Cloud computing and company web apps have raised the profile of web browsers in business, but how on earth do you decide which browser?
In a traditional browser review, I would probably start with the strength of their features. Although they probably aren’t at the top of a typical business evaluation list, cool new features do have their uses; new and innovative features can make it easier for users to work with web applications, handle web information overload and generally improve their productivity.
Each of the browsers I tested includes features such as tabbed browsing and auto-suggest address bars that help when browsing the web.
Many of the features now found in browsers were first introduced in Opera, and the Opera browser is still one of the richest environments for power web users who want to manage information using a variety of different methods.
Chrome, while bare-bones in some ways, has some nice user interface touches, such as having search built into the address bar. Safari 3.x is even more bare-bones, although the forthcoming Safari 4 has some very nice iTunes-style interface touches.
IE 8 holds its own in terms of features, especially with the well-implemented Activities, which makes it possible to view information in context within web pages. Firefox is actually somewhat old-school in terms of interface features, though add-ons can greatly change this.
An important feature found in both Firefox and Chrome is the ability to build applications that can run off-line. This can be especially important in business-use scenarios.
When it comes to the issue of security, none of today’s browsers distinguishes itself. Indeed, web browsers have become one of the most common avenues through which malware and malicious code spread through business systems.
Fixing this has been a tough issue for most browser vendors, since locking down a browser also has the effect of making it less effective as a tool for accessing a wide variety of information on the web.
Browser makers have been working to improve their softwares’ security, and all of the modern browsers have taken essentially the same steps to boost security.
These include using services to warn users before they surf to known malware and phishing sites, and supplying improved information about sites’ domains and security certificates.
A nice additional feature for IE users is Protected Mode, which runs IE in a special process where it is not allowed to access system resources outside of those needed by IE. However, this feature only works with Windows Vista.
All that said, when it comes to security track records, no browser should be bragging. Every browser has had a least one major security problem in the last year or so.