The best Web browser: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, or Safari?

Find out which of the leading browsers is the perfect balance of features, speed, innovation, and flexibility for you

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The battle of the Web browsers: Firefox 4.0 beta
The old Netscape died years ago, but somehow it begat the Firefox browser that gave us many of the innovations being copied by IE and others. The project found a nice source of revenue by routing search requests to Google, and this supported much of the work of the last few years.

No one knows how stable this source of revenue will be in the future. Google leapfrogged Firefox by building a browser of its own, in part to fix the headaches caused by malfunctioning plug-ins like Flash. Firefox is now offering its own "crash protection," which restarts plug-ins when they stop delivering. Firefox handles this internally, though, because the browser still runs most of the work in one process. Chrome relies more on the operating system by sticking each page in different OS processes, an approach that the Mozilla group will probably eventually come around to using.

One of the strengths of Firefox continues to be the large collection of extensions and plug-ins. These can all be written in a mixture of JavaScript, CSS, and HTML, something that makes them a bit easier for the average Web developer to tackle. (In contrast, Microsoft's add-ons can be written in C++.)

Firefox add-ons like Greasemonkey make it even easier to write simple scripts that meddle with the DOM of incoming data, a nice playpen for creating your own quick add-ons. Firefox's model is pretty sophisticated too. While many widgets and extensions in the world are limited to JavaScript, CSS, and HTML, Firefox offers serious programmers more control with XUL. Is it necessary? I'm not sure, but it certainly makes it possible to create more sophisticated applications.

Firefox has not offered the fastest JavaScript performance on the computation-heavy JavaScript benchmarks, but that may not be important for most users. The speed of rendering and the responsiveness of the Internet connection are probably much more important to average browsing. Nevertheless, the Mozilla developers say a new JavaScript engine will be arriving in the fall.

Best for: People who enjoy the wide-open collection of extensions.
Worst for: People who write long-running scientific simulations in JavaScript.

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