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Web Browser Tips

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A Web browser is a software application that enables a user to display and interact with text, images, and other information typically located on a web page at a website on the World Wide Web or a local area network. Text and images on a web page can contain hyperlinks to other web pages at the same or different websites. Web browsers allow a user to quickly and easily access information provided on many web pages at many websites by traversing these links.

Popular browsers available for personal computers include Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Opera, Netscape, and Apple Safari. Web browsers are the most commonly used type of HTTP user agent. Although browsers are typically used to access the World Wide Web, they can also be used to access information provided by web servers in private networks or content in file systems.

Last Updated - 14th July 2006

Web browsers communicate with web servers primarily using HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) to fetch webpages. HTTP allows web browsers to submit information to web servers as well as fetch web pages from them. The most commonly used HTTP is HTTP/1.1, which is fully defined in RFC 2616. HTTP/1.1 has its own required standards that Internet Explorer does not fully support, but most other current-generation web browsers do.

Pages are located by means of a URL (uniform resource locator), which is treated as an address, beginning with http: for HTTP access. Many browsers also support a variety of other URL types and their corresponding protocols, such as ftp: for FTP (file transfer protocol), rtsp: for RTSP (real-time streaming protocol), and https: for HTTPS (an SSL encrypted version of HTTP).

The file format for a web page is usually HTML (hyper-text markup language) and is identified in the HTTP protocol using a MIME content type. Most browsers natively support a variety of formats in addition to HTML, such as the JPEG, PNG and GIF image formats, and can be extended to support more through the use of plugins. The combination of HTTP content type and URL protocol specification allows web page designers to embed images, animations, video, sound, and streaming media into a web page, or to make them accessible through the web page.

Early web browsers supported only a very simple version of HTML. The rapid development of proprietary web browsers led to the development of non-standard dialects of HTML, leading to problems with Web interoperability. Modern web browsers support standards-based HTML and XHTML, which should display in the same way across all browsers. Internet Explorer does not fully support HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.x yet. Currently many sites are designed using WYSIWYG HTML generation programs such as Macromedia Dreamweaver or Microsoft Frontpage. These often generate non-standard HTML by default, hindering the work of the W3C in developing standards, specifically with XHTML and CSS (cascading style sheets, used for page layout).

Some of the more popular browsers include additional components to support Usenet news, IRC (Internet relay chat), and e-mail. Protocols supported may include NNTP (network news transfer protocol), SMTP (simple mail transfer protocol), IMAP (Internet message access protocol), and POP (post office protocol). These browsers are often referred to as Internet suites or application suites rather than merely web browsers.

Browser Comparasion

Microsoft's tight grip on the Internet browser market is rapidly slipping. Internet Explorer use has fallen below 90 percent of the market in the United States and as low as 69 percent in Germany. What's making people leave IE are the numerous security concerns and the simple fact that functionality (tabbed browsing and a built-in Really Simple Syndication [RSS] feed reader) promised in version 7 of Internet Explorer, expected to be in beta late this summer, is already available in other browsers. Add to that Microsoft's controversial decision to offer the next version of Internet Explorer only to people running Windows XP SP2.

Rapidly forcing IE from desktop dominance is Mozilla Firefox. This open-source browser receives our highest rating, in part because it includes tabbed browsing and RSS feeds, is very easy to use, and is well supported with a variety of third-party plug-ins. Firefox's popularity has recently helped unearth a few vulnerabilities, but the speed and forthrightness with which Mozilla has patched its browser is very impressive.

Netscape 8 takes the best of both worlds. It runs both IE and Mozilla's engines, should sites you want to visit render properly only with IE. Netscape 8 also includes tabbed browsing, and it's easy to use. Another browser actually built upon the Microsoft IE engine is Deepnet Explorer. Think of Deepnet Explorer as Internet Explorer the way you'd like it to be--today.

Two unique browsers are also available. One is Apple Safari RSS, designed to run on the Mac OS X operating system. Bundled with Mac Tiger OS (and available for download for previous Mac OS X users), Safari offers tabbed browsing, an RSS reader, and increased speed for Mac users fed up with IE for Mac.

Finally, there's Opera, which uses neither the IE nor the Mozilla engine. There are many cool new features introduced in Opera 8, such as its ability to stretch and resize Web pages to fit your desktop needs without sacrificing content. Unfortunately, Opera comes with a catch: in order to get all of the advanced features, you'll need to pay $40 or put up with an endless stream of banner advertising on the free version. This makes the value proposition for Opera 8 questionable at best.

  Internet Explorer 6 (with Windows XP SP2) Mozilla Firefox Netscape 8 Deepnet Explorer Safari RSS Opera 8
Cost Free Free Free Free Free Free
OS Windows XP (SP2 only) Windows, Linux, Mac OS Windows (98 through XP) Windows (98 through XP) Mac OS 10.x Windows, Linux, Mac OS, Solaris
Tabbed browsing No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
RSS integration No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Built-in antispyware No No Yes No No No
Pop-up blocker Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes



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