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Firefox Microsoft Mozilla Technology

The Seven Hidden Browsers In the Windows Ballot 246

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the hanging-chads-need-not-apply dept.
Barence writes "Two weeks ago Microsoft started rolling out a Windows update within the European Union, giving every Internet Explorer user the option to switch browsers. As well as the five big names, anyone who scrolls the ballot window to the right will find seven further browsers, none of which is exactly a household name. There's no quality control being offered, either — they're simply the '12 most widely-used web browsers that run on Windows 7,' based on usage share in the European Economic Area. But what are these unknown browsers actually like? To find out, seven PC Pro staff installed a browser each, used it exclusively for a day, and ran a variety of tests. The browser-by-browser verdict on the hidden seven: two are worth a look for specific reasons, the other five are only likely to give an internet novice a horribly outdated idea of what web browsing is like."
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The Seven Hidden Browsers In the Windows Ballot

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  • Lynx? (Score:5, Funny)

    by sunderland56 (621843) on Monday March 15, 2010 @09:16AM (#31481540)
    Hey! Where's Lynx? [wikipedia.org]
  • by Yuioup (452151) on Monday March 15, 2010 @09:21AM (#31481604)

    Avant browser is nothing more than a front-end for IE.
    It's basically a window surrounding an embedded Internet Explorer object.
    I personally think its ridiculous that MS offers it as an 'alternative browser'

    Y

    • by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash@p10l i n k . n et> on Monday March 15, 2010 @09:34AM (#31481794) Homepage

      I don't think it's up to MS. They just include the browsers the EU tells them to. The EU supposedly base the lists on "market share" though I haven't seen any reference as to exactly what they mean by that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Here's the usage share in Europe from one year ago (Q1 2009). I'm trying to find more recent data:

        IE 67.7%
        FF 25.3%
        Safari 2.6%
        Opera 1.4%
        Chrome 1.0%

      • by westlake (615356)

        The EU supposedly base the lists on "market share" though I haven't seen any reference as to exactly what they mean by that.

        It runs on Win 7. It shows a pulse. However faint.

        In the long run, I suspect most users will go with what looks like the best fit for their Microsoft Windows OS, which will be iE8 and its successors.

    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Monday March 15, 2010 @10:27AM (#31482436)

      Maxthon, GreenBrowser and SlimBrowser are IE Front ends also. It means that 4 of the 7 (with Avant) are just IE Shells. One that is an IE/Gecko shell (Sleipnir). One that is essentially a FireFox offshoot (Flock) and K-Meleon.

      Not that I have anything against Maxthon. Back when I was an IE user, it was my stepping stone to FireFox (though I didn't realize it at the time). I used it instead of IE6, the most current version of IE at the time, and was impressed by the tabbed browsing, pop-up/ad blocking and other "cool new" features while not having to completely abandon my IE-comfort-zone. Of course, I grew accustomed to having these features so going on a plain-IE PC turned into a chore. Then, one day, I decided to give FireFox a chance. It was a bit of an adjustment, but not as bad as I thought it would be. So while I wouldn't install Maxthon now, I do appreciate how it helped me transition from IE6 to FireFox.

    • by Rary (566291)

      It's a perfectly valid option. I used Avant for years because at the time IE did the best job of rendering the most websites, but I wanted advanced features that IE didn't provide (tabbed browsing, saved sessions, etc).

      Today I use Firefox, but if someone prefers Avant, why not use it? So what if it's just a wrapper for IE. It's still a valid option, and if you're going to provide a comprehensive list of browser options, it should be included.

    • by dn15 (735502) on Monday March 15, 2010 @12:03PM (#31483808)

      To be the devil's advocate, there are lots of browsers that share rendering engines, but that doesn't mean they don't count. Also on that list are Safari and Chrome (both using WebKit) as well as Firefox, K-meleon and Flock (all using Gecko.)

    • by tixxit (1107127) on Monday March 15, 2010 @01:43PM (#31485392)
      I personally think its ridiculous that MS has to offer alternative browsers at all. An operating system is not just the kernel, but all the software bundled on top. IE8 is just a value add on top of windows; one you can easily replace. That some users are so incompetent (I say this with love) they could not install another browser is a testament to the reason why MS even bundled IE8 to start with. Windows is usually bundled with lots of software that have alternatives; from games, to notepad, to web servers. Why not give users a choice of Apache, Lighttpd, IIS, etc. when installing Windows? I say this as a guy who has been using primarily using Linux, both at home and work, for the past 8 or 9 years. I think I'd be very annoyed if Ubuntu required me to choose amongst alternatives for each large piece of software it installs by default.
  • by TorKlingberg (599697) on Monday March 15, 2010 @09:23AM (#31481634)

    Many of these are the IE rendering engine wrapped in a new user interface. They appeared in the days when IE development was dead and provided useful things like tabs and popup blocking, while staying compatible with the IE6-only websites that used to be everywhere.

    Maxthon for one is very popular in China because it supports ActiveX which many Chinese banking websites rely on (bleh), and it is much nicer to use than IE6. I am not sure how it compares to IE8 though.

    • I also read this as well, and agree with your sentiments. How exactly any of these is an alternative browser to IE is beyond me when they are using the trident rendering engine.

      Actually the summary is awful - of the 7 lesser known browsers - Avant, Maxthon, Slepnir are using trident (MSHTML). Appreciate that they may well be individual legitimate projects and not meaning to cast any aspersions on them, but having an additional 3 options which are how MS renders the web and whatever fobiles that entails
      • by bberens (965711)
        I think that's a bit of a gray area. It's unfair to not classify Konqueror and Safari as different browsers just because they use the same rendering engine. I would probably consider a wrapper for the IE6 Active-X control which created tabbed browsing to be a *different* browser. I'm not sure exactly where to draw the line though.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by AndrewNeo (979708)

          You're wrong, though. (for two reasons, one being less important the other) The main thing is that while yes, Safari and Chrome both use WebKit, their implementations can actually be different. Any changes should head upstream, but Chrome can use a newer release of WebKit than the latest version of Safari, for example. (Same with Gecko implementations.) And of course, don't forget things like extensions and whatnot. But, anything implementing Trident can only use Trident and change the window chrome because

        • They don't really use the same rendering engine, though. WebKit has had dozens of changes not yet included in KHTML, though at some point Konqueror will move to using Qt's built-in WebKit widget soon enough.

        • I think that's a bit of a gray area. It's unfair to not classify Konqueror and Safari as different browsers just because they use the same rendering engine. I would probably consider a wrapper for the IE6 Active-X control which created tabbed browsing to be a *different* browser. I'm not sure exactly where to draw the line though.

          What makes you think they were counted as the same browser?

          Last time I checked, Konquerer was not exactly a widely used browser (and here comes the important part) that runs on Win

      • Appreciate that they may well be individual legitimate projects and not meaning to cast any aspersions on them, but having an additional 3 options which are how MS renders the web and whatever fobiles that entails, just seems wrong.

        Then blame the EU. They are only included due to their list of the top 12 browsers.

      • by Eskarel (565631) on Monday March 15, 2010 @10:28AM (#31482450)

        To be honest, there are currently only 4 rendering engines worth talking about, I believe their used to be five(I think that Konqueror used to have it's own rendering engine though I was never a KDE man, so I may be wrong) so looking at a list of 12 you're going to see a fair amount of overlap. Add in the fact that to the best of my knowledge only Opera uses Presto and the overlap becomes even more extreme.

        IE has caused me huge amounts of dramas and still continues to do so, it is probably the one thing I will never forgive Microsoft for, but what else would you have put in the other 7 slots(8 if you want to make sure that a rendering engine is only represented once). Once you've put in the big 5 and a few of the moderately tolerable gecko ports what have you got left. Especially since they have to run on Windows. I suppose one of those slots could have gone to seamonkey, but as a browser it's identical to firefox so there's not much point. I don't know who decided that the number had to be 12, but with that large a number you're really bound to have some pretty awful stuff in there. Rendering engines are complex beasts, which is why there are really only 4 of them. Javascript engines are even more complex which is why there are only 4 of them(I know that Safari and Chrome have different Javascript engines even though they have the same rendering engine and I'm counting those, but IE's is so godawful it doesn't count). It takes a large team of programmers years to come up with something halfway decent, and that requires serious amounts of money or trying to snag open source developers when most of the people with the right skill set are already likely to be working on Gecko or Webkit.

        • by cheesewire (876598) on Monday March 15, 2010 @12:25PM (#31484134)

          I believe their used to be five(I think that Konqueror used to have it's own rendering engine though I was never a KDE man, so I may be wrong)

          That would be KHTML [wikipedia.org]...which is what Apple forked to create WebKit

        • by Randle_Revar (229304) <kelly.clowers@gmail.com> on Monday March 15, 2010 @01:00PM (#31484724) Homepage Journal

          Konqueror still uses KHTML by default, and it is still in active development (and it has pulled some stuff back in from Webkit), although there is increasing momentum for switching the default to the Webkit Kpart (built on the Webkit that is now part of QT).

          >I suppose one of those slots could have gone to seamonkey, but as a browser it's identical to firefox so there's not much point.

          No, the SeaMonkey browser is not "identical to Firefox". SeaMonkey has a sidebar and a <link> bar built-in, the URL bar and search bar are one and the same, they haven't combined the reload and stop buttons, and there are more options without going to about:config (and the options are better laid out). Until about FF3, it was more stable too, but FF finally caught up.

    • by barzok (26681)

      Many of these are the IE rendering engine wrapped in a new user interface. They appeared in the days when IE development was dead and provided useful things like tabs and popup blocking, while staying compatible with the IE6-only websites that used to be everywhere.

      That shell game (pun intended) started back in the IE3 or IE4 days.

  • by Advocadus Diaboli (323784) on Monday March 15, 2010 @09:24AM (#31481650)
    See Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice [ted.com]. Got to help someone with his Windows-PC lately and got seriously confused by this invasive dialog. :-)
    • by quantumplacet (1195335) on Monday March 15, 2010 @09:32AM (#31481762)

      if you actually got confused by this 'invasive dialogue' then you have no business helping anyone with any computer, and might want to think about wearing a helmet on a regular basis.

      • by lawpoop (604919)

        ...might want to think about wearing a helmet on a regular basis.

        What kind of conclusion do you think they would come to?

      • by wjousts (1529427)
        I'm not sure that Advocadus meant to imply that he was the one who was confused, but the person he was helping was confused (and hence needed help). Or possibly not. But that's how I read it at first.
    • by ianare (1132971)

      Which is why they're having the 5 most popular browsers initially visible, and the other 7 so that you have to scroll over to see them.

  • QC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bunkymag (1567407) on Monday March 15, 2010 @09:24AM (#31481656)
    "There's no quality control being offered, either — they're simply the '12 most widely-used web browsers that run on Windows 7,' based on usage share in the European Economic Area." .. just like there's no quality control for presidents and prime ministers I suppose, except the fact that they are the most widely-voted politicians in a given area .. draw your own conclusions as to whether it works, or more importantly if there is a better option.
    • by bberens (965711)
      It's a lose/lose for Microsoft. If they were to filter out choices then "Microsoft is picking the winners and the losers." Seriously, companies sue Google because they aren't high enough in the page rank. What Microsoft did, while annoying, was probably the best option.
  • SeaMonkey? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by KritonK (949258)
    I'm surprised that the twelve most commonly used browsers include several that I hadn't heard about (most of which are not that good, if one is to believe TFA) but do not include SeaMonkey [seamonkey-project.org]. Perhaps it is too much like Firefox+Thunderbird for people to actually want to use it.
    • by Pojut (1027544) on Monday March 15, 2010 @09:29AM (#31481710) Homepage

      "Hey Sea Monkeys! It's time for the 'I Hate Marco' Show!" ::high-pitched female choir:: "IIIII Hate Marco! Hate Marco! Hate Marco and his mailbox head!"

    • Re:SeaMonkey? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SlappyBastard (961143) on Monday March 15, 2010 @09:30AM (#31481744) Homepage
      Or the EU felt that Seamonkey was too close a derivation of Mozilla to count it a separate browser.
      • by ianare (1132971)

        Except a few of the browser in the '7 list' use IE's rendering engine.

    • by Spad (470073)

      I couldn't live without Seamonkey, but for the group of users who will be using the browser ballot, Firefox is probably a better fit for them; including Seamonkey would just be needless duplication.

      • >>>Seamonkey would just be needless duplication

        That was my initial thought, but then I realized that most of the bottom 7 browsers are actually Internet Explorer clones, so that too is needless duplication. If there will be duplication of the IE suite, why not have duplication of the Mozilla suite too?

        Besides seaMonkey is a nice small footprint service - smaller than Firefox and provides additional services like Email, Chat, and Usenet newsgroups. I think it's worth listing.

    • I use SeaMonkey on my Puppy Linux install. Why? Because it has a smaller memory footprint that allows it to fit inside RAM without needing virtual mem thrashing (HDD). So YES some people would rather use SeaMonkey than Firefox, and it really should be listed as an option rather than left off. I'm surprised no one from that team complained.

      At least they included Opera. It's a good browser - the only flaw is the constant need to "mask as firefox" or "mask as explorer" since many websites refuse to talk t

    • Re:SeaMonkey? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jer (18391) on Monday March 15, 2010 @11:08AM (#31482986) Homepage

      Here's a link to the answer [google.com] given by Robert Kaiser - who I believe is probably the same Robert Kaiser that is the Seamonkey project coordinator.

      Quoted in full:

      "I repeatedly get questions why SeaMonkey is not on the browser ballot, and of course I keep telling those people that only one browser per vendor is allowed and Firefox and SeaMonkey are regarded to be from the same vendor, Mozilla."

      There you go.

  • Missed the point (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 15, 2010 @09:28AM (#31481698)

    So what? This is about remedying anti-competitive practices. "Our product is better than theirs so they should be locked out of the market" is not a valid defense to an anti-trust lawsuit.

  • Testing? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by natehoy (1608657) on Monday March 15, 2010 @09:33AM (#31481784) Journal

    From TFA:

    we installed each browser on the same Windows 7 computer and tested their speed in the SunSpider benchmark, their memory usage with the Google home page open in a single tab, and their startup times – measured from the moment we clicked the icon to the browser window appearing.

    Expectation for any sort of consistency in the testing parameters has been set to zero. But, at least we get to see which browsers are most-liked and offer a nice user experience, right?

    Then we asked seven members of the PC Pro team to abandon their favoured browser and switch to one of these alternatives. To say they were delighted to do so would be a lie: there was gnashing of teeth, wailing and screaming pleas for mercy. All these fell on deaf ears. We provide full reviews of each browser in the Reviews section, but for a helpful summary click through to the next page.

    OK, expectation of any sort of positive review of any browser has been set to zero.

    The only consolation is that the popularity of the top 12 browsers is re-examined every six months.

    Which means PCPro will have a steady ad revenue from writing meaningless reviews cobbled from the barest minimum of testing where the browser used by the least whiny of the random-picked team gets top marks just because that person hates change the least.

    In fact, maybe a PC Pro browser is exactly what the EU needs

    If it's written with the same attention and care to detail as the articles, the first installed instance of it will crash the Internet and bring civilization to a smoking ruin.

  • by clone53421 (1310749) on Monday March 15, 2010 @10:00AM (#31482116) Journal

    They ran it through one Javascript test (SunSpider), so that’s at least something, I suppose.

    Their other “benchmarks” are woefully lacking in the usefulness department. They gave the startup time (in seconds)... I’m much more interested in how quickly pages load. They gave the memory requirement at startup (with Google loaded as the homepage)... I’m much more interested in how much memory it’s consumed after a few hours of browsing.

    Not to mention that certain browsers (*cough* IE) take way longer to give you a usable browser than they do to just display the window. That’s just the same trick of showing your desktop while Windows finishes loading; it looks like it accomplished something, but you still can’t click anything yet.

  • What it is actually (Score:3, Informative)

    by m0i (192134) on Monday March 15, 2010 @10:14AM (#31482280) Homepage

    a desktop link to http://www.browserchoice.eu/ [browserchoice.eu]

    • by m0i (192134)

      Actually it is C:\WINDOWS\system32\browserchoice.exe /launch which redirects to the above.

  • "the other five are only likely to give an internet novice a horribly outdated idea of what web browsing is like."

    One of them must be Internet Explorer. :)

    Probably version 6. I know it's "dead" but like a JRPG boss, it will keep coming back until we kill the evil mastermind behind it.

  • MS is simply doing as told and it appears to be bending over backwards to comply with what the EU thinks everyone wants. How is it MS's job to help you choose another browser...they offer the option to pick a different one after that your own your own.

  • Is why they are going after Microsoft exclusively and why only browsers.

    Every OS on the planet has a list of software they have bundled with them.
    Their is nothing wrong with this, sure I do not like using pretty much everything MS bundles with windows, but I would not want to spend huge amounts of time configuring it during installation and still only be offered the top X of the market share.

  • ... the other five are only likely to give an internet novice a horribly outdated idea of what web browsing is like.

    The "other five" are there to make IE8 look good by comparison as well as infer that all alternative browsers are inferior while making Microsoft look magnanimous and unafraid of competition.

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