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Anyone who may have thought the death of Netscape would signal the end of the browser wars, boy were they mistaken. In fact, it could be argued that it was at that point it all began. It didn't take long for Mozilla's Firefox to emerge from Netscape Navigator's ashes, and over time, Firefox would win over enthusiasts with a potent combination of speed, security, and an unprecedented level of customization.
But what started as a two-man battle is quickly growing into all-out warfare. Prepare to be overwhelmed by an onslaught of new browser releases in the coming months as Microsoft, Mozilla, Apple, Opera Software, and Google all vie to provide your vehicle for navigating the web. Each one brings something new to the table, whether it be blazing fast performance or a unique feature-set. Don't worry if you haven't been paying attention - we jump in the trenches with whole lot of them and get to know each one on a personal basis.
(story edit: moved Chrome to non-beta section, and corrected relationship of Apple to webkit)
Internet Explorer 7
Feeling the pressure from Mozilla's popular Firefox browser, Microsoft ended a five year hiatus after burying Netscape in the ground and finally jumped back into the browser game with a long overdue update. The IE team went back to the drawing board and totally reworked the browser's rendering engine, also adding tabbed browsing and add-ons to the mix, and then finished it off with a facelift.
Just how popular has Firefox become? Enough so that when Mozilla announced it would be releasing Firefox 3, power users lined up to download the new version, promptly setting a Guinness World Record for most number of software downloads in 24 hours. And rightly so. Better memory management, improved security, an aptly named AwesomeBar, and several other improvements made the best browser on the market even better.
Diehard Opera fans might take exception to referring to Opera as an alternative browser, and with the release of 9.6, they have a point. Several speed enhancements made the already fast browser even snappier, but our favorite feature is the new magazine-style RSS feeds.
Apple's DNA is evident in its Safari browser right from the get-go. Hardly surprising given that it began life on the Mac OS X operating system in early 2003. In the summer of 2007, Safari shed its Mac-only shackles and surfed over to Windows with claims of performing up to twice as fast as the competition. Soon to be old news, Apple is gearing up to replace Safari 3 with a significantly faster fourth version.
Google surprised everyone when its Chrome browser showed up on the web unannounced, and while there's clearly much work to be done, it's hard not to get excited over better tab management. Chrome treats each tab as its own process, so if there's a bug in a website's code that causes a crash, you only lose a single tab and not the entire browser. Bodacious!
Firefox 3.1 Beta 2
Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2
There's a good chance Microsoft will release IE8 later this month and some wonder whether or not the web will promptly be broken. That's because Microsoft is putting a much greater focus on becoming web standards-compliant. The downside? All those sites specifically coded for IE, including Microsoft.com, fall under IE's incompatibility list. D'oh!
Opera 10 Alpha
The only browser of the bunch to be in a pre-beta state, we include it here because it's one of the first browsers to fully comply with the Acid3 test with a 100 percent pass rate (Safari 4 being the other). If the new build can live up to its promise of a 30 percent performance boost, Opera may finally find its way onto more mainstream machines.
Safari 4 Beta