So I’m a web junkie, right? Is it any wonder that I was waiting for the release time of Firefox 2 as it was posted on the BBC earlier that day? Well it shouldn’t be. That’s actually the second new browser release. The first was Internet Explorer 7 (Windows only).
Let’s look at IE 7 first. If you’re like me, you’ve been playing with IE7 since beta 1 and know that it’s appearance has changed drastically even through the beta stages. It’s look now is actually extremely slick in my opinion with some nice new features. The big three are RSS feeds, tabs, and PNG support. The RSS feeds are strangely modeled after the Safari’s RSS feed reader. This is actually a very nice way of reading through a feed. The searching on the right will prove to be more useful than you might think at first glance if you read feeds like the BBC where they get updated 50+ times per day and you still want to find something (or digg which is worse). It is a nice reader all around for actually reading the topics of the feeds instead of firefox’s where you can only see the titles (which I only see useful for things where the title can tell you everything or you want to read every entry). Tabs have been officially supported in IE with IE7 now and I think that this is a great improvement. I use tabs almost all of the time so this was a requirement. A lot of people turned to IE-based browsers like Avant or slimbrowser as an alternative or used the Yahoo toolbar for tab support. Now they are native and easy to use. People who use Avant and are used to Ctrl-n being a new tab (I still don’t understand why someone would pick n which everyone else calls new window…), you cannot remap the keys natively and will have to get used to every other browser in the world’s use of ctrl-t (or just keep using avant). The png support might not seem like much in comparison to the security updates, but I realize most people won’t ever realize the security updates are there and will probably see the png transparency support. Yes, this means things like google maps will actually look right now.
My opinion is that IE is better now, but it still offers little than another browser doesn’t already have. The biggest advantage in my opinion is still the security zones that Opera kind of has on a per-site basis, but none but IE have done quite as well. Past that, there are still a lot of add-ons for IE to get the features that extensions will get you in Firefox, but IE doesn’t add anything wonderful to draw me back.
Firefox 2 is another big launch just this week. Unfortunately in my opinion, it doesn’t change much. The tab support has been greatly improved to have a drop down for all of the tabs listed, a close button on every tab, and dragable tabs. Spellcheck is also nice now that it has been added to every textarea that you type in including webmail boxes, etc. The anti-phishing filter (probably stolen from IE7 which probably stole it from spoof-stick) probably is good to have, but I haven’t had the fortune to get to see something that it deemed as phishing. The updated interface is nicer than before, but themes are still probably what anyone who really cares about UI will turn to. The SVG support apparently was also improved, but I doubt that anyone will actually start to use SVG for quite a while.
In the end, these releases didn’t redefine anything. Most firefox extensions still work, are integrated, or there is an equivalent that exists. IE hasn’t pulled above anywhere, but it is closer as a contender.