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: Opera 10.60
For a long time, Opera's main selling point was raw speed. The company was proud of how its browser rendered a page faster than any other. This domination continues. Opera version 10.60 on Windows got the fastest results in the SunSpider JavaScript benchmarks of any of the browsers I tested. All of the browser developers are reporting big gains in SunSpider and similar benchmarks, but Opera still seems to be leading.

I'm not sure if this is a critical point for users because the main bottleneck seems to be the speed of the Internet itself. However, JavaScript execution speed may become more important when people start using their browsers to do large amounts of data manipulation and raw computation. The SunSpider benchmark includes many computationally complex operations, like AES encryption and searching for prime numbers with a sieve. Still, much of the work handled by JavaScript today is rendering some XML data or changing some background color.

Opera the company, though, is not focused strictly on the browser. It continues to offer smart, out-of-the-box software that rethinks the current model. Opera Turbo, for instance, is a layer of proxy servers on fast Internet lines. Opera Turbo will fetch the pages for you, then compress them to save bandwidth. This may not be a big win for people with fast lines to their desk, but it should be valuable to mobile browsers with slower network connections and -- this is important -- tight limits on the amount of data that can be consumed each month.

Another neat solution is Opera's widgets, little Web applications that run on your Windows, Mac, or Linux desktop. I'm not sure I would go so far as to call them "native applications," as some documentation does, because the widgets are written in Web languages (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) and run in some Opera sandbox. But somewhere in the stack there's some x86 code, right? These are structurally pretty similar to the widgets that are part of Mac OS X. Opera also has a few tools that make it relatively easy for anyone with a hint of programming ability to create a widget.

Indeed, it's almost unfair to focus too much on the desktop version of Opera browser because the company is tightly connected with the mobile market. It continues to innovate and surprise me more than any of the other teams.

Best for: Raw speed and innovation.
Worst for: People who can't imagine straying from the pack.

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