Watching Web Browser Trends Computer Science Essay

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A set of web browsers has been selected in order to watch and predict the trends of web browsers. This set of web browsers will be analyzed and statistical models will be constructed to illustrate the past trends of web browser. These models will also be used to predict the future trend of a web browser by extending them.

In this chapter we will describe every web browser in the set: Internet explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, Netscape and AOL.

The Internet Explorer Browser

According to the official website of Internet Explorer Microsoft.com (2011), Microsoft developed Internet Explorer (Windows/Microsoft Internet Explorer abbreviated IE) in 1995. Davis (2000) argued that the first and the second releases functioned as add-on elements in Windows 95. Later versions were available as free downloads. Table presents the list of releases of Internet Explorer from 1995.

Table 4. : Various versions of Internet Explorer since 1995 (Microsoft.com, 2011)

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Web browser versions

Years

Internet Explorer 10

In progress

Internet Explorer 9

2011

Internet Explorer 8

2009

Internet Explorer 7

2006

Internet Explorer 6

2001

Internet Explorer 5.5

2000

Internet Explorer 5

1999

Internet Explorer 4.5

1999

Internet Explorer 4

1997

Internet Explorer 3

1996

Internet Explorer 2

1995

Internet Explorer 1.5

1996

Internet Explorer 1

1995

We will focus only on features of Internet Explorer versions which are used during our study period from 2007 to 2011.

Internet Explorer 7: In accordance with Microsoft.com (2011), this web browser was delivered on October 2006 and it is incorporated in Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, and available for Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 and later, and Windows XP Service Pack 2 and later. Internet Explorer 7 is characterized by the following features:

Bug fixes

Enhancements to its support for web standards

Tabbed browsing with tab preview and management

A multiple-engine search box

A web feeds reader

Internationalized Domain Name support (IDN)

 Extended Validation Certificate support

Anti-phishing filter

Internet Explorer 8: Also, In accordance with Microsoft.com (2011), this browser was released on March 2009. Many operating systems support IE8: Windows XP SP2 and SP3, Windows Server 2003 SP2, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008. This version is the last of Internet Explorer that Windows XP support. The Microsoft's first concerns for IE8 are:

Security

Ease of use

Improvements in RSS

CSS

Ajax support

Support for Accelerators which allow supported web applications to be invoked without explicitly navigating to them

Web Slices which allows portions of page to be subscribed to and monitored from a redesigned Favorites Bar

In Private privacy features

Smart Screen phishing filter

Internet Explorer 9: This browser was released on March 4 2011. Microsoft began its development after achieving IE8 and with captivating feedback and suggestions through Microsoft connect.  Internet Explorer 9 only supported by Windows Vista SP2 and Windows 7. The IE9's properties are (Microsoft.com, 2011):

The support of several CSS3 properties

Faster JavaScript performance

Hardware accelerated graphics rendering using Direct2D

Hardware accelerated text rendering using DirectWite

Hardware accelerated video rendering using Medai Foundation

Imaging support provided by Windows Imaging Component

A High fidelity printing powered by the XPS print pipeline.

It supports the HTML5 video and audio tags and the Web Open Font Format.

The Firefox browser

According to the official website of Firefox browser Mozilla.com (2011), Mozilla Firefox is a Free and Open Source browser supported by the Mozilla Foundation. This browser has already taken significant market share from its primary competitor Internet Explorer. The official website announced that as of February 2011, Firefox is the second most widely used browser with approximately 30% of worldwide usage share of web browsers and that the Firefox's source code is tri-licensed under the GNU GPL, GNU LGPL, or Mozilla Public License.

Krishnamurthy (2005) argued that Firefox 1.0 was released on November 2004 and it had achieved 10 million downloads in one month. He added that Firefox runs on a variety of operating systems including Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, Mac OS X, and FreeBSD.

As for Internet Explorer Browser, we will focus on features of Mozilla Firefox versions.

Firefox 2.0: On October 24, 2006, Mozilla released Firefox 2. This version includes (Mozilla.com 2011):

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Updates to the tabbed browsing environment

The extensions manager

The GUI (Graphical User Interface)

The find, search and software update engines

A new session restore feature

Inline spell checking

An anti-phishing feature which was implemented by Google as an extension, and later merged into the program itself. 

According to Noll (2008), of fifteen new features in the Firefox 2 release, nine were determined to be asserted by developers, three were derived from user input, and two features had origins in "extensions" implemented by third parties using Firefox's extension mechanism. The release notes for Firefox 2 list fifteen new features, or enhancements to existing features, for this release:

Visual Refresh (enhancement).

Phishing protection (new).

Enhanced search capabilities (new).

Improved tabbed-browsing (enhancement).

Resumption of previous browsing session (new).

Web feed (RSS) preview and subscription (enhancement).

Spell checking (new).

Live Titles (new).

Improved Add-ons manager (enhancement).

Update to JavaScript version 1.7 (enhancement).

Search engine plugins in Sherlock or Open Search format (new).

Updated extension mechanism (enhancement).

Support for SVG text (bug fix).

New installer for Microsoft Windows c systems, based on the Null soft Scriptable Install System (enhancement).

Noll (2008) argued that some of these features (phishing protection, session resumption, spell checking, and live titles) represent new features that were not present in previous releases. For these, the first expression of the need for the new feature was used to establish the source of the feature. Other features, such as tabbed-browsing improvements and updated extension mechanism, are modifications to existing features. In these cases, the first expression of need for enhancement (or fix) was used to establish the source of the requirement.

Firefox 3.0: Mozilla Firefox 3 was released on June 17, 2008, by the Mozilla Corporation and the latest version under 3.0 is Firefox 3.0.19. Firefox 3 uses version 1.9 of the Mozilla Gecko layout engine for displaying web pages (Mozilla.com 2011):. This version:

Fixes many bugs

Improves standard compliance

Implements new web APIs. 

Other new features include

A redesigned download manager

A new "Places" system for storing bookmarks and history

Separate themes for different operating systems.

Pereira (2009) states that Firefox 3 uses a new system, based on various SQLite databases, to store Internet history, bookmarks, form field data and cookies.

Firefox 3.0.6 is developed and made available as part of the Mozilla Foundation's Mozilla open source software project (Shelly et al 2009). The Firefox open source browser has a reputation for a high level of security for conducting online banking or shopping transactions and for protection against hackers. Like Internet Explorer 8, the Firefox browser uses:

Tabbed browsing

A separate pane for viewing bookmarks or history

A customizable Search bar.

Additionally, the Firefox community of software developers has created a number of downloadable add-ons for Firefox, such as colorful Personas, or "skins" that change the browser's look.

Firefox 3.6: is the release codenamed Namoroka. Development for this version started on December 1, 2008, and it was released on January 21, 2010. This release uses the new Gecko 1.9.2 rendering engine (Mozilla.com 2011)

Pereira (2009) identifies new features for Firefox 3.6:

Built-in support for Personas (toolbar skins)

Notification of out-of-date plugins

Full screen playback of Theora video

Support for the WOFF open webfont format

A more secure plugin system

Many performance improvements.

The Google Chrome Browser

Google Chrome is a web browser developed by Google that uses the WebKit layout engine. It was first released as a beta version for Microsoft Windows on 2 September 2008, and the public stable release was on 11 December 2008. The name is derived from the graphical user interface frame, or "chrome", of web browsers. As of January 2011, Chrome was the third most widely used browser, and passed the 10% worldwide usage share of web browsers, according to Net Applications (Google.com, 2011).

In September 2008, Google released a large portion of Chrome's source code, including its V8 JavaScript engine, as an open source project entitled Chromium. This move enabled third-party developers to study the underlying source code and to help convert the browser to the Mac OS X and Linux operating systems. Google also expressed hope that other browsers would adopt V8 to improve web application performance. The Google-authored portion of Chromium is released under the permissive BSD license, which allows portions to be incorporated into both open source and closed source software programs. Other portions of the source code are subject to a variety of open source licenses. Chromium implements the same feature set as Chrome, but lacks built-in automatic updates and Google branding, and most noticeably has a blue-colored logo in place of the multicolored Google logo.

Google chrome significant changes

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Version 0.3 (2008-10-29): Improved plug-in performance and reliability, Spell checking for input fields, improved web proxy performance and reliability, and Tab and window management updates.

Version 0.4 (2009-05-24): 35 % faster JavaScript on the Sun Spider benchmark, mouse wheel support, Full-screen mode, Full-page zoom, Form auto fill, Sort bookmarks by title, Tab docking to browser and desktop edges, and Basic Greasemonkey support

Version 1.3 (2010-01-25): Extensions, bookmark synchronization, enhanced developer tools, improved HTML5 support, performance improvements, full ACID3 pass, HTTP byte range support, increased security, and experimental new anti-reflected-XSS feature called "XSS Auditor".

Shelly et al (2009) discuss that Google chrome v.2.0 presents:

A streamlined interface with page tabs on the title bar.

The Google Chrome Address bar is used to both enter URLs and to act as the search test box for the default Google search engine. For example, you can type a search query including Boolean operators in the Address bar, or you can drag test from a web page into the Address bar to create a search query.

When you create a new page tab, the new page shows thumbnails of the most visited web pages, a link to History, the Google search engine search box, and a list of recent bookmarks.

Similar to the internet explorer 8 InPrivate Browsing feature, the Google Chrome browser offers a stealth mode in which you can open an Incognito window and then browse the Web from the window without updating the browsing history. When the Incognito window closes, cookies added during the browsing session are automatically deleted.

Version 2.1 (2010-05-21): Improved JavaScript performance, browser preference synchronizing, increased HTML5 support (Geolocation APIs, App Cache, web sockets, and file drag-and-drop), revamped bookmark manager, and Adobe Flash Player integrated.

Version 2.2 (2010-09-02): Updated and more streamlined UI, with simplified Omnibox, new tab page and merged menu buttons, Form Autofill. Expanded synchronization support to include extensions and Auto fill data, Support for WebM videos, Improvements for performance and stability, and Built-in PDF support (disabled by default).

Version 2.3.11.22 (2010-10-21): primarily a stabilizing release with hundreds of bug fixes, Implemented HTML5 parsing algorithm, File API, directory upload via input tag, Mac OS X version gained AppleScript support for UI automation, Late binding enabled for SSL sockets: High priority SSL requests are now always sent to the server first, New options for managing cookies, and Updated New Tab Page to enable featuring of web applications.

Version 2.4.9.19(2010-12-02): Chrome Web Store, built-in PDF viewer that works inside Chrome's sandbox for increased security, expanded synchronization support to include web applications, and improved plug-in handling. This release added "about: flags" to showcase experimental features such as Chrome Instant, side tabs on Windows, Tabbed Settings, Click to Play, background web applications, Remoting, Disable outdated plug-ins, XSS Auditor, Cloud Print Proxy, GPU Accelerated Compositing, WebGL support for the Canvas element, and a "Tab Overview" mode (like Exposé) for Mac OS.

Version 2.5.9.6 (2011-02-03): WebGL enabled by default, Adobe Flash sandboxing on Windows and Chrome Instant (à la Google Instant) option. WebP support. New flags: Print Preview, GPU Accelerated Compositing, GPU Accelerated Canvas 2D, Google Native Client, CRX-less Web Apps, Web Page Prerendering, Experimental Extension APIs, and Disable hyperlink auditing.

The Opera Browser

Opera is a web browser and Internet suite developed by Opera Software (Opera.com, 2011). The browser handles common Internet-related tasks such as:

Displaying web sites,

Sending and receiving e-mail messages

Managing contacts

Chatting on IRC

Downloading files via BitTorrent

Reading web feeds.

Opera is offered free of charge for personal computers and mobile phones.It does not come packaged with any desktop operating system; however, it is the most popular mobile browser, and the most popular desktop browser in some countries, such as Ukraine.

Features include:

Tabbed browsing

Page zooming

Mouse gestures

An integrated download manager.

Its security features include

Built-inphishing and malware protection

Strong encryption when browsing secure websites

The ability to easily delete private data such as HTTP cookies.

Opera runs on a variety of personal computer operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and FreeBSD. Editions of Opera are available for devices using the Maemo, BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows Mobile, Android, and iOS operating systems, as well as Java ME-enabled devices. Approximately 120 million mobile phones have been shipped with Opera. Opera is the only commercial web browser available for the Nintendo DS and Wii gaming systems. Some television set-top boxes use Opera. Adobe Systems has licensed Opera technology for use in the Adobe Creative Suite. (Opera.com, 2011).

Shelly et al (2009) discuss that Opera v.9.64 is another highly secure browser with features to proteet against spyware and viruses that might infect your computer as you browse the Web. Opera was one of the first browsers to offer:

Tabbed browsing

Built-in RSS integration

Pop-up blocking

Multiple customizable toolbars, and an easy-to-use customizable search field with different serach tool options.

Opera supports voice commands, making it a great tool for users who have trouble using a keyboard and mouse. Opear also offers: a built-in e-mail client and newsreader, a chat client, and additional customizable features, such as different themes(skins) or color schemes.

The Safari Browser

Safari is a graphical web browser developed by Apple and included as part of the Mac OS X operating system. First released as a public beta on January 7, 2003 on the company's Mac OS X operating system, it became Apple's default browser beginning with Mac OS X v10.3"Panther". Safari is also the native browser for iOS. A version of Safari for the Microsoft Windows operating system, first released on June 11, 2007, supports Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. The latest stable release of the browser is 5.0.4, which is available as a free download for both Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. As of 2011, Safari is the fourth most widely used browser in the US, following Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome, respectively (Apple.com, 2011).

Shelly et al (2009) argued that Safari v.4.0 (for windows) is developed by Apple Inc. for the Windows operating system environment. Known for fast page download times and adherence to programming standards, the Safari browser devotes more screen space to Web page by placing its page tabs at the top of the screen in the title bar area and by keeping toolbars, buttons, and so forth to a minimum. The dynamic Top Sites feature, which "learns" a user's browsing habits, presents clickable thumbnail images of a user's most visited pages on a new page tab. The Safari browser also uses Apple's Covers Flow file navigation technology to present history and bookmarked pages visually as thumbnail page images.

The Netscape Navigator Browser

The Netscape Navigator web browser was a proprietary web browser that was popular in the 1990s. It was the flagship product of the Netscape Communications Corporation and the dominant web browser in terms of usage share, although by 2002 its usage had almost disappeared. This was primarily due to the increased usage of Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser software, and partly because the Netscape Corporation (later purchased by AOL) did not sustain Netscape Navigator's technical innovation after the late 1990s.

The business demise of Netscape was a central premise of Microsoft's antitrust trial, wherein the Court ruled that Microsoft Corporation's bundling of Internet Explorer with the Windows operating system was a monopolistic and illegal business practice. The decision came too late for Netscape however, as Internet Explorer had by then become the de-facto web browser in Windows (Netscape.com, 2011).

The Netscape Navigator web browser was succeeded by Netscape Communicator. Netscape Communicator's 4.x source code was the base for the Netscape-developed Mozilla Application Suite, which was later renamed SeaMonkey. Netscape's Mozilla Suite also served as the base for a browser-only spinoff called Mozilla Firefox and Netscape versions 6 through 9.

The Aol Explorer Browser

AOL Explorer, previously known as AOL Browser, is a graphical web browser based on the Microsoft Trident layout engine and was released byAOL. In July 2005, AOL launched AOL Explorer as a free download and as an optional download with AIM version 5.9. AOL Explorer supportstabbed browsing (AOL.com 2011).

In November 2005, the next version, 1.1, was released. Version 1.2 was very similar to version 1.1, but included two new features:

Tab Explorer

RSS Widgets from Favorites.

When the Tab Explorer button is pressed, a thumbnail preview of each tab is displayed in a full-screen window. The user can click on one of the previews to instantly access the page. Microsoft has implemented a similar feature in their Internet Explorer 7 browser, called "Quick Tabs".

Version 1.5 was launched in May 2006, and included many new features such as:

Desktop Widgets

Visual Themes

A Feeds Screensaver

Various performance improvements.

In 2003, AOL signed a seven-year contract with Microsoft to use Internet Explorer layout engine in their products and as such AOL Explorer uses this engine. Because of this, users can use AOL Explorer to download and install updates from Microsoft Update. However, unlike Internet Explorer, AOL does not use Bing as the default search engine. The future of further AOL-branded browsers once the contract expires is uncertain.

AOL is the owner of Netscape Communications Corporation which had previously published the now defunct Netscape series of browsers.

Comparison of the browsers selected

While Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Google Chrome share features with internet Explorer and with each other, the features might be named differently in each browser Shelly et al (2009). For example, saved URLs are called "favorites" in the Internet Explorer browser, but are called "bookmarks" in the safari, Google Chrome, Firefox, and Opera browsers. The bar that contains the text box in which URLs are entered is called the address bar in the Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Opera browsers; it is called the Location bar in Firefox browser. Additionally, window elements similar to the internet explorer 8 window elements with which you are familiar might be located in a different place in other browser windows. For example, the Safari and Google Chrome browsers position pages tabs at the top of the screen on the title bar area. You can use keyboard shortcuts in all the browsers, and some standards Windows keyboard shortcuts, such as CTRL+P to print or F1 to get help, are available across the browsers.

Conclusion

We have introduced every web browser in the set: Internet explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, Netscape and AOL. We must now identify the most important intrinsic and extrinsic factors of our sample. This will be studied in the next chapter.