Internet Explorer has been the undisputed ruler of web browsing for more than 15 years. After its controversial annihilation of Netscape Navigator, IE enjoyed a long period of unchallenged dominance in the online world.
But when the Mozilla Firefox Project released Firefox 1.0 in late 2004, web users started placing faith in IE alternatives. Browsers such as Opera, Mozilla and Safari began gathering followers they hadn’t seen before, until collectively, non-IE browsers accounted for roughly half of all Internet traffic.
Today, telling someone which browser you use is kind of like answering the famous “Mac or PC?” question. It may even be the new “boxers or briefs?”
So, to celebrate world-wide-web diversity, and to perhaps give users an edge next time some tech geek hits them up with this question, here are 10 non-IE browsers you may not have considered.
OK, you’ve probably considered Mozilla Firefox, but when you have features with hip titles like the "Awesome Bar,” you can’t just walk by this heavyweight.
But it isn’t the "Awesome Bar" that makes Firefox (by some accounts) the second-most popular browser online today. Firefox allows users to contribute add-ons, which other users can then download and install to make Firefox a highly personalized experience.
As Ryan Paul of ArsTechnica.com noted, “Although Firefox is falling behind the alternatives in some key areas like performance, the open source browser still delivers peerless flexibility with a rich add-on system and unrivaled support for extensibility. Mozilla's curated extension archive has over 60,000 add-ons that have been contributed by third-party developers.”
Google enjoys the rare honor of being both a company and a verb. People don’t search for the content they need online, they Google it.
Oh sure, Chrome has its own library of extensions for users to download and personalize their experience with, but nothing like what Firefox is providing.
No, Google Chrome has become one of the fastest growing browsers because of its simplicity, its beauty and its ability to load content faster than almost anything else out there.
Apple hasn’t made the same splash online that it has in the music and mobile worlds. In fact, most Windows users probably don’t even know Apple has made its browser available to non-Mac users.
But those who have tried it, whether on the Mac or on PC, probably admit that once again Apple takes home the best design award. Something as routine as searching through browsing history is now a beautiful, 3D-graphical experience.
But while Safari is both fast and beautiful, most users wouldn’t exactly call it feature-rich.
“Safari can be seen as either being a zippy lightweight alternative or lacking many helpful options that competitors offer,” said Seth Rosenblatt of cnet.com.
Many people know Opera because it’s the browser they use on their cell phone or gaming console. But Linux, Mac and Windows users shouldn’t ignore the desktop version, which is now enjoying its 11th major release.
Opera is an elegant and speedy Swiss Army Knife of browsers, that now joins Firefox in the ability to allow user contributions.
“Opera remains a closed-source and niche approach to browsing that lacks the open-source appeal of Firefox or the corporate backing of Chrome, Safari, or Internet Explorer," Rosenblatt said. "Yet because of its longevity (in use since 1995), along with its competitive feature set, page-load speeds, synchronization, and mobile options, it's also a viable alternative to other browsers.”
Sadly, Flock was recently discontinued. Designed with the Facebook generation in mind, Flock was built on the idea that users shouldn’t have to return to their favorite social sites again and again, when they could be using their browser for actual browsing.
To achieve this, Flock introduced a sidebar that kept track of RSS and Atom feeds as well as favorite social networking services. As users would browse Wikipedia or search for the latest in current events, the Flock sidebar would automatically display any new photos or status updates in real time.
Flock still has its users, and with a little time you can find its final release if you’d like to give it a go. However, Flock will probably go down in history as the first casualty to the RockMelt revolution.
RockMelt was Flock’s arch nemesis. Where Flock pioneered the idea of having a browser specifically tailored to social networkers, RockMelt landed as the hipper, trend-savvy cousin that social-networkers gravitated towards.
What sets RockMelt apart from every other browser out there, is the way social networking happens around the browser frame. It took Flock’s sidebar idea and wrapped the entire browser with quick access to blogs, Facebook, Twitter and most other social networking outlets. In most cases, you’ll be able to post status updates, upload pictures,and see what your friends are doing without ever leaving DeseretNews.com.
So how did RockMelt eventually win the browser war with Flock?
Well, in Mark Spoonauer’s recent interview with RockMelt’s founder and CTO Tim Howes for laptopmag.com, Howes said, “There was Friendster and there was Facebook. It all comes down to timing and execution.”
Easily the most platform-friendly browser on this list, the lightweight and still fairly new Arora is an important browser to consider because of its accessibility.
If users are running an older computer, with slower hardware, or if their hobby is hacking software or playing around with flavors of Linux or FreeBSD, then definitely give Arora a look.
If users love it, great news: They can use it on pretty much any operating system they end up using. If they don’t? Well, the price of free isn’t going to set them back for too long.
Where Arora was pretty much a universal application to be enjoyed by all, Shiira sadly, is for Mac users only.
Built on the same WebKit rendering engine as Safari, the Japanese browser enjoys many of the same features as Apple’s native browser. However, Shiira hopes to go places the Apple-backed Safari can’t by opening its code up to the world.
From its website: “The goal of the Shiira Project is to create a browser that is better and more useful than Safari. All source code used in this software is publicly available.”
Incorporating some interesting design options like the Tab Expose and graphical sidebar trays, Shiira is only a few bugs away from becoming a serious contender on the OSX platform.
Who knows, maybe Shiira will be the next open-source-vs.-corporation conversation around the Linux lunch table.
Since we did an Apple-only browser, here’s one just for Windows users.
K-Meleon is that browser for retro users who still like vinyl records and drink Ovaltine for breakfast. It’s a browser that runs smoothly on older hardware and has a design that will make veteran Internet users dream of simpler times and eight-bit wonderment.
Users who make demands for things like features and logistics, well this isn’t for them. But for those who dreamed of a day when Netscape navigator or IE 4 would run at the the speeds of 2011, this may just be that Cracker Jack prize you were looking for.
SeaMonkeyComment on this story
This list of 10 Internet browsers that aren’t Internet Explorer ends with SeaMonkey for no other reason than its glorious name.
Before Firefox really broke out as its own browser, it was part of an all-in-one application called Mozilla. Within Mozilla, users could edit HTML, check email, chat with friends and of course, browse the Web.
Well, SeaMonkey keeps that dream alive and does so with a much cooler name. Still powered by Mozilla, and borrowing heavily from existing applications, SeaMonkey’s claim to fame is the one-stop application for all your online needs.
It’s definitely a niche group that will be seeking out this kind of solution, but if someone doesn’t like cluttering up his or her application manager, SeaMonkey has the goods.