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Understanding Browsers

Thursday, October 11 2012 10:55 AM
By Kalen Kubik

If you're reading this in Internet Explorer I hope by the end of this article you will never use it again.

The first thing one needs to understand about browsers is that they are called windows for a reason. A browser is merely a code translator. The web is made up of different coding languages and each browser translates the code as best they can. Using the window analogy, imagine standing in front of a large window facing outdoors. Now, this is a large clear window, cleaned just yesterday, you can see everything crystal clear. Let's just call this window ChromeFireFoxSafari. Now, imagine standing in front of a dingy, cracked window that hasn't been washed in two years and makes some spots outside hard to see. We'll call this Internet Explorer.

Web Standards

Why is there even an issue with browsers? So you can't see some content or it looks bad, what's the big deal? Web standards such as  HTML5, CSS3, transparencies, Safe Browsing and many more are not being upheld and you're out of date. Websites these days are beautiful and can do so much, but are limited by what your browser can read. If your browser is even six months behind your view of the web is outdated and you may be missing something awesome. You might still drive that Model T and churn your own butter, there's nothing wrong with that. The web is a different beast. If you own a website a poor user experience can lead to a higher bounce rate (people leaving your site in a hurry). You may have even been the victim of a poor browser experience and left a "broken" site, when your browser was at fault. (not every site has conditionals for IE - We'll get into this later.)

The Lineup

Mozilla Firefox

The Mozilla company offers FireFox, which is a free open source browser with full support, a huge community of users and constant development going on. Firefox has about 20% of worldwide usage, currently. What's the big deal with this browser? Constant Updating. A new version tends to be released every couple of months and in the ever changing world of web, that is huge. Firefox's developers work on a product called Nightly then they push that to Aurora, their beta and finally push their changes to Beta, then Firefox itself. Their product is in constant usage and development and before it reaches you it has been put under rigorous tests you probably won't even be using it for. They even have a mobile browser for download along and they will soon support  HiDef browsing for the new "Resolutionary" MacBooks, iPads, and iPhones.

Why does community matter for a browser? Plugins. When you buy a smartphone the first thing you do after you explore it is head to the app store (or Google play store). Same for browsers. Besides their default behavior plugins help make a browser a tool instead of just a viewport. I prefer FireFox as my primary browser for it's FireBug plugin that allows for troubleshooting and underlying code editing. But that is just my preference.


Google Chrome

You've undoubtedly heard of Chrome by now. With all the advertisements they run and Google's ridiculous reach in the web world, this browser grew to be the dominant browser within no time at all. In all fairness though, it is a fantastic browser; always on the cutting edge of web, not to mention creating the cutting edge itself. Google even goes so far as to create tools that help the user run better on their browser. Take Swiffy for example, it's a Flash video converter that turns your unsupported Flash videos to HTML5 canvas animations. Of course Chrome has it's own beta browser dubbed Canary where internet geeks like myself can live off the newest developments. There are some bugs that turn up in development browsers, but innovation has it's setbacks. They have a mobile browser as well and have so many plugins and communities that it's hard not to use a Google product.

Google really puts 110% into their products and it shows. As a builder of the web it brings an insane amount of innovation to the web community. If you're looking for a browser with longevity, support, and constant updates, I suggest Chrome. Even if you're just setting up Grandma's computer, put her on Chrome and she'll be in good hands.


Apple Safari

If you have a Mac, you've used Safari. If you don't use a Mac and are not in the tech world, I'm surprised if you've heard of it. Apple's Safari browser isn't a horrible product. I say that because IE set a low bar as the default browser for so many PC's that it's nice to see a decent default browser on a screen, but hey, it's Apple. Now, with the disgusting amount of Apple iPads and iPhones in use Safari is holds an amazing share of mobile web traffic. It's desktop traffic is very weak though. Now, with the release of Apples IOS 6, Safari 6 is the most current version, supporting HiDef (or "Resolutionary") browsing. The always innovative Apple also adds features such as offline reading which will pull your webpages content and save it so you can read it even if you don't have a connection, as well as built in sharing and their iCloud, which syncs with your other Apple devices. That being said it is not a free browser such as Chrome and FireFox, you must have a Mac running Mountain Lion as it is integrated into their OS.

Being what it is, it's very much an Apple product. Meaning, if you don't own a Mac or an iSomething you don't need it and now, you can't really get it anyway. If you do have an Apple product it's probably integrated with your software so there's no reason why not to use it. Especially since it's brand new.


Microsoft Internet Explorer

Remember Rome, that big city with all the roads leading too it? Meet Rome, or Internet Explorer, whatever you prefer to call it, I'm sure some expletives come to mind. The once great empire that fell and noone talks about anymore. I'm not going to link you to their page because I honestly don't want you to go there and get anywhere near that download button. Okay, let's begin. For those of you on Windows XP, you are locked down to IE8 as your OS cannot support the current IE9. Don't fret though, they are both out of date, IE9 being a year old, and two years behind the web when it came out. IE does not support web standards such as CSS3 and barely supports small fractions of other new web innovations we have come to call standard in other browsers. IE does not update or version and the "Features" it touts are browser features you could find on FireFox in 2006. (that's six years ago) The once behemoth browser is now dwindling as the tech generation becomes more prominent, due mostly to the lack of effort it puts into it's browser and that users these days are very tech savvy and realize it's horrible. If you bought an HTC phone, you probably already hate IE. That's good. Embrace the hate.

IE makes it's living off of the older generation who grew up using it as the default browser on their PC's. IE 10, or IE[x], is rumored to drop soon. Perhaps it will be jaw dropping and awe-inspiring. I'm going to assume it's another lackluster browser still out of date trying to play catch-up with the big kids.


In Closing

If you use IE, please try Chrome or FireFox for one week. It's a quick download and I doubt your boss is going to mind you downloading something that allows you to work faster and be more productive. Secondly, if you're already using Firefox, Chrome, or Safari make sure your website has the proper conditional statements to run on IE8 and IE9. Remember, there's still a market share out there using the out-of-date tech and I'd hate for you to lose a lead or revenue over a poor user experience.


By Kalen Kubik

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