Monthly Archives: March 2014

Browser Wars Still Not Winning Me Over

Way back in 2011, I made a terse comparison of popular web browsers.  My top consideration at the time was the amount of the browser window dedicated to actual web browsing. Almost 3 years later,  the amount of space dedicated to web browsing remains my top consideration. This time, I loaded up the Compact Classic extension for Firefox. This extension squishes the tabs, address bar, and bookmark bar like a car in a car crusher. Now Firefox is back in the running. 

Surprisingly, the newest Internet Explorer is a pixel or two more compact than Google Chrome, despite the roomier bookmarks (a.k.a. “favorites”) bar and enormous back button. Compact Firefox is slightly more compact yet, but look at the dark horse in this race, Sleipnir. The browsing space in Sleipneir 5 is one bookmar bar larger than all the rest, despite the inclusion of tab previews in the tab bar. 

Opera is written out of this comparison entirely. Not only is does Opera have the smallest browsing space, it is not near as extendible as Chrome, Firefox, or Sleipnir. Internet Explorer is barely in the race. Safari for Windows is a casualty of Apple, who replaced Safari with a browser extension that syncs bookmarks with iCloud .Microsoft kept the good design decisions of Internet Explore 8 and all the many, many bad ones. Worse, Internet Explorer never became a home for extensions. Some of use browser for real work and extension like Link Clump make a world of difference. Firefox remains as extensible as ever and clearly the most morphable browser. Chrome has actually become worse since 2011. The once useful new tab page has been replaced with eight tiny boxes showing the most visited websites. 

Look at all that empty white space. Chrome used to have links for off-line apps, web history, and recently closed tabs. I used to use those things from the new tab page all the time.

Sleipnir is something of a magic trick. The newest version of the browser for Windows is built on Chromium, the open source version of Google Chrome. During installation, Sleipnir borrowed all of my bookmarks, web history, saved forms, and extensions from Google Chrome. That last part is the best trick; Sleipnir can load any extension from the Chrome Web Store. Sleipnir has some nifty features of its own, such as excellent text rendering. The tab previews are a mixed bag. Seeing a little preview window of a tab is nice, but if I am searching through a database and have multiple results in different tabs, they all look the same. Some great Chrome features are missing, such as dragging text into the tab bar to open a page of search results. At the very least, Sleipnir is moving in the right direction when the older browsers are moving in the wrong direction.

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