The Advantages of Obscure Open Source Browsers

A lot of people are stuck in a rut, a complete web browsing rut. You use the same browser over and over again in the same old ways. It is a shame if you are one of those people. You are only cheating yourself out of the rich variety that the web has to offer you. It’s time to explore the many other browser flavors out there. This article will give you a taste.

What are some of the advantages to checking out a non mainstream web browser?

First, you will get to see your favorite web sites, or any sites that you happen to own, in a whole new way. If you’ve only ever viewed pages through one browser, then you may not know that different rendering engines will interpret the code in sites slightly differently. This gives each site a different look and feel on each browser.

Depending on the code, changes can range from none to pretty drastic. If you’re a programmer trying to make your site look consistent across browsers, you owe it to yourself (and your clients) to try out a few of the less common browsers. Not everyone uses Internet Explorer to surf the web, after all!

Second, you can have different add-ons and plug-ins on each browser. You can have some for music, others for social networking and still others when you want to load up with the RSS feeds for your blogs. This will help you to keep from being distracted by new posts in your favorite blog when you really should be getting your work done. After all, the best way for you to focus is to simply remove distractions.

Third, any piece of software that is less popular is less likely to be breached by viruses or other forms of malware. Crackers like to go for the highest number of potential victims possible. While it’s true that open-source browsers aren’t completely secure — after all, nothing is — having a second browser for things like your banking logons will give you a little bit of extra security.

Fourth, it will give you a certain amount of street cred in certain circles. If you socialize in geeky circles, having tried every browser may be considered a badge of honor.

{mospagebreak title=Firefox}

What are the options as far as open source web browsers?

Now that we have made our way past the reasons why you might want to use an open source web browser, we will take a look at some of the possible candidates that you may want to consider when choosing a less then mainstream option. Feel free to try one, or as many as you like. Don’t be at all shy about mixing and matching with your browsers. You can always get rid of one with a simple uninstall if you find that a web browser is not exactly what you want it to be. Now let’s meet the candidates:

Firefox

Firefox is by far the most well-known open-source browser. The Firefox browser came into being in 1998 when the Mozilla Foundation was formed. The browser was developed by a team of hundreds of volunteers.

The 1.0 version was not released until the year 2004, which is a sizable amount of time to wait, but the browser more than made up for that time. Firefox has achieved most of its popularity because it is a cross-platform browser. This means that if a Windows or Macintosh user wants to try Firefox, they can run it like a native program.

Another factor working in favor of Firefox is the fact that it is easy to customize. There are a wide variety of plug-ins and toolbars that can be added to Firefox in order to enhance its functionality, or plug it into the information at other sites. This is particularly handy on Web 2.0 sites where you get updates without having to remain logged into the page all time.

Firefox was also one of the first popular browsers to introduce tabbed browsing. In addition to that, it has a wide variety of relatively standard features for Web browsers, including bookmark categories, pop-up blockers and smart keywords.

It’s worth noting that Firefox runs on its own HTML rendering engine, which is known as gecko. This engine supports SSL, HTML version 4.0, Java, and JavaScript. It also supports Netscape Navigator style plug-ins.

One final thing of note is that if you choose Firefox and you already have bookmarks in Internet Explorer, Firefox will automatically import those bookmarks for you so you don’t miss a beat. Ditto for your Macintosh users out there who are currently on Safari. In March 2009 the Mozilla foundation, which makes Firefox, announced the beta version of a mobile version of Firefox, which is being called Fennec.

{mospagebreak title=Other Open Source Web Browser Options}

Firefox may be the most well-known open source web browser, but it’s hardly the only one out there. Take a look at some of the other ones.

Konqueror

This browser isn’t available as a stand-alone; it becomes part of the K Desktop Environment. This means it is available to users who are using UNIX.

This web browser distinguishes itself because it also has functions that allow it to work as both a file manager and a file viewer. The browser is compatible with SSL and HTML version 4.0 as well as Java and JavaScript.

It also supports plug-ins for Flash and QuickTime, but if you want to be able to use those plug-ins, their path must be able to run on your operating system. The plug-ins will not be able to stand alone in just the browser.

Conqueror runs on an HTML rendering engine known as KHTML. Some users, however have been able to configure it to be compatible with the gecko engine.

Epiphany

The Epiphany web browser project began in 2002, but a major overhaul came in 2005 when it was merged with Galleon. It is based on Mozilla’s gecko HTML rendering engine, which is in itself because it runs with the Gnome integrated front-end rendering engine as well. This makes it ideal for gnome-based desktops.

A major feature of Epiphany is the categorization of bookmarks, which allow your bookmarks to be arranged into categories like “most frequent” instead of being tied to traditional folders. Epiphany also supports some of the standard features you expect and web browser, such as tabbed browsing, the management of cookies, and pop-up blocking.

Galleon, the web browser that Epiphany merged with in 2005, is still available as a plug-in for Epiphany. Gallon is often touted as one of the most zen web browsers, because it was intentionally designed without all of the multifunctional features on which Web browsers have come to depend.

{mospagebreak title=More Open Source Browsers}

K-Meleon

K-Meleon  is a browser that runs on Windows, but still makes serious use of Mozilla’s gecko engine. This browser is designed to take up a minimum amount of file space, which is really good news if you happen to be running an older system or you’re just strapped for memory space.

Like Galleon, it is not designed with a lot of bells and whistles, but if you’re just looking for a basic web browser, this is the tool that will get the job done.

Camino

Camino is a browser that is very similar to Firefox. It is only available for Macintosh computers, and uses the same gecko rendering engine as Firefox.

The difference between Firefox and Camino is that Camino has a tighter integration with the Macintosh environment. If the program is closer to native than Firefox, some Macintosh users prefer it, though not all. If you run a Mac, however, it might be worth giving Camino a try.

Chromium

Chromium as a web browser began as a Google project. It’s based on the engine known as Web Kit. Chromium is more than a simple web browser. One of its main functions is to assist in the delivery of web-based applications, which is very good news if you happen to be a fan of Google documents, or any other web-based programs.

Chromium is relatively new in the Web browser market, having only been released in late 2008, but is already gaining a loyal following. This is most likely because it is still being supported by Google, who based the relatively new Chrome browser on the chromium technology. Chromium is extremely stable, and aims to have a high level of security for users’ data.

By now you probably have at least one browser in mind that you want to try. If not, don’t stop here. The world is full of specialty and open source browsers that are designed to cater to user groups of all kinds. It might take a little bit of time to find, but with the help of a trusty search engine you should be able to find what you want.

Enjoy your browsing experience. Don’t be afraid to give something new and different a try; you never know when one of these less-than-mainstream browsers might steal your heart away. We won’t tell on you to Internet Explorer.

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