Anne van Kesteren


Although it seems there is not much evolution on the web, there is some noticeable browser innovation. Obviously, not all innovation should be trusted. I don't really believe that Internet Explorer will really be improved when the next version in a couple of years arrives. They will not support SVG or XHTML since there aren't proper test cases for it. They will probably keep some bugs in their CSS because of "backwards compatibility" and compatibility with the existing web where web developers are coding towards IE standards. (Ok, the current web - 5%.) This was already clear five months ago and it won't be any different now. (There is a small chance they have read and might have even considered my advice for the next Internet Explorer, but it was probably instantly dropped since it would take too much time. Note that it would theoretically be possible for them, since they do have the fulltime engineers and more importantly, money.)

Maybe Internet Explorer will break the web after all. Crazy.

Enough about crap. Let's move on to some real browsers.

A browser I really like is Opera. It's not that I use it much, mostly not. It's because of their innovative features and support for standards. It will talk, it has some basic support for Media Queries and it supports the content property on every element, not just pseudo-elements. It has very good generated content support. Although it doesn't bother me that much, they have some problems with javascript, the document object model. Several crashes of my site have been reported because of that. (The script is long gone. You don't have to view-source. (Now I mention it, it might be interesting when I use something again and someone reads this post later…)) It also has some problems with regard to XHTML. (Don't worry, this most likely does not apply to you. Only to us.) One of the problems is mentioned here, by Moose and another I discovered when I was playing with hyperlinks and CSS. Though that one isn't a major problem, probably a severity of trivial.

One of the major features of Opera is probably the size. Too bad you can't see it on the download page, but it's only3,6MB . (That might be MiB, not completely sure.) That's not only 1MG less than Firefox you also get many more features. You don't have to download a separate e-mail client, it's there. You don't have to download a separate aggregator, it's there. (Without Atom support though, might be fixed in 7.6.) The argument that you don't have to download extensions is one I don't buy. I like that feature.

Since a few days I'm using Firefox. Before that, I have used the Mozilla Suite for over a year (maybe more) and before that I used Netscape 6.x. Anyway, I'm using Gecko. Gecko is what is behind all the products that come from The Mozilla Suite incorporates most of the products (browser, e-mail client, chat client) and its version number is equal to the version number of Gecko. Firefox 1.0 was based on Gecko 1.7 and improved a bit so its Gecko version number was made 1.7.5. In December will release version 1.7.5 and perhaps 1.7.6 (for security patches) of the Mozilla Suite so it's in line with Firefox again. Firefox 1.1 will be released simultaneously (not exactly, obviously) with Gecko 1.8 and therefore the Mozilla Suite 1.8. It's intended that Firefox 2 will be released when Gecko 2 is ready. Somewhere in the end of next year.

I hope the above release story is a bit clear. That's about everything I know. (Ok, I know 1.7.4 was never created because it was saved for additional patches to 1.7.3. Therefore Firefox is based on Gecko 1.7.5.) I don't believe Firefox needs any extra introduction, it's quite clear what its features are and it is advocated all over the internet. (Obviously, it doesn't need extra introduction to you; it certainly needs introduction to the rest of the world.) I use Thunderbird for e-mail at the moment and while it works, I somehow liked Mozilla Mail, from the Mozilla Suite, better.

There are also some other browsers, like Safari and Konquerer. And although I have used them, I have too little experience with them to write something useful or informative. I do check Surfin' Safari, but it's not updated very frequently. And it isn't always on topic.

Another browser I would like to mention is iCab, something for the Mac user out there. Arne Johannessen mentioned in the comments of the "No evolution" post that the new iCab (no public test versions available) will support CSS 2.1 and CSS 2.0. That means it will incorporate all the 2.1 errata and fixes. iCab is that browser that shows a smiley when your HTML could be parsed without an error. Very neat. Their current state of CSS support sucks though and therefore it isn't really supported by most companies. (Not that most companies use CSS.)

Anyway, apart from that blue thing installed when you buy your computer most browsers are pretty neat. (I'm fully aware of the fact that this "conclusion" is too generalized.)


  1. Nice to see that you like Opera (but somehow you prefer Firefox?)

    I think you have to use it more to really appreciate it and see how much its ahead of other browsers: You will be surfing much more efficient. Try it for a month or so too see the real value (, but even I am learning new things every day and I have been using it for more than a year now ;).

    But it also has some flaws, as you already mention, like not supporting Atom, for one.

    And somehow I like Firefox 'Live Bookmarks' more then Opera's solution, but thats because I like to read posts on the original site and not in plaintext. Hope Opera will changeadd this.

    Fortunately Opera is listening too its users like Firefox is doing to his users, so I have good hope for it.

    Posted by Rémy at

  2. Anyway, apart from that blue thing installed when you buy your computer most browsers are pretty neat.

    That is only when you buy a computer with Windows pre-installed, which is a big mistake anyway... :-p

    I personally like Firefox best. I have been using it from early on (when it was still called Phoenix), and have always preferred it over Mozilla Suite and Netscape. It has a lighter feel to it, which I like. And of course now there are a myriad of extensions and themes to customize it any way you want.

    Although I have used Opera, I don't like it. First of all, it looks ugly, the chrome taking up way too much screen space. Then there are the ads, and of course the fact it is not Free Software. There is only one good thing I can say about it: marvelous support of web standards.

    Posted by Ben de Groot at

  3. Isn't the new iCab using web core? I think it is and that means that its CSS support will be identical to Safari.

    Posted by Erik Arvidsson at

  4. I fully realize that this comment is too generalized.. too. :)

    I appreciate all the Opera provides, but just can't bring myself to stop using Firefox. Plus... Opera on Windows seems better than Opera on Mac OS X. It just seems to launch faster, etc.

    I started using Safari when I got Jaguar, but I faded out from it fast.

    The best feature of Firefox? KeyWORD browsing.

    Posted by Matthom at

  5. I can understand why people don't like Opera, but what I can't understand is that they take one look at it, say "I don't like it because of its crap interface," and then trash it. Opera's interface is completely customizable to whatever you want it to be. I don't get this from you Anne, nor am I saying anyone who has commented here is saying that either. I think that the Opera devs could probably consider a cleaner default interface because of the benefits in terms of marketing it would provide off the bat, but the only real annoyance to me about Opera when I first got it was the banners, but I ended up enjoying customizing Opera to whatever I wanted it to be along with its mail client M2 so I decided to purchase it.

    Opera is much worse on OS X than it is on Windows. Several features are gone or erratically implemented. The default interface is probably more of a turn-off for Macintosh users than it is for other platforms because of how ugly it is. I have, however, made the interface what I want it to be just like I have on my Windows machine even when it is a lot more difficult to do it on the Macintosh. I might talk about the difficulties with the Macintosh Opera on my own log when I think of it again (if I ever do) XD.

    The best feature of Opera? Too many to count. My favorite is a customization my friend and I made ourselves and that's the ability to open a certain page you have opened in Opera in another browser by using a custom right-click menu. Great for when authoring webpages.

    Posted by Dustin Wilson at

  6. I like Opera and I use it a lot for accessibility testing. It's not my main browser, though, because it has a few annoying CSS bugs that disturb me (because they are apparent on my sites :)).

    I use Mozilla, including the email client. Mozilla 1.7.3 is a bit unstable; it crashes on some sites, but I think that has more to do with the sites than with the browser.

    There are a few features that I miss in Firefox, and I don't like its bookmark management as much as Mozilla's.

    If I had to give up Mozilla, I would probably choose Opera as the replacement. Just out of curiosity, Anne, why did you switch from Mozilla to Firefox?

    Posted by Tommy at

  7. You don't have to download a separate aggregator, it's there. (Without Atom support though, might be fixed in 7.6.)

    Of course Firefox supports feeds too, even Atom. But like it has been mentioned, it doesn't actually have a proper "feed reader" built in. But that doesn't bother me much - I use Bloglines anyway.

    I currently have three browsers installed on my system. IE, Opera and Firefox. I only use IE for testing when I build sites for clients and for commercial sites. Firefox I use for most of my browsing, but I keep Opera installed because of only one thing: WAP support.

    Firefox has so many cool extensions (including one for mouse gestures) that I don't think I would have Opera installed if it wasn't for WAP.

    But of course WAP support wouldn't bother most people, only developers like me.

    Posted by Charl van Niekerk at

  8. Because of the UI. I still use the Mozilla Suite (recent nightly) for testing all kinds of things.

    Posted by Anne at

  9. WAP support is one of things, I like Opera. It's so much faster, then starting an emulator or use a mobile phone (which I still use, but later in the process of developing). But, like Charl said, not many people need this feature.

    And yes, Firefox has many cool extensions, but thats because Firefox is only a very simple webbrowser (don't get me wrong, I like that about Firefox.) and 'needs' those extensions to be a complete browser.

    Opera is already packed with a lot of features out-of-the-box (and its still smaller then Firefox ;), that I don't need those extensions (maybe only one: to see the headers of request and responses ;).

    -Of course Firefox supports feeds to-
    But, unless I am mistaken, this is only recently (0.9? 1.0?). I use FeedDemon now, but I am not pleased with it. For me is 'Live Bookmarks' from Firefox the solution (it even seduces me to switch, but its not enough :).

    Posted by Rémy at

  10. The best feature of Firefox? KeyWORD browsing.

    Opera has this and more besides.

    Right now I am MAD at Firefox. I typed in a comment here (only because Anne's site has a problem with Opera) and pressed the Home button for a moment to do something else. Then when I came back it reloaded the page and lost everything I had typed! Opera keeps the page intact when you go back, so you never lose form data. It also means it is much faster at moving back and forward between pages.

    Also Firefox does not have Opera's Notes, so I could not paste in the HTML code Anne requires here, such as blockquotes. In Opera I have those ready-saved as notes. I also have my name, email and web address saved in the Personal settings, ready to right-click and insert on any page. But Firefox does not have this ability. If I save the username and password on a site, it deletes it when you clear out the browser information (such as cache and history) using the button in the tools section. Another very bad thing that - Opera lets you choose exactly what you wish to delete (so you might choose to save cookies, for instance).

    I guess the only people who prefer Firefox are those who prefer the interface and don't like the ads in Opera. Otherwise, why use Firefox? Mozilla had more features. Extensions are surely a pain to download and install with the risk of not working in future versions, clashing, adding hugely to the file size. Users on a slow connection must hate downloading them.

    Posted by Chris Hester at

  11. Opera is my main browser on mac at home and on win at work.

    I have set-up some pages that I called iOpera. From there you can install ui customizations with just two clicks to give Opera a more mac-like/uncluttered interface.

    All those skins and toolbar setups work identically on all desktop operating systems that Opera 7 supports. Perhaps those customizations can help to actually make more people really try Opera.

    Posted by Ralf Demuth at

  12. Anne, the first page Opera sends you to after installing is a page where you can immediatly change to an IE or Firefox interface. Or well, it is in the 7.6 previews anyway. I personally see little in UI arguments because Opera is as far as I know the only browser with dozens of premade completely different interfaces ranging from Mozilla to Safari-like available. Even disregarding that it's probably the most easy to customize program.

    The only way to truly customize Firefox to my liking is to either write an extension or recompile which are both efforts which are way above editing a simple ini file. Of course both require some minimal computer usage skill, but the effort for Opera is simply much less.

    I think that if I still was an IE user just trying out new browsers, Firefox would attract me most. I would recognise it to be faster and might be attracted to open source. However, when I switched to Opera it was still in the version 6.x and the Mozilla 1.3.x wasn't that good according to me (I thought IE6 was better technically knowing less about CSS and stuff, but I simply liked Opera's UI so much that I couldn't stop using it, for a combination of speed and convenience). I thought Mozilla was truly a regression compared to IE6. Personally I think Mozilla 1.6 was the first to compete with stuff like MyIE2 (in combination with a couple of extensions of course).

    I think Firefox is a good development, I just think a lot of the advertisements are so... well, outdated compared to stuff Opera has had for years. Besides I even saw advertisements for stuff like "g searchterm". The ridiculous thing about this is not that Opera had it already five years ago, but that IE also had it since version 5.5 (which is 4 years ago now that I think about it). So actually Mozilla was the last browser to implement it.

    So actually some people who never researched IE's abilities and did actually research Firefox's abilities see it as something which is pro for Firefox. Well, it is not. To which I should add that because of Opera I learned much more about IE, realising that I had much more power at hands than I ever realised when I actually used it actively. I wonder what would have happened if Microsoft hadn't actually stopped developing the rendering engine after the version 6.0 was finished, as considering the three years which have passed since, they could easily have a much better IE7 by now. Or maybe they even have but just don't feel like making it public until Longhorn is more near finished. Only Microsoft knows.

    Damn, I've written way too much. :P Well, let all the disagreements come... :)

    Posted by Frans de Jonge at

  13. And yes, Firefox has many cool extensions, but thats because Firefox is only a very simple webbrowser (don't get me wrong, I like that about Firefox.) and 'needs' those extensions to be a complete browser.

    I don't completely agree, since Firefox is a complete browser without all of those extra features. And that is precisely what they are - extra features. My point was actually that all of the "missing" functionality could be compensated for by using extentions (like the mouse gestures).

    Opera is already packed with a lot of features out-of-the-box (and its still smaller then Firefox ;), that I don't need those extensions (maybe only one: to see the headers of request and responses ;).

    Yeah, not having to download all of these extentions saves time and Opera is still faster and smaller than any other browser I've used so far.

    I used Opera as my main browser for a some time, but I since switched to Firefox as my main browser. The reason for this is mainly that I can't stomach the fact that Opera doesn't even have XSLT support (AFAIK). And of course it isn't free and it isn't open source. But if it wasn't for those three things, I would have used Opera for sure!

    Posted by Charl van Niekerk at

  14. Opera is/was missing one nice thing - support for xmlhttprequest. But it is coming in next version, so it seems.

    Posted by Rimantas at

  15. I used Opera as my main browser for a some time, but I since switched to Firefox as my main browser. The reason for this is mainly that I can't stomach the fact that Opera doesn't even have XSLT support (AFAIK).

    How is this a problem? You shouldn't employ client-side XSLT on live sites anyway.

    Posted by Arve at

  16. You shouldn't employ client-side XSLT on live sites anyway.

    Good point. However, I don't see the harm in adding support for it. I mean, if even IE has support for it...

    Anyway, client-side XSLT is the developer's friend. It's almost like WAP support - cool to use simply because it saves you the time of having to first create the right setup before debugging.

    But I agree with you, it isn't the most major thing on earth (just like WAP support) and wouldn't bother most people.

    Posted by Charl van Niekerk at

  17. That IE has support for something doesn't make it a good technologoy. Besides, I just saw that MySQL got implemented in Mozilla, that doesn't mean it would be appropriate to use on the web. (It's useful for applications, et cetera.)

    Furthermore, Internet Explorer has crappy support for it. You have to refer to it as text/xsl, while it's MIME type really is application/xml.

    Posted by Anne at

  18. For me, the #1 Opera feature that Firefox lacks is the keybinging for going to the next page (shift-x by default). From time to time, I use Opera for reading long multipage developer docs even though Firefox is my main browser.

    Posted by Henri Sivonen at

  19. That IE has support for something doesn't make it a good technologoy.

    XSLT is an excellent technology if you ask me! :-)

    Furthermore, Internet Explorer has crappy support for it.

    Of course it has. But some support is still better than no support IMHO.

    Posted by Charl van Niekerk at

  20. Besides I even saw advertisements for stuff like "g searchterm". The ridiculous thing about this is not that Opera had it already five years ago, but that IE also had it since version 5.5 (which is 4 years ago now that I think about it). So actually Mozilla was the last browser to implement it.

    Mozilla's had this since at least Milestone 18:

    Admittedly you have to set up the bookmark yourself.

    Posted by Chris Neale at

  21. Sorry for my name inconsistency, I realise I should better stick to either Frenzie or Frans de Jonge, not a combination of the two.

    Well, still, Mozilla was later than Internet Explorer. It has to be said that one should have installed the Tweak UI utility to make use of IE's support for it and add everything yourself, but well, it doesn't matter who implemented it first, neither has it anything to do with anybody here. I don't even remember the URL anymore. I just remember I was annoyed by it.

    I personally do not really care that you have to add it yourself, as from the searches I use regularly, only Google was ready to use with the installation. I think Opera's way is the easiest to transport to other installations though.

    What is browsing is completely subjective. Some may like mouse gestures, some may dislike them. I can't say I use mouse gestures (I don't consider press right mouse button while clicking left to go back a gesture), but for me that is a substantial part of browsing. Not having this available is just viewing content to me. I must say that I do only consider this feature vital in Opera however because both Firefox and IE are to slow in going back in history in comparison. You really can't hold your right mouse button pressed and press left a couple of times in Firefox, it's simply to slow for that.

    The fact that most useful extensions (which are not for cooking eggs, but "substantial" program parts) wear or could wear the predicate just like Opera says enough in my opinion.

    Even if Opera is not the only one with certain features anymore, the mostly still superior implementation in combination with the invention of the feature and the speed (on my 100mbit connection it's like Opera loads my pages about the same time I click, whereas Firefox and IE load like it costs about 0.2 seconds of time to get the data to my computer), I think that Opera would at the very least deserve a lot of credits for making our current browsing life on a whole on every browser much more comfortable.

    Posted by Frenzie at

  22. Next you'll be telling me that Opera implemented the Link Toolbar first - but making fun of your comments would be too easy.

    [mainly on topic]I'd extend Opera, but I haven't found out how to do it yet - Firefox is much easier from that point of view.[/mainly on topic]

    Posted by Chris Neale at

  23. If the link toolbar is what I think it is, then it's probably invented by Netscape, but I never liked it anyway.

    Just come with facts to prove your point and make fun of me, I'd like that more than possibly making a mistake here. And I'm sure you are intelligent enough to correct me in a way which doesn't offend me.

    It appears that Opera 5.0 is from 7 December 2000, which is later than Mozilla's Milestone from 12 October 2000.

    However, if I treat a Milestone of Mozilla that way, then I should treat one of Opera that way too, which would make one of the previews pretty much the same as a milestone. Besides, I don't even know how the situation with Opera 4 was, as I don't think it's unlikely it had the function already. I only know for sure Opera 3 did not have the function. Since we can be reasonably sure Opera 5's previews included the function and we know it took about half a year of previews and betas of Opera 7 to release the product, my conclusion remains the same.

    Now the only thing which remains here is to find out is wether Microsoft added support for it somewhere along the 5.0x series, the 5.5x series or with the 6.x series of their browser. Please continue the fun.

    P.S. For the sake of completion, I installed Opera 4.02 to see wether it inherited the function. It did not. Considering the situation in the times I did actually follow I'd say it's more likely Mozlla copied it than the other way around, but it'd be hard to find out. Only someone who has collected all Opera's releases (or changelogs) since version 3 could tell us. I propose to call it a draw and lets just say the time was ripe for it, which means the same idea was invented at the same time at different places.

    P.P.S. Yes, would Firefox come with all of Opera's features I'd choose Firefox because it'd be easier to extend in combination with Opera's easy customizability. I guess I'm more thinking towards Firefox 1.5 here however and who knows what Opera thinks of for Opera 8...

    Posted by Frenzie at

  24. I too use Opera as my main browser. I've been through both Mozilla and Firefox after my switch from Internet Explorer, but I doubt I'll ever switch from Opera -- for that, it's way too addictive.

    I use all of Opera's built-in features, ranging from IRC support through e-mail and RSS to regular browsing (with mouse gestures of course). To have this, as I now see as basic Internet functionality, I'd have to install heaps of plugins and extra applications on top of Firefox (or Mozilla) that my computer would get a heart attack when opening the browser.

    Opera simply has everything I want and need from an Internet suite. If all I needed was a browser, Firefox would probably do just fine.

    Posted by Asbjørn Ulsberg at

  25. Well, today Moose managed to discover a feature of Opera I never knew about. I am not yet used to it, but if I'd make it available through F2 I think my browsing experience will within reasonable time gain yet another thing I'd really miss without extensions. Basic functionality as Ulsberg says. Just because you aren't used to something and think you won't need it doesn't mean you will not when you're used to it.

    Ability to navigate by keyboard? Who needs that when you have a mouse was my initial thought at spatial navigation. Now I often find controlling Opera by keyboard only faster than using the mouse as well, and especially on my laptop browsing the way I'm used to is almost impossible without Opera which I can browse fully by keyboard. Spatial navigation. Just one of the many apperently small features.

    Give me Firefox and I have to install an extension every minute until I'm annoyed. Then I'm 20 extensions further and I still have a browser which does almost nothing. Great, I have IE for that already. The Mozilla Suite at least does something, especially with a few extensions (about three). However, I doubt I've seen any new features since version 1.3 or 1.4 or so...

    So then I finally have my Firefox with all features I like of Opera, approximately about 200 extensions including about 10 written by myself because nobody had so far. Then I also have to worry about the immense security risk if I use auto-update, or care about the updating of those exensions all day. Not to think of updating the extensions I've written myself to the next Firefox version. No thanks.

    Had Firefox nearly all of Opera's features and usability and customisability (by which I don't mean extensions) by default, I might prefer it, exactly because of extensions. That's still a long way ahead. I doubt I can make any reconsideration until the next IE is launched...

    And then I haven't even mentioned how bad Thunderbird is compared to Microsoft Office Outlook 2003. And wait, did I mention M2's superiority over Outlook? Fanboy? Nah, TheBat is better, it's just not exactly my cup of tea. And it's separate, after all. Oh, and I do actually like Mozilla Mail. Besides, it can be integrated into Mozilla as a tab. I might have seen that somewhere before... I just can't lay my finger on it.

    Posted by Frenzie at