It's probably the most important and debated piece of software on the modern computer. See how your fellow readers get around the net in this week's Hive Five. Picture background created with WEB2DNA Art Project.
Windows/Mac/Linux: Opera is a rock-solid browser with roots stretching back to 1994. Many of the features baked right into Opera are either not implemented in other browsers, or require multiple extensions at the cost of system resources—navigation by mouse gestures is one of the flashier examples. Despite being feature-packed, Opera has a fairly small market share, due largely in part to being trialware up until 2000 and advertisement-supported until 2005—many people were turned off by the expense, if not the ads. Still, Opera proponents have long claimed, and third-party testing has backed up, that Opera beats Internet Explorer and Firefox when it comes to speedy rendering. Another selling point for Opera is the quality of the built-in tools. For many users the built-in RSS reader, email client, and BitTorrent client do their jobs admirably, cutting down on the number applications they need running at once. Opera is extensible, but the pool of available extensions is radically smaller than that available for Firefox. More screenshots and details on Opera's features are available here.
Windows/Mac/Linux: Firefox is the grandchild of the venerable Mosaic browser and free-roaming son of Netscape. Although Firefox has a myriad of user-friendly, forward-thinking features, a decently secure framework, and an open-source ideology, the most prominent is its easy extensibility. When convincing a Firefox user to abandon Firefox for anything else, even temporarily, you won't have to fight them over giving up the AwesomeBar or about:config tweaks—you'll hear a common, if understandable, refrain: "What about my extensions?" The repository of extensions maintained by Mozilla currently has over 6,000 entries, covering everything from blocking advertisements, to managing your clipboard, to allowing you to further customise your browsing experience with scripts a la Greasemonkey. Combine the passion people have for extensions and the ability to sync those extensions across multiple computers and portable installations and you've got a force to be contended with. For a closer look at Firefox, make sure to check out our power user's guide to Firefox 3 and the top 10 Firefox 3 features.
Windows only: Internet Explorer still commands a healthy chunk of the browser market, mostly by its shipping with the most popular operating system on Earth and fitting, if not exactly elegantly, into corporate computer plans. While many or most IE users stick with it for lack of wanting to try something else, Lifehacker readers definitely don't fall into that crowd— the majority of readers who voted in favour of Internet Explorer are sporting Internet Explorer 8. By contrast, nearly 20 percent of those surfing the web right now are using Internet Explorer 6, which had its initial release in 2001. Version 8 could mark a resurge for the brand, though. It's the first version of Internet Explorer to have a strong focus on web standards compliance, as well as increasing rendering speed. And like Chrome, Internet Explorer 8 maintains a separate process for each tab to increase stability and security. Internet Explorer 8 has also beefed up its security measures from previous versions (insert Slashdot-derived snark here), being one of the first browsers to include active filtering against malicious cross-site scripting and isolating ActiveX from the core of the browser. For more information about what's new in Internet Explorer 8 check out our screenshot tour and overview.
You can't believe you're the only one still using Lynx? You're not sure why everyone abandoned Gopher for this new-fangled world wide web? Sound off in the comments below.