This article is the fifth in a series on making use of the Internet adapted adult-education Internet course given at the Saugus Senior Center through Saugus.net. Today we'll actually step out of our regular routine a little and consider alternative browsers.
When the Saugus Senior Center course was first given, there really weren't too many choices for free, modern, standards-compliant web browsers. Out of the handful I settled on just two to cover fully: Firefox and Safari. With all the recent interest though in browsers, security, and (amazingly) even web standards, I thought it would be worthwhile to mention both some of the browsers that I didn't cover before and ones that have been created since I first created this course.
Opera is a standards-compliant browser with a long independent history. Up until recently it had been available only for a fee or via a free (but advertising encumbered) version. Now however it is fully free for download, and it offers a slightly different take on things that many users prefer. It prides itself on rendering pages not just accurately but very quickly, and many swear that it is the fastest graphical browser around. It is available for several versions of MS-Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Solaris, etc.
Camino is built around the same rendering engine as Firefox, and thus displays pages with the same attention to standards-compliance. The key difference between Camino and Firefox though is that Camino is optimized for Mac OS X. If you've got a Mac and like Firefox, it's worth your while trying out Camino. You may find that you prefer it. Camino is not available for MS-Windows, Linux, Solaris, or anything else besides Mac OS X.
Flock is a new browser built around the same rendering engine as Firefox and Camino and thus shares the key benefit of standards-compliant display of web pages. Flock however has some interesting additions to better take advantage of today's interactive Web, and in particular has built-in support for both shared bookmarks and blog composition. It's currently available for Windows XP, Mac OS X, and Linux.
Konqueror is built around the same rendering engine as Safari (or actually it'd be more fair to say that Safari is built around the same rendering engine as Konqueror, as Konqueror predates Safari by quite a bit) and is thus standards-compliant. While it currently runs only on Linux machines that have KDE installed, curious rumors persist that it has also been ported to Mac OS X. I've not personally seen a copy running under OS X, so I'm certainly not going to confirm such rumors.
All old Internet hands remember Netscape. It wasn't the first browser or even the first graphical browser, but it was the first hugely successful browser. Then it was left to rot. Believe it or not it's now back, and mostly standards-compliant as it is more or less built around the same rendering engine as Firefox. I use the "mostly" and "more or less" here as it actually has two separate rendering engines under the hood, and in addition to the standards-compliant one it also has a non-standards-compliant one. In a curious twist of fate, it also can render pages in the non-standard way of MSIE. Of course all old Internet hands remember MSIE; it was the second hugely successful browser. Then it was left to rot...
Obviously I'm half joking with my comments above about Netscape and MSIE, but I'm also half serious. Both browsers got market dominance and then sat on their laurels for a prolonged period of time, ignoring the standards of their own day (let alone anything newer), and allowing others to climb up the hill and topple them down to insignificance. The Web is an evolving medium; browsers that don't adapt don't survive indefinitely.
Anyone interested in trying out any of the browsers mentioned above can do so via the links provided. The installation process for them is not too different from the procedure described before for Firefox.
Actually, on the topic of Firefox, it's just had a major update. If you're using an older version, you should upgrade as soon as possible (you can use this procedure). You won't be disappointed.