Updated Web Browsers: Which One Works Best?

On the security front, the phishing site filter from Firefox 2, which uses a blacklist to block known phishing pages, now has the ability to block known malware-pushing sites as well. And faulty-fingered surfers everywhere will appreciate the revised password saver. Instead of having to decide between saving and canceling a password before you know whether it's the right one, you can now decide after logging in.

Version 3 adds support for EV certificates, too, and it displays a green button bearing the company's name on sites (such as Paypal) that use these certificates. For more info on the certificate holder, you can simply click the button.

These and other changes make for a better basic app, but it's the add-ons that make the browser. Firefox 3 helps you find new extensions more easily by including in the add-ons window a 'Get Add-ons' button that can display and install searched-for and recommended add-ons.

As of the beta 5 release, Mozilla says that about half of all extensions work with Firefox 3, but not yet included in the ranks of the compatible are such must-haves as the Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer and PwdHash. The new browser looks good, but I want to see those extensions in working order before I make the switch.

Internet Explorer 8: A Work in Progress

Safari 3.1 is a finished product and Firefox 3 is nearly so, but IE 8 remains under development. Beta 1 has a number of bugs (as any early version of a complicated program would), and its test performance is very likely to change. The first beta release isn't suitable for day-to-day use; and as for the next iteration, Microsoft will say only that Beta 2 will emerge sometime this year.

Still, Beta 1 provides a glimpse of what's to come, especially with respect to certain brand-new features such as Activities and WebSlices.

The Activities feature works on any Web page: When you select text, a small green arrow appears. Clicking it opens a drop-down menu with options for translating the text, looking it up on a map (if it's an address), or finding a definition. You can choose which Web services to use for each activity when you install IE 8, in much the same way as you're prompted to choose a default search provider for IE 7. Right-clicking selected text or a page will link you to activities as well.

WebSlices are somewhat like specialized mini-RSS feeds. You can add one to your Favorites bar to link to a particular eBay auction or to a friend's Facebook profile, and the WebSlice will update with the latest available information, just as an RSS feed would.

Unlike Activities, the WebSlices feature requires site designers to add specific code defining what information will display in a WebSlice. As yet, the WebSlices feature is IE-only, but Microsoft says that it has released the programming code for both Activities and WebSlices for use in other browsers.

IE 7 doesn't pass the Acid2 test, but Beta 1 of IE 8 does. Though Microsoft says that it's working to make the browser more standards-compliant, it still has some work to do before final release: Beta 1 scores only 18 out of 100 on the Acid3 test.

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