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 abbreviatedÂ 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
Internet Explorer 10
Internet Explorer 9
Internet Explorer 8
Internet Explorer 7
Internet Explorer 6
Internet Explorer 5.5
Internet Explorer 5
Internet Explorer 4.5
Internet Explorer 4
Internet Explorer 3
Internet Explorer 2
Internet Explorer 1.5
Internet Explorer 1
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 browserÂ 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 isÂ characterizedÂ by the following features:
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 NameÂ support (IDN)
Â Extended Validation CertificateÂ support
Internet Explorer 8: Also, In accordance with Microsoft.com (2011), this browserÂ was released on March 2009. Many operating systems support IE8: Windows XP SP2 and SP3,Â Windows Server 2003 SP2,Â Windows Vista,Â Windows 7, andÂ Windows Server 2008. This version is the last of Internet Explorer that Windows XP support. The Microsoft's first concerns for IE8 are:
Ease of use
Improvements inÂ RSS
Support forÂ Accelerators which allow supportedÂ web applicationsÂ to be invoked without explicitly navigating to them
Web Slices which allows portions of page to be subscribed to and monitored from a redesignedÂ Favorites Bar
In PrivateÂ privacy features
Smart Screen phishing filter
Internet Explorer 9: This browserÂ was released on March 4 2011. Microsoft began its development after achieving IE8 and with captivating feedback and suggestions through Microsoft connect.Â Internet Explorer 9 only supported by Windows Vista SP2 and Windows 7.Â The IE9's properties are (Microsoft.com, 2011):
The support of several CSS3Â properties
Hardware acceleratedÂ graphics rendering using Direct2D
Hardware accelerated text rendering usingÂ DirectWite
Hardware accelerated video rendering usingÂ Medai Foundation
Imaging support provided byÂ Windows Imaging Component
A High fidelity printing powered by theÂ XPSÂ print pipeline.
It supports the HTML5 videoÂ 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 worldwideÂ usage share of web browsers and that the Firefox'sÂ source codeÂ isÂ tri-licensedÂ under theÂ GNU GPL,Â 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 ofÂ operating systemsÂ includingÂ Microsoft Windows,Â GNU/Linux,Â Mac OS X,Â and FreeBSD.
As for Internet Explorer Browser, we will focus on features of Mozilla Firefox versions.
Firefox 2.0: On October 24, 2006, Mozilla releasedÂ Firefox 2. This version includes (Mozilla.com 2011):
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
Updates to theÂ tabbed browsingÂ environment
The extensions manager
TheÂ GUI (Graphical User Interface)
The find, search and software update engines
A new session restore feature
Inline spell checking
An anti-phishingÂ feature which was implemented by GoogleÂ as an extension,Â and later merged into the program itself.Â
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).
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,Â by theÂ Mozilla Corporation and the latest version under 3.0 is Firefox 3.0.19. Firefox 3 uses version 1.9 of the MozillaÂ GeckoÂ layout engine for displaying web pages (Mozilla.com 2011):. This version:
Fixes many bugs
Improves standard compliance
Implements new webÂ APIs.Â
Other new features include
A redesigned download manager
A new "Places" system for storing bookmarks and history
Separate themesÂ 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:
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 codenamedÂ Namoroka.Â Development for this version started on December 1, 2008,Â and it was released on January 21, 2010.Â This release uses the new Gecko 1.9.2Â 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 ofÂ TheoraÂ video
Support for theÂ WOFFÂ open webfont format
A more secure plugin system
Many performance improvements.
The Google Chrome Browser
Google ChromeÂ is aÂ web browserÂ developed byÂ GoogleÂ that uses theÂ WebKitÂ layout engine. It was first released as aÂ beta versionÂ for Microsoft WindowsÂ on 2 September 2008, and the public stable release was on 11 December 2008. The name is derived from theÂ graphical user interfaceÂ frame, or "chrome", of web browsers. As of January 2011, Chrome was the third most widely used browser, and passed the 10% worldwideÂ usage share of web browsers, according to Net Applications (Google.com, 2011).
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 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 2.2 (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 forÂ WebMÂ videos, Improvements for performance and stability, and Built-in PDF support (disabled by default).
Version 184.108.40.206 (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 gainedÂ AppleScriptÂ support for UI automation,Â Late binding enabled forÂ 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 220.127.116.11(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.Â 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 (likeÂ Exposé) forÂ Mac OS.
Version 18.104.22.168 (2011-02-03): WebGL enabled by default,Â Adobe FlashÂ sandboxing on Windows and Chrome Instant (à la Google Instant) option.Â WebPÂ support. New flags: Print Preview, GPU Accelerated Compositing, GPU Accelerated Canvas 2D,Â Google Native Client, CRX-less Web Apps, Web Page Prerendering, Experimental Extension APIs, and Disable hyperlink auditing.
The Opera Browser
OperaÂ is aÂ web browserÂ andÂ Internet suiteÂ developed byÂ Opera Software (Opera.com, 2011). The browser handles commonÂ Internet-related tasks such as:
DisplayingÂ web sites,
Sending and receivingÂ e-mailÂ messages
ChattingÂ onÂ IRC
Downloading files viaÂ BitTorrent
Reading web feeds.
Opera is offered free of charge forÂ personal computersÂ andÂ mobile phones.It does not come packaged with anyÂ desktopÂ operating system; however, it is the most popularÂ mobile browser,Â and the most popular desktop browser in some countries, such asÂ Ukraine.
An integratedÂ download manager.
Its security features include
Built-inphishingÂ andÂ malwareÂ protection
StrongÂ encryptionÂ when browsing secure websites
The ability to easily delete private data such asÂ HTTP cookies.
Opera runs on a variety of personal computerÂ operating systems, includingÂ Microsoft Windows,Â Mac OSÂ X,Â Linux, andÂ FreeBSD. Editions of Opera are available for devices using theÂ Maemo,Â BlackBerry,Â Symbian,Â Windows Mobile,Â Android, andÂ iOSÂ operating systems, as well asÂ Java ME-enabled devices.Â Approximately 120Â million mobile phones have been shipped with Opera.Â Opera is the only commercial web browser available for theÂ Nintendo DSÂ andÂ WiiÂ gaming systems. Some televisionÂ set-top boxesÂ use Opera.Â Adobe SystemsÂ has licensed Opera technology for use in theÂ 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:
Built-in RSS integration
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
SafariÂ is aÂ graphicalÂ web browserÂ developed byÂ AppleÂ and included as part of theÂ Mac OS XÂ operating system. First released as aÂ public beta on January 7, 2003Â on the company'sÂ Mac OS XÂ operating system, it became Apple's default browser beginning withÂ Mac OS X v10.3"Panther". Safari is also the native browser forÂ iOS. A version of Safari for theÂ Microsoft WindowsÂ operating system, first released on June 11, 2007, supportsÂ Windows XP,Â Windows Vista, andÂ Windows 7.Â The latest stable release of the browser is 5.0.4, which is available as a free download for bothÂ Mac OS XÂ andÂ Microsoft Windows. As of 2011, Safari is the fourthÂ most widely used browserÂ in theÂ US, followingÂ Internet Explorer,Â Mozilla Firefox, andÂ 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 browserÂ was aÂ proprietaryÂ web browserÂ that was popular in the 1990s. It was theÂ flagshipÂ product of theÂ Netscape Communications CorporationÂ and the dominant web browser in terms ofÂ usage share, although by 2002 its usage had almost disappeared. This was primarily due to the increased usage of Microsoft'sÂ Internet ExplorerÂ web browser software, and partly because the Netscape Corporation (later purchased byÂ AOL) did not sustain Netscape Navigator's technical innovation after the late 1990s.
The business demise of Netscape was a central premise ofÂ Microsoft's antitrust trial, wherein the Court ruled thatÂ Microsoft Corporation's bundling of Internet Explorer with theÂ Windows operating systemÂ was aÂ monopolisticÂ 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 byÂ Netscape Communicator. Netscape Communicator's 4.x source code was the base for the Netscape-developedÂ Mozilla Application Suite, which was later renamedÂ SeaMonkey.Â Netscape's Mozilla Suite also served as the base for a browser-only spinoff calledÂ Mozilla FirefoxÂ andÂ NetscapeÂ versions 6 through 9.
The Aol Explorer Browser
AOL Explorer, previously known asÂ AOL Browser, is a graphicalÂ web browserÂ based on theÂ MicrosoftÂ TridentÂ layout engineÂ and was released byAOL. In July 2005, AOL launched AOL Explorer as a free download and as an optional download withÂ AIMÂ 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:
RSSÂ 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 theirÂ Internet Explorer 7Â browser, called "Quick Tabs".
Version 1.5 was launched in May 2006, and included many new features such as:
A Feeds Screensaver
Various performance improvements.
In 2003, AOL signed a seven-year contract with Microsoft to useÂ Internet ExplorerÂ 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 fromÂ Microsoft Update. However, unlike Internet Explorer, AOL does not useÂ BingÂ as the default search engine. The future of further AOL-branded browsers once the contract expires is uncertain.
AOL is the owner ofÂ Netscape Communications CorporationÂ which had previously published the now defunctÂ NetscapeÂ 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.
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.