New browser war in the offing?

Google is all set to launch a beta (public testing) internet browser called Chrome, fuelling speculation that a new ‘browser war’ is in the air.

Microsoft, with their Internet Explorer, are the current overwhelming leaders, although they have seen a dent being made in their market share by the likes of Mozilla’s Firefox browser. Now Google are entering the fray with a browser they say is fast, secure and does what people want. Which is what they all say, naturally.

Microsoft themselves have not been idle, bringing out a beta 2 version of Internet Explorer 8, although anyone who has tried it will have found that it is still a little too ‘buggy’ for regular use.

One of its innovations is a feature known as InPrivate, which allows the browser to suspend caching functions while you surf. The scenarios when this might come in handy are quoted in the official blurb as when you’re using someone else’s computer, when you need to buy a gift for a loved one without ruining the surprise or when you’re on a public computer, such as in an internet café and don’t want the next person to know which sites you visited.

While you can currently clear the browser cache with a single mouse click, it’s an all or nothing action. InPrivate temporarily suspends the automatic caching functions, allowing you to keep the rest of your browsing history intact. The media have tended to dub this ‘porn mode’.

Many of the other new features are ones which are already available in a number of other browsers, of which there are many, either in-built or available as ‘add-ons’. You can almost guarantee that anything Internet Explorer 8 has that, for example, Firefox doesn’t have, an add-on will be available within nano seconds.

Mozilla Firefox now has around 15% of the market share and over 8 million people worldwide (myself included) downloaded Firefox 3 on ‘download day’ recently, setting a new Guinness World record. We even have a certificate to prove it!

Internet surfers, especially power users, want a fast, safe, reliable browser with a few bells and whistles, one that covers everything they want to do while connected to the web.

One of the major problems for web designers, or webmasters in general, is a lack of standards compliance in the rendering of websites. This means that you cannot, if you are designing a web page or site, use one single browser. You have to test it in several browsers as each has its own little rendering ‘quirks’. You can have a web page which looks perfect in Firefox, but dreadful in Internet Explorer. And vice versa, of course.

There are a lot of browsers out there, each with its advantages and disadvantages, although they have still only managed to recapture about 20% of the market between them. Part of the reason for this is, of course, because Internet Explorer is bundled with Windows.

It will be interesting to see well the Google Chrome browser functions, exactly what it has to offer and whether, even with Google’s vast resources, it can make significant inroads into Microsoft’s dominant position as numero uno.

Like Internet Explorer 8, Google Chrome has a privacy feature or mode, called ‘incognito’, which means that none of your surfing data, sites visited etc, is stored on your hard drive. It also has a very interesting ‘tab’ feature. If you are whizzing around the net, particularly on high-load websites, you will have undoubtedly have experienced your browser getting stuck, your only choice then being to shut down the browser (or even the whole computer on occasions) and reload.

If this happens with Google Chrome, you merely shut down the offending tab, not the browser, and you can keep going. Sounds interesting. The new browser will be available for download in 100 countries as from later today, all being well!

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