browser is the best or if any browser you have on your computer is the best or not. During my tenure as a technology person working for AT&T, I encountered an old man who had a very basic system, with Windows XP, IE 6, and no software updates. He had decided that he no longer wanted to be confused by the non-stop software updates, new versions, and interfaces, so he stopped updating when he had what he thought to be the perfect configuration. All he used the system was for browsing news websites while having his morning coffee.
One day, that person had some issues with the AT&T website, and he enquired about AT&T’s Internet service, to find out if the issue is with his DSL. When I checked out his system configuration, I was appalled. He was unable to see the AT&T home page as the CSS was not loading properly. While it is a difficult thing to constantly check for system updates and cope up with new designs, interfaces, and new applications, it has quite a bit become a necessity rather than choice. I had to tell that person that he has to do a software update to have some of the latest features of websites to display properly.
When it comes to talking about the best web browser out there, it is a difficult choice indeed. Among desktop computers, Chrome is the one you can go with. I would also suggest that you have a few others installed—Opera, Mozilla Firefox, and IE. In mobile platform, Dolphin browser is the best in Android. It is also available for iOS.
As you can see, it is somewhat difficult to choose the best browser if you are stuck with one that you love. You don’t want that especially in the computing world, where security threats are appearing practically every hour. Go with an open source browser like Chrome that gets constantly updated.