An Almost Impartial Look at Web Browsers

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

An Almost Impartial Look at Web Browsers

Choosing a web browser is an intensely personal decision. The browser you choose speaks volumes about your values, your outlook on life, your priorities for life forms here on Earth and your sense of hope for the future. Since the browser you choose might be one of the most momentous decisions of your life, it's best to make such a decision after careful consultation with your priest, rabbi or imam. Here is some background information to help inform that decision.

Firefox rocks, and the other browsers aren't worth a wit. Well, it's not exactly like that, but Firefox does have huge things going for it. Let's take an impartial look at the merits of other browsers, coming back to the
king of all browsers at the end.

Despite what anyone else might tell you, Internet Explorer works pretty well. Sure it's got more holes than a sponge reef, but you'll be interested to hear that the Jurassic sponge reef belt was the largest biotic structure ever to exist on Earth. And like so many things that once dominated, the Jurassic sponge reef belt is now extinct. I'd postulate that the reason for its extinction is that this sponge reef became too arrogant and consistently delivered new sponges late, but I'm very reluctant to draw the ire of arrogant sponge reefs. (Looking over my shoulder to make sure there are no arrogant sponge reefs following me.)

Safari has a lot going for it. True, version 1.3 tends to crash pretty often. Version 2.0 (which comes with Tiger), is more stable. Safari has a safeness feel to it. When you launch Safari, you get an immediate feeling that you're safe. Safe from what? Arrogant sponge reefs, among other things. Safari is great if you're risk aversive, middle of the road, with a staunchly uninteresting personality. Safari is well suited for people who feel cars should have 3 gears rather than 5, that physical exercise should be done only after consultation with a physician and that the best of all policies is to follow the official directions.

Opera is a browser invented by the Norwegians, who also brought us skiing and frostbite. It recently became a totally free download. When Opera loads, you'll notice it has a very clean interface. Without a doubt, Opera is the most clean shaven of the browsers.

The Opera start page also takes you to some dandy tutorials highlighting its features. Some of these tutorials are presented in Flash, but without audio narration. I was so much looking forward to hearing a breathless Norwegian-accented person take me on a tour of Opera, but that is not to be. The League of Breathless Norwegian-Accented Narrators looks like it's
on strike for the foreseeable future.

What I like most about Opera is that you can save Sessions. I won't tell you too much more about that, but check out Sessions in Opera. You'll be singing soprano about this feature in no time.

Netscape sucks.

And that pretty much wraps up our tour of other web browsers. In the interest of impartiality, for the rest of this article I'll refer to Firefox as "The Great One."

When you start The Great One, you immediately realize you're in the company of resplendent splendor. Magnificence can be found within every pixel The Great One puts on your screen. The Great One, exalted in all ways, has an imperial allure. People feel humbled in its presence.

And yet The Great One's generosity is infinite. Here is a browser that genuinely cares about computer users. From the soaring peaks of tabbed browsing to the golden valley of pop-up blocking, The Great One lives and breathes superlative metaphors.

And yet it is not enough for The Great One to be far superior to all other browsers. It goes several steps beyond that. The Great One allows computer programmers to extend its capabilities using small programs named extensions.

A number of extensions have become very popular, including one named Greasemonkey. For me to explain the power and possibilities of Greasemonkey would require several volumes, but suffice it to say, Greasemonkey is something you won't be finding on any sponge reefs or 3-geared cars.

Perhaps the most transcendent of all extensions for The Great One is a new extension named Jybe (Join Your Browser Everyone.) After you and others install Jybe, you can invite friends or colleagues to "co-browse" web pages with you. If you use Skype (or Gizmo) VOIP phone at the same time as you co-browse, you can have a delightful co-browsing session, yakking away
while surfing, wasting time in ways you never dreamt possible.

Jybe allows any party in the co-browsing session to specify which web site to go to next. You could use Jybe for web trainings or just for fun with friends. I'll leave it as an exercise for you to think of pranks to do using Jybe, but let's just say that Jybe is very prank ripe. (Please, youcan do excellent pranks while staying tasteful.)

Other extensions for The Great One that I love are Linky and Search Box Resize. To see one use of Linky, check out

If you're sitting down, I'll tell you something that is hard to believe. Although The Great One is far superior to other browsers, it keeps getting better by leaps and bounds. Though it is hard for the finite to fathom the infinite, let me just say that the infinite is becoming a lot bigger than it currently is. The best minds on the planet are working to improve The Great One, and what more could any of us ask for? The Great One is with us at all times as one of the most powerful of all forces -- the power of collaborative, open sourced human minds.

Praised be The Great One for all it is and for all it stands for. The Great One contains all things and all things flow from it. And that wraps up my impartial look at web browsers.

Phil Shapiro

The author, a prior president of the Virginia Macintosh Users Group, was recently hired to run the 28 station GNU/Linux public access computer center run by the Takoma Park Public Library, in Takoma Park, Maryland. He is reachable at

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