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Alternate Browsers

Overview | Gecko Browsers | Opera | Safari | Issues

Overview

In 1998, the browser war ended when it became apparent that Netscape's declining market share was irreversible. Netscape did not go quietly, though, as they open sourced the Navigator product code and created the Mozilla Organization. The newly formed non-profit group was eventually purchased by America Online (AOL). The Mozilla Organization did not attract very many supporters and AOL cut back their day-to-day support of the project resulting in the formation of another non-profit organization called the Mozilla Foundation (MoFo) in 2003. AOL did assist with the initial creation of MoFo by transferring hardware and intellectual property, employing three people during the transition, and promising funding for the first two years.

Between the Mozilla Organization and Foundation, a browser eventually known as the Mozilla Application Suite emerged. It was modeled on the Netscape Communicator code but improved and refined to create a streamlined internet suite (i.e. browser, mail, address book, etc. in one application). This browser code was initially used for the rebirth of the Navigator browser under the AOL banner. It was often said that if you wanted Navigator without the AOL additions, use the Mozilla Application Suite. Netscape Communicator 7.2 and Mozilla Application Suite 1.7.13 are the final release versions of these products and MoFo announced it would no longer release updated versions of the Mozilla Application Suite to pursue a new direction away from application suites to stand-alone applications - Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird.

In 2005, the Mozilla Foundation announced the creation of the Mozilla Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary, whose purpose is to continue development of Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird. The Mozilla Corporation is a taxable entity, or a for-profit organization. The Mozilla Foundation is still a non-profit group and stresses that it will not be driven by only revenue goals, but also by the public. One of the driving forces behind this decision was eliminate potential legal and tax resulting from the profit making potential of Firefox and Thunderbird.

Gecko-Based Browsers

The Gecko Layout Engine was originally created by Netscape Communications Corporation and is now overseen by the Mozilla Foundation. Gecko was designed to support open Internet standards, and is the layout engine used by all Mozilla-branded applications. One of the advantages of the Gecko engine is its cross-platform ability, or being able to work under multiple operating systems. The Internet browsers covered in this section all use the Gecko layout engine for rendering Internet content. Legacy applications (i.e. the Mozilla Application Suite) are not included since they are no longer supported or updated.

An unofficial web site known as mozillaZine exists which provides support for Mozilla-based products by offering product related news, an active forum, community-driven knowledge base of information relating to Mozilla-based products, and more. A companion site, Mozdev.org, exists that provides a place for free project hosting. Both sites exist to support the Mozilla community.

LogoMozilla Firefox is developed by the Mozilla Corporation and is their premier browser offering. It is a free, open-source, cross-platform browser that started off as a fork to the browser component of the Mozilla Application Suite. It is a stand-alone browser meaning that it is akin to Internet Explorer. Some of its features include Tabbed Browsing, Integrated Search, Pop-up Blocking, Support for Open Standards, Strong Security, Live Bookmarks, and can be customized via Themes. You are able to add additional functionality to the browser through the use of Extensions (i.e. enhancing Privacy & Security, Tabbed Browsing, or Navigation). Although other browsers offer these features, Mozilla Firefox was the first to include them all in one browser application and gain wide acceptance.

LogoFlock is another free, cross-platform browser based on the Mozilla Firefox code. It is referred to as the "social browser" due to its ability to interact with "social web services" such as built-in support for Flickr and Photobucket photo services, built-in Blog editor, RSS Feed indicator, and Sync and Share your favorite bookmarks. In fact, its tag line is "the browser for people who like to be connected". With photo sharing you are able to drag-and-drop images, and the blog editor allows you to drag-and-drop images and text snippets. A Flog Blog exists where you are able to read and share images and thoughts. There are a few Extensions available and an Help page with FAQ's and a User Guide.

LogoK-Meleon is free, open-source, Windows only, stand-alone browser based on the Mozilla Firefox code and offers many of the same features (i.e. Tabbed Browsing). The difference being that it uses the Windows Application Programming Interface (API) instead of the cross-platform XUL interface allowing it to more closely integrate with the Windows operating system making it very fast and lightweight, but not compatible with Mozilla themes and extensions. It compensates by already including several handy extensions such as a User Agent Switcher, Enhanced Toolbar Icons, and more. A comprehensive database of modified extensions and themes can be found at the Extension Setup. Its motto is "The Browser You Control" and it achieves this goal by offering a highly flexible interface design. All menus and toolbars can be modified via configuration files which may be intimidating for casual computer users. K-Meleon forum allows you to participate in general discussions, report bugs, development discussions, and request new features and improvements.

LogoNetscape Browser 9 is the latest iteration of the long line of applications developed under the Netscape name. It is currently based on the code used to create Mozilla Firefox, supporting the Windows, Linux, and OS X platforms. As of March 1, 2008, development and support of Netscape will come to and end - please read this announcement. The latest version, 9.0.0.6 shares many of the same features as Firefox, but also includes Improved Tabbed Browsing, Multi-bar Toolbar System, and extra support for inline RSS feeds. The Netscape Community provides access to message boards (i.e. forums), themes (not many, but there are some), and web communities supporting Netscape. The recommendation is to move to either Flock or Mozilla Firefox. Hope lingers that developers will step up and continue developing Netscape (i.e. like the SeaMonkey Project).

LogoThe SeaMonkey Project is a free, open-source, cross-platform, community-driven effort derived from the application formerly known as the Mozilla Application Suite. The goal of the project is to deliver production-quality releases that give you "everything but the kitchen sink" - and have it stable enough for business use. It includes a browser, mail client, HTML editor, address book, and chat client in one application. Among its many features are Tabbed Browsing, Pop-up Blocker, Image Manager, Junk Mail Controls, Support for Multiple Mail Accounts, and much more. The name "SeaMonkey" was derived from the code name used during development of the Mozilla Application Suite and is used to differentiate between the two applications. Like Firefox, you are able to customize the look via Themes and enhance its functionality through Extensions.

Opera Browser

LogoOpera is developed by Opera Software and is a free, cross-platform internet suite of applications. The list of included applications includes a browser, mail client, contact management, and online chatting. Opera uses the Presto Layout Engine for rendering web content. Its cross-platform ability extends to mobile/smart phones, PDA's (i.e. Palm), and gaming consoles. It includes several features of which I will highlight the unique features that have not been mentioned already (i.e. tabbed browsing). Site Preferences, Content Blocker, Thumbnail Preview, built-in Download Manager, Mouse Gestures, Notes, Voice Control, Mail Encryption, Accessibility Features, a Skinnable Interface, and much more. Opera mode of adding additional features to the browser is through the use of Widgets. It design philosophy is to be lightweight making it a good choice for low end computers and has a commitment to computer accessibility (i.e. disabled computer users).

The Opera Community (sign up required) provides you with 300MB of web space allowing you to share pictures and create your own blog. In addition, you are able to view other peoples blog's and pictures, and access the Opera forum where you are able to participate in discussions, report bugs and request new features.

Safari Browser

LogoSafari is a free Internet browser that use to be included with the Mac OS X operating system (Apple). It has been officially ported over and released for Microsoft Windows based operating systems. It sports a clean looking interface, bookmark system similar to iTunes, integrated Bonjour technology, tabbed browsing, security features such as pop up blocking, built-in RSS functionality, and a lot more. Of special interest is the Snapback feature which creates an electronic bread crumb trail allowing you to return to go back to where you started. Browser support and updates are provided by Apple for all supported operating systems. A forum is also provided allowing you to participate in general discussions, report bugs, development discussions, and request new features and improvements.

Compatibility Issues

Common compatibility issues are caused by web sites not following web design standards, or using outdated methods of detecting the browser type. Web sites are sometimes tested only with Internet Explorer, and fail to work correctly with other browsers. This applies to all the browsers listed on this page. For Mozilla Firefox, Flock and SeaMonkey, a User Agent Switcher extension exists which allows you to change the user agent of your browser (i.e. to make it look like IE). For K-Meleon and Opera, a user agent switcher is built-in to the applications.

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