Which Web Browser Do You Click With?

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By Alex Baldinger
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 2, 2008

W e've had two months to try out Chrome, Google's foray into the world of Web browsers, and what's clear is that there's a full-fledged battle for the hearts and minds of Internet surfers. It's a high-stakes game, with losers often left as mere technological footnotes: Remember Netscape Navigator? We took six of the most popular free browsers for a test drive:

Chrome

We all know Google will eventually control the universe, and Chrome is the next stage in the quest.

Forward: The "incognito" mode, which prevents the browser from recording your searches, is handy for off-the-record browsing and helpfully pops open a distinct dark-blue-bordered window whenever it's in use. But be warned: It won't prevent your IT department from spying on you at work. Thumbnail images of your nine most-visited pages are displayed whenever you open a tab. (This technique was introduced to Web users with Opera's Speed Dial; see below.) Users can also designate multiple pages to launch as tabs when the browser opens.

Stop: Chrome is in Beta testing, so it still has kinks: The browser freezes for several seconds frustratingly often. Some critics have concerns that Google is watching what Chrome users are searching for, but if you're someone who can't live without Gmail, odds are you'll want to Chrome up.

Details: Beta version. Sorry, Mac users; for now, Chrome is only for Windows XP and Vista. Download at http://www.google.com/chrome.

Firefox

Nearly four years after it showed the world that Internet Explorer wasn't the only way to browse, Mozilla's Firefox still provides an adaptive, innovative experience that's tough to top.

Forward: Mozilla encourages its users to create add-ons for Firefox, which are small pieces of software that expand functionality. Want a Speed Dial-type feature such as Opera's or Chrome's? A free add-on does it for you. Ever accidentally closed your browser with six tabs open? Firefox helpfully prompts you to save before doing this; the next time you open Firefox, you'll be back where you left off.

Stop: That last part about add-ons throw you off? Some users won't appreciate the change-it-yourself nature of Firefox, preferring a browser with the pre-loaded features of Chrome or Opera.

Details: Version 3.0.3. Available for Windows XP and Vista, Mac OS X and Linux. Download at http://www.mozilla.com. Free add-ons available at http://addons.mozilla.org.

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