Battle of the Web browsers

Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari square off on speed, features, and HTML5 compatibility

Stop. Don't look up. Don't look outside of the box, the rectangle holding this text. Can you tell me which browser you're using? Did you choose it yourself for all the right reasons? Can you explain why you're trusting your precious HTML-encoded content to this browser, the way a major league batter can explain why maple or ash and a thin or thick barrel is absolutely the right choice for sending that ball into the bleachers? Are you sure this browser is the best choice for the tags and the metadata hurling toward your computer?

If you can't answer the questions, get out of here. If you think that this highly optimized, just-in-time, infinitely customizable technology is another mere commodity, don't even bother finishing this sentence to look for the insult you know is coming. You're not good enough to read this text. You don't deserve the information.

[ InfoWorld's Enterprise Windows blogger says IE9 is better than Firefox 4 and Chrome 10. Also on InfoWorld: The top HTML5 features: Canvas, video, audio, and graphics | Local data storage | Data communications | HTML5 forms | Geolocation and other tidbits ]

Now that the room is cleared of the drones who go through life happy to use whichever browser their fellow drones in the IT support staff installed in their computer, it's time to look once again at the browsers and think about what makes them better. What? You did that several months ago? You're thinking, "How much could they really have changed?" Do I need to go back to channeling David Mamet?

The browser world is taking Ezra Pound's command to make it new to extreme lengths, and much has changed since I started writing this sentence. Why, just a few moments ago, Firefox and Chrome both dropped their late morning builds, and the programmers at Microsoft are heading off to teatime, so they've pushed their latest versions. New versions are appearing every several weeks, and they often include substantial new features, such as better fonts, new video codecs, more sophisticated privacy switches, better local storage, and more. It's not a question of whether you're using your grandfather's browser or even your father's browser. Now you can come back from lunch and lock up your brain wondering whether you can make it through the afternoon with the browser you installed this morning.

Before the picture changes again, here's a survey of the five major browsers -- Opera, Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and IE -- and how they are performing right now. All of them are excellent tools written by driven programmers who see themselves locked in a battle for the future of humanity, which it is if you forget all of the physical objects that occupy those other moments when we're not checking our email or browsing a new site.

The list of changes and improvements is so long that this article can't begin to mention everything. I've tried to hit a few of the most important points.

Battle of the Web browsers: HTML5
All of the energy devoted to HTML5 has been one of the top drivers of the increased pace. While people have been talking about the new standard for 10 or so years, it only became an obsession in the last few. All of the press releases trumpeting new versions of browsers invariably mention the numerous new features from the HTML5 standard.

Does this matter to the average user? Not yet. Most websites don't use any of the new features today, but this is gradually changing as Web developers start to take note. Google is pushing Web apps through the Chrome Web store and clearly sees HTML5 apps as a big part of the software ecology.

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