By Toneo Rutsito
THE technological world has been awash with the battle of web browsers, which has since risen to fever pitch both internationally and locally. It is now common to hear Zimbabweans asking each other which web browser they are using or whether it is safe for me and just how fast it is.
Before I even delve deep into the technicalities I think it is proper to define a web browser. It is simply the programme that you use to view your websites online. Needless to say, this should be a programme of choice. Before you even go online, you should be fully aware of the pros and cons of the web browser of your choice for the best surfing experience.
The first thing that I do every day after cold booting my computer is to open all the best four web browsers on the planet — Google chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera and Internet Explorer. I have not had any problem yet with Apple’s Safari but I honestly feel that it’s much better off used on Mac computers than Windows.
I have more than four different social accounts, public email addresses and business profiles, so when I make each and every web browser store my accounts it makes it much easier to manage all accounts independently at the same time without compromising any one of them.
Speaking of choices, it is disheartening to note that most Zimbabwean users, by default, are still stuck in the Internet Explorer 6 era which came bundled with Windows XP, once crowned the world’s most popular operating system for more than 10 years.
Most local computer users especially those above 30 years are just not tech savvy; they have simply mastered their daily work-oriented software, be it Pastel, Adobe, wordprocessor, Baan or Flexcube. When they get time to browse the net, they really do not care or bother to ask why their business Internet connectivity is really creepy, slow and depleted.
I have always raised my discontent towards the way Microsoft binds its users to its substandard packages simply because most users just make do with the available resources and never worry about alternatives to improve their desktop experience. Frantically trying not to lose focus of this article, if you are still using Windows XP or older then you should completely do away with Internet.
We know that is all Microsoft gave you but the truth is in spite of the numerous updates, Internet Explorer has many known and unknown bugs and vulnerabilities to threaten both your online security and pleasure. Simply Google search for a better web browser for a start.
Although Microsoft is no stranger to junk softwares, kudos to the Silicon crew for releasing Internet Explorer 9. Exactly nine months ago, they somersaulted their web browser series to life, unfortunately this joy is only for those who have upgraded to Windows Vista (the widely abandoned operating system) or Windows 7, their current success story, before Windows 8 comes to spoil the party.
In 1994 we saw web browsers going mainstream, with Netscape Navigator spearheading the advancement but again, Microsoft successfully terminated it when it instead bundled its operating system with its own first Internet Explorer web browser in 1995.
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is now arguably the most common web browser in Zimbabwe. I would have used the word popular but after checking my dictionary, the word popular only denotes to something or someone regarded with great favour, approval, or affection.
Unfortunately Internet Explorer falls short of all these qualities, but how come everyone else is using it except for the non-standard users?
If it is not broken, don’t fix it. This principle has seen Internet Explorer 7 or older survive as the only web browsers among most standard users. This can be attributed mainly to the hiring of technicians and network administrators who have no idea what security, speed and CSS compliance is all about.
These people are either lazy or completely ignorant hence the reason why they have never bothered to advise employees to dump these well-known dangerous browsers.
Opera introduced its stronger contender in 1996 but only to shake the market later after some false starts. This really brought competition to Internet Explorer as the first greatest commercial contender. To date Opera still has a good market share but in Zimbabwe, it is better known for its mobile version, Opera Mini, the world’s best mobile browser.
Mozilla Firefox came through in 2004. It was probably watching and learning all the mistakes in the background because when it launched its browser it took the market by storm. The introduction of tabbed browsing and security made Firefox so popular. While other browsers came with a price tag or proprietary trademarks, Firefox was for free and had no strings attached to it, thanks to open source.
Google, the owners of the world’s largest search engine and data bank, created a web browser that is taking over from the traditional leaders. Known for its simplicity and speed, Chrome has been a force to reckon with since its inception. It came in with exclusive features to gain worldwide credibility.
Besides these leading giants, there are many other web browsers out there to complement them. Some even have better features but only time will tell how far they will survive with these current giants battling for supremacy.
For us to be able to ascertain and recommend the best web browser, we will only be able to do so by comparing the features of the browser and usage history captured online. All these are very critical in deciding who takes the crown.
Technology is very dynamic, previous market leaders are today’s underdogs. We will need to compare, test run and analyse all the latest versions of all the leading web browsers to ascertain the current king of online browsing.