It wasn’t that long ago that the browser experience on Mac OS X was modest. Wait. I’m being kind. It was poor compared to the Windows experience. Remember, Microsoft embedded Internet Explorer into Windows OS and the Mac version didn’t get updated by Goliath for years.
In the meantime, a few other browsers came along and continued to improve. Then, Apple introduced Safari.
Here’s a quick look at the browser landscape for Mac OS X.
Microsoft Internet Explorer
Probably no browser on Mac OS X has undergone more changes than Mozilla. This browser is a product of the Mozilla Organization and shows up on multiple platforms. There’s a nearly identical version available for Windows, and one for Linux. Historically, Mozilla has been a slow and bloated browser on the Mac platform. It’s also the most full featured, although the feature set differs from Internet Explorer.
For example, Mozilla has a built-in email client, a newsgroup reader, and an HTML editor. Still, Mozilla renders pages well, and the latest versions outperform Internet Explorer. The latest version I have is 1.7.2, although some newer beta versions are out.
AOL owns Netscape these days, and the code base remains a “cousin” of previous versions of Mozilla, therefore functionality is similar. Netscape is up to version 7.2 and could be on its last legs, as AOL continues to find ways to cut expenses. Netscape, like Mozilla, has a built in email client, a newsgroup reader, and an HTML editor. Netscape also has a host of other features such as AOL Instant Messaging, and ICQ.
While Netscape is generally stable, it’s page rendering is not much faster than Internet Explorer and the over all look and feel left the Mac platform years ago. The price is right. Free. The size of the download is huge. Over 45 megs once you get it on your Mac. That bloat compares to Safari’s less than 14 megs.
The Mozilla Organization should be commended to keeping the competition and quality moving forward in the world of browsers. Microsoft hasn’t upgraded Internet Explorer for Windows for years. The same held true for the Mac version. I suppose Microsoft’s programmers spent their time plugging holes in Windows and IE, so there wasn’t time for anything else.
Firefox is sweet. Very sweet. It’s lean, fast, clean, uncluttered, and intuitive; both on Mac and Windows. It doesn’t come with bloated features (that are free elsewhere) like email and newsgroup reader. Firefox is fast, often as fast as Safari at rendering pages. Firefox is at version 0.9.3.
I like this browser. I used it for about a year before Safari came on the scene and displaced Camino as the speed king. This browser has all the right features and does tabbed browsing very well. It’s also very fast at rendering pages. Camino has an Aqua look on a Cocoa front end to the Mozilla engine, so I guess that makes it a hybrid browser. I’m running the 0.8b version now. There’s no longer as much difference between Firefox and Camino. Still, this is a fine browser with little to detract from the effort of the folks to make another “Mac-like” browser.
You probably didn’t know there were so many browsers available for the Mac, huh? I’m about half way through the list.
This browser is also available on both Mac and Windows. The version with all the features and no advertising, will cost you money. The free version is 7.54 and will show some ads while you’re browsing. Opera adheres well to web development standards so it renders pages better than Internet Explorer (although someone once said that kids with crayons could render pages better than Windows IE).
I don’t like Opera. It just doesn’t feel like a Mac application. And it’s crashed a few times (something that’s happening less and less with the other browsers).
This little browser is still in development at version 2.9.8. The developers say they’ll charge $29 for the finished version. It’s been unfinished for about 4 or 5 years already.
iCab feels unfinished. The developers certainly aren’t working on a bucket of features. This one is bare bones (my apologies to the BareBones folks who publish BBedit, which is used on the production of this site).
This may be your next browser. Except you have to pay money for it. OmniWeb uses WebCore, which is the same low-level framework to render pages that Apple’s Safari uses. So, it’s not just speed that sets OmniWeb apart.
Tabs. Windows. Workspace. Thumbnails (like icons). Bookmarks. OmniWeb does it all well. And fast. Great autocompletion (better than Safari, which I’ve had problems with).
Of course, OmniWeb’s publishers, OmniGroup, have been doing Mac OS X development since long before Steve Jobs came back to the Mac. OmniWeb’s newest version is 5.0 and is worth a download.
Something interesting happened when Apple introduced Safari a couple of years ago. First, Mac users had speed back in the browsing experience. We also had something that was uniquely Mac, a quality “Mac experience”. Safari was very intuitive, non-cluttered, and it did tabbed browsing right. Well, OK at least.
What’s surprising was how quickly Mac users dumped Internet Explorer and took to Safari. Substantial sales of Jaguar and Panther probably helped. So did the price. However, when I check server logs these days, there’s not much Mac Internet Explorer, and there’s lots of Safari.
Still, Safari auto completion gives me some grief sometimes. So does the Safari caching system. Considering that Safari won’t hit version 2.0 until next year means we have some waiting but something good to look forward to.
There, that’s the good. Generally. It’s also Part 1.
Now you’ll get Part 2. It gets uglier and the browsers get ranked. And you’ll get a chance to vote for your favorite in a browser shootout.
Click Here for the results, the ugliest, and the reader poll.