The people who review software should realize that a browser is something that will be used by common users, for them the javascript rendering engine or ACID tests are as good as the number of memory addresses that can be accessed by the processor. Which means they don’t give a squat & they shouldn’t be made to give a squat! What matters is not how fast the page loads in a test but how well the browser does when it comes to user experience. But I guess the quickest way to give a verdict without actually spending time on something is use benchmarking tools. Page load times are a part of it but aren’t the make or break for a browser. I was a Firefox user till I realized that it had caused me enough mental trauma by freezing my whole machine for opening a tab or by taking more than 2 whole minutes to become usable on start, not to forget the insane amounts of RAM it consumed. Of course there are those who haven’t faced it, I haven’t seen my Windows BSoD either. I switched to IE 8 and loved it till it caused me my Facebook vanity URL. Currently I’m on Safari & Chrome. So here’s my take on all these browsers from a user’s perspective & the perfect browser.

As I said I don’t give a squat about javascript rendering times, Acid test & Base-Alkaline tests, what matters to me how well the browser responds & what it offers to make the browsing experience better. Let’s talk about the browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 8

No matter how much people might hate the brand IE, IE 8 is a good browser, it’s not right up there IMO but it is by no means a bad browser, pretty much all commercial & business websites are supported by IE, it is the browser that is available out-of-the-box in the most widely used OS (sorry Europeans). It CANNOT be avoided by developers.

The Good:

Accelerators: I love them. They make browsing so much more easier, the most used Accelerator by me is the ‘Search’.

Web Slices: Mentioned a lot, implemented by a few, this is a neat feature to have. Don’t really know why it didn’t take off.

Tab Isolation & Session Management: The tab isolation & Session Management in IE works better than Chrome. This comes after using both these browsers for a sufficient amount of time.

Incorporates Windows 7 Superbar features: This is a neat feature, wherein if you have multiple tabs open, you can browse through them as if they were multiple windows.

Easy on resources

Syncs with Live Mail (desktop): Being a user of Live Mail for my RSS dose this is amazing.

The Bad:

No Download Manager: 8 versions done, yet somehow a download manager hasn’t made it into IE.

No rounded corners: From what I’ve heard this is because of Redmond not implementing some CSS/HTML feature or whatever. But it sucks not to have rounded corners.

A bit slow: This is true, IE is slow when it comes to loading pages. Note that I mentioned loading pages, IE does extremely good in responding to Ajax components like Videos & notifications in Facebook. Also, when opening a new tab, the ‘loading’ that comes for a noticeable time is irritating.

Inefficient Crash Recovery: Lets just say that my experience with IE’s Crash Recovery hasn’t been very positive.

Plugins: Unfortunately as widespread as it maybe developers haven’t really bothered with creating useful plugins for it which is definitely a dampener.

  • Chrome

Chrome is a nice browser in a lot of aspects & responsiveness is not one of them, for me it lags a lot when browsing Ajax heavy websites. It freezes itself for a couple of seconds & then comes back to life, which essentially makes for a horrible browsing experience. I love the way Chrome shows the status bar.

The Good:

Clean interface: This probably is Chrome’s USP.

Easy on resources

Task Manager

The Bad:

Tabs on top: It’s not that you can’t get used to it, tabs on top make navigating tabs a bit more of a work (On a laptop with such small trackpads it is an annoyance.) Not to mention it’s difficult to drag & snap your Chrome windows in Windows 7 because of this. In general you can conclude that I hate tabs on top.

Can’t re-open recently closed tab

Response time: Here is where benchmarks don’t matter. Chrome decides to take small 10 second breaks every time I want to right click a link or I open a new tab. It does so on its own with no specific pattern. It just keeps on doing this. AND IT’S ANNOYING! It’s what I would call Browsing #FAIL! This might not be happening to every Chrome-user & that’s why I said, benchmarks don’t make or break browsers.

Plugins: As far as I’m concerned, they don’t exist. On a recommendation I tried installing a plugin it wanted me to switch to the Dev-Mode, Chrome kept on crashing every 15 minutes. IE’s got better plugin support than this!

No RSS Support

  • Safari

Being an iTunes user not by choice but by compulsion, I thought Apple can’t code for Windows or they simply don’t want to write efficient code on Windows, but with Safari 4, I’m impressed. I love Safari 4 as a matter of fact it’s my default browser these days.

The Good:

Top Sites & History: The Cover-Flow display of Top Sites & History is so much more elegant as compared to Opera or Chrome. I simply browse my History for kicks in Safari 4.

Response Time: Much better than Chrome & Firefox on par with IE (this is ajax component loading on various sites.)

Incorporates Windows 7 Superbar features: Neither Chrome nor Firefox (add-on needed) make use of Windows 7’s Superbar features where you can browse through tabs like windows. Though I miss Jumplists, it’s still a lot better.

RSS Support

The Bad:

Address bar won’t search

No Tab Isolation

Can’t re-open recently closed tab: Sucks all the way. (Draft issue.)

Weird behavior with links: For some reason Safari 4 has an advanced annoying algo which opens some links in a new window & some in new tabs even though I’ve set the default to open new tabs.

  • Firefox

Ah! Firefox the loved-by-all-but-is-still-a-crappy-browser.

Don’t be surprised I’ve been a Firefox user from 2.xx times, loved a lot of features that it has only to dump it since version 3 which is nothing less than bloatware. Hoping that 3.5 brings me back to it.

The Good:

Plugins & Themes: This is a huge reason to use Firefox, you can find plugins to do anything that you want, a huge developer community & an equally good repository backend. But then again it works against the browser as well, too many plugins spoil the broth.

Across platforms: This makes you feel at home when you’re playing with some other OS.

Crash recovery

Smart Location Bar

The Bad:

Resource hungry: The only reason I left Firefox was for the insane amount of RAM it consumed, even 2 tabs would clock over 200k which is outrageous.

Response time: Unlike Chrome’s behavior (which freezes for a couple of seconds), Firefox takes ages & I mean a really long time on first start, not to mention that if you were to minimize the windows & restore it after a couple of minutes, you can go make yourself some good juice for Firefox will freeze your machine for a good 5 minutes.

No Tab Isolation

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As good as implementing Windows 7’s features in the browser is, I haven’t held it against those who don’t ‘coz I’m expecting to see that in the near future.

All said & done about the browsers that I’ve found worth using & mentioning, here’s what my ideal browser would have:

  1. Memory consumption like that of IE 8
  2. Cover Flow
  3. Crash Recovery Console with session management & Tab Isolation
  4. Windows like access to User Profiles
  5. Nothing to do with Firefox or Chrome’s code thereby avoid any performance issues
  6. Firefox like community support for gazillion add-ons
  7. Chrome like status bar
  8. Syncs with Live Mail & is a RSS reader by itself
  9. A Download Manager
  10. Multi-platform support
  11. Sync bookmarks to cloud (yeah, that other browser does it.)

PS: Opera what?