May The Best Browser Win!
The web browser is something we use for several hours in a day, but take for granted. What's a browser? It's a program used to view and interact with web pages. It's not an operating system like Windows or MacOS, or a search engine like Google.
The browser story - it's like, the Star Wars!
In the late 1990s, Bill Gates at Microsoft realized the importance of the Internet, and used every means necessary to make Microsoft's Internet Explorer the dominant browser (such as making it difficult for Windows users to remove IE). Microsoft's tactics to kill Netscape succeeded, but earned it the nickname "Evil Empire"!
"Open source" Jedis got together to combat Darth Vader, and produced a new weapon - Firefox! "Open source" means that all the software code is free, and created by collaboration between hundreds of programmers. Firefox spread like wildfire, because it was faster, did not crash as much, and had a lot of cool extensions. Firefox even overtook Internet Explorer in Europe.
In the meantime, Macs became cool again (along with iPods and iPhones), and Safari, the default browser on all of Apple's products, is used by a lot of people.
Of course, the empire struck back, and improved Internet Explorer. IE 9, the latest version, is actually quite good. But wait... a shiny kid from a nearby galaxy arrived just two years ago, and surprised everyone.. Google's Chrome browser. Lightning wicked fast, clean and simple in its design, and totally "open source". Yes, Google did it again.
How do the latest versions compare?
Firefox's latest version is also quite fast, but still behind Chrome. Firefox's biggest advantage is the amazing number of extensions. Extensions are additions to the browser, that are created by various people around the world. For example, themes allow you to customize your browser; the Toodledo extension maintains to-do lists; the Xmarks extension allows you to share bookmarks across multiple computers, etc.
The latest version of Internet Explorer (IE 9) has caught up with Firefox, both in speed and features. But IE is known to crash a lot, and does not have as many useful extensions. IE is still the browser that's used the most, because it comes with the Windows computer, and most people don't bother to change it.
Safari is cool (as are most of Apple's products), but the speed is not great. On iPads and iPhones, Safari is the only choice.
Here are some special ones..
RockMelt is a special web browser for "social people" - users who use Facebook and Twitter so much, that they want their browser to provide all kinds of bells and whistles to help them be more social!
Kidzui is a browser for younger kids - safe and kid-friendly.
Opera is another fast web browser that integrates other useful features like mail and chat.