Best Internet Browsers in 2011
Your Internet browser is your window on the online world, and, as you do with most windows, you probably look through it more than you look at it. While it’s true that most web browsers are very similar, there are differences and unique features that could make your browsing much more enjoyable.
None of the popular browsers costs a dime to use. Vendors supply them as free downloads, either to promote their brand or generate various kinds of advertising revenue, or both. Despite (or because of) the products being free, the browser arena changes with the tide: Participants suddenly arise and sometimes disappear, so what you knew last year may no longer apply.
With that caveat, let’s look at the half-dozen best Internet browsers.
TopTenReviews and PC Magazine agree that the best browser in current circulation is Firefox, the creation of the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation (which makes money from browser ads). Firefox has all the features you'd expect, it's fast, and there's a whole ecosystem out there offering add-ons and extensions. With about 30 percent of the traffic, it trails Microsoft's Internet Explorer in popularity, but it has been steadily stealing market share from IE for eight years.
Next in the running is Chrome from Google. There are those who see Chrome as Google's initial step toward creating a Web-based operating system . Be that as it may, Chrome gets high marks for its ease of use and uncluttered interface. Currently it has 12 percent of the traffic, which is quite a feat in an arena that has traditionally seen a two-way (IE vs. Firefox) match.
Speaking of Internet Explorer, it probably came with your PC, which largely explains why IE, which rates third on this list, has the dominant share (42 percent) of user traffic. Its prominence has put it in the cross hairs of the world's leading hackers , but Microsoft has lately beefed up its security. IE's feature set has served to define the genre in the past, but at this point it gets highest marks for user help and support.
Fourth is Opera, from Opera Software, a Norwegian firm that gets revenue from Google for linking to Google's search engine. It has only a sliver of the Web's users, 4 percent, but Opera is famous for introducing features that other browsers eventually adopt. Presently it's pioneering the use of voice control (to minimize keyboard use), text-to-speech (so it will read the screen to you out loud), and mouse gestures (which replace the back, forward, and new-tab keys).
Next is Safari from Apple. With versions available for both Macs and PCs, Safari currently accounts for about 9 percent of the today’s browser traffic. Basically, it adds a Mac patina to the Web experience. At last report it lacked parental controls and certain anti-phishing features.
Finally, there's Maxthon from Beijing-based Maxthon International Ltd. It came to life as a result of the efforts of Chinese software engineers to customize IE. The same parental controls and anti-phishing features absent from Apple's Safari are lacking in Maxthon. Oddly, there is no Mac version of Maxthon available. It has a couple of points of traffic share.
Hackers continue hacking and Web services continue evolving, and so the parade of browser upgrades is never ending — with the users getting ever more powerful packages for free. It's a unique situation, so enjoy it.