Opera 11: querySelectorAll caching
Songbird: Purpose-built packaging
It's tempting to not classify Songbird as a browser because it's more focused on music than Web pages. However, it does suck down information from the Web, and for that reason, we'll include it.
More of a Web-enabled tool for organizing MP3s, Songbird illustrates how we don't need to package everything as a Web page. The tool tracks local concerts and lets you know about upcoming gigs when you listen to a song. There's no need to go to a separate page to get this information.
The feature set seems to expand as more and more companies offer plug-ins that integrate their services with Songbird. The plug-in architecture offers a nice foundation for growth.
Opera 11: Email
There was a time when Mozilla combined the email program with the browser, but it stopped this integration long ago. That era is back again, this time on Opera.
Opera 11 offers its users the ability to monitor email while browsing. The client stores email on your hard disk, giving you offline access to your messages, and will suck down mail from multiple accounts and sort them in one list. The feature is part of Opera's push beyond the browser to become a "complete communication tool."
Firefox 4: Sync
Was it only a few years ago that a cellphone was primarily a phone? Now everyone is wondering when they'll replace desktops and laptops. Firefox is ready for that day by offering cross-browser sync. The Android version of Firefox on your phone can suck down all of the bookmarks, history, passwords, and even open tabs. Then when you're back at your desk, you can push back the changes you've made while you're typing on your phone. The other browsers offer syncing in only one direction.
Opera Turbo: Proxy caching
Before the Internet, there was a collection of nets, like Compuserve, Minitel, MSN, and AOL. Then the "Inter" prefix was added by linking these nets altogether, and everyone was given the freedom to request information from any computer out there.
Opera Turbo is sort of a return to the "net era" without any of the compromises. Your browser talks to Opera's collection of servers, which are tuned to deliver the data faster and in a form customized for Opera. This isn't a true return to past architectures because Opera's servers are merely proxies that fetch data from the Web. They don't host original content; they just rebundle what's available.
Safari 5: Easy user agent alterations
Every page request includes the name of the browser, which in this context is called the "user agent." If you want to pretend you're using a different browser, all you need to do is change this string. This can be particularly helpful when testing mobile software that must appear differently on the small screen of a smartphone.
The user agent string can always be changed by digging deep into the files on your desktop. Chrome lets you change it with a command-line parameter. Safari, however, simplified alteration of your user agent by providing a submenu that offers a wide range of user agent strings, including those for the various iPads and iPhones. In the process, Safari transforms into the ideal platform for testing iPhone- or iPad-tuned websites or for anyone who likes the simplicity of a mobile Web page in a desktop environment.