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The Best Web Browsers Reviewed: Internet Explorer (IE) 8 vs. Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Opera and Chrome

Opera 10 (opera.com)

Fast and secure are the two priorities for Opera Software, the company that launched its first commercial open-source web browser in 1996.

This lean download — a mere 5.36MB in size for the Windows version (five times smaller than Microsoft’s IE8) — does indeed run fast and smoothly, and supports multiple operating systems (and mobile phones). Integrated malware protection and strong encryption help protect the surfer from the ills of the Internet.

Popular features include tabbed browsing (the first major browser to offer this feature in late 2001), integrated spell checker, “speed dial” access to your favorite websites, page zooming and mouse gestures (example: hold down the right mouse button and move the mouse to the right to go back a web page).

Also embedded in Opera 10 is a new technology called Opera Unite, that turns your web browser into a web server so you can do neat things like share files with friends via the browser window.

Pros: Lean and fast. Secure. Mouse gestures and other extra features in Opera (including Opera Unite) are handy additions.

Cons: Doesn’t fare as well on heavy multimedia sites. Not as much plug-in support than IE and Firefox.

Apple SafariApple Safari 4 (apple.com/safari)

Released as a free upgrade to the Mac OS X operating system in 2003, many Apple computer users have embraced the elegant-looking Safari as their browser of choice, and have since won over many Windows users, too. Plus, its install base on 40+ million iPhones and iPod touch devices has helped with its success.

While its claim as “the world’s fastest browser” isn’t substantiated on every website we tested it on (IE8 and Opera, for example, beat it out on certain sites), Apple’s Safari is a speedy web browser with smooth and reliable performance; it crashed the least out of the five browsers in our testing (not even once).

While other browsers offer a similar feature, we like Safari’s Top Sites, that shows you a graphical thumbnail of the websites you visit frequently. Attractive “Cover Flow”-like horizontal image gliding with bookmarked and tabbed thumbnails, resembles the iTunes feature and helps make website viewing a more visual experience.

Pros: Good looking. Fast. Reliable. Minimalist design.

Cons: Close button on left side. Not much mouse functionality (e.g. middle button). No status bar. Not all plug-ins supported.

Google ChromeGoogle Chrome (chrome.google.com)

The newest player in the highly competitive browser space is Google, which launched a public beta version of its Windows browser in September of 2008.

This lean and fast open-source browser fuses a minimalist design with many features to make your web surfing experience an easier one. For example, leveraging its experience as the world’s biggest search engine, you can type a query right in the address bar (for both search results and relevant web pages) and includes auto-complete options.

Along with “stealth” privacy options for anonymous browsing, Google Chrome offers handy keyboard shortcuts to speed up surfing, one-click bookmarks (the little star) and quick tabbed browsing with thumbnail previews of most-visited sites.

In July 2009, Google announced it would create a Google Chrome operating system, based on the browser, designed for netbooks. This direct aim at Microsoft will be available in late 2010.

Pros: Clean and fast. Some nice features like shortcuts. Available in 50 languages.

Cons: Lack of add-ons; not all websites/plug-ins are supported. No support for Macs.

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