Every day I sit at my computer and open two browsers: Firefox 3.5 and Internet Explorer (IE6, then IE7, and recently IE8). I maintain two separate browser lives, in a sense. But which is the better web browser?
Firefox 3.5 opens my Yahoo and Gmail mail accounts. Internet Explorer 8 is aimed at my banking and stock trading accounts. I have news sites as part of the home pages for both web browsers. One is CNN (for my serious news) and the other is MSN (for entertainment).
Yesterday, however, I made up my mind to drop Firefox altogether. I wrote a chapter for my upcoming Windows 7 Spotlight book on Internet Explorer 8, and I was so impressed by the features that I decided Firefox was history. Yesterday morning, I found out that Firefox released the 3.5 beta (4), and many features are the same as in IE8. And so the personal war rages on.
Where IE8 and Firefox 3.5 are similar
Let's take a look at some of the features that both have.
Obviously they both possess a multiple-tab capability. Personally, I like that IE has a tab waiting for you to click to open. Google Chrome has that as well. Firefox now has a little plus sign to allow the same functionality - a small but important improvement I've been waiting for.
IE8 has a feature called InPrivate Browsing, which prevents IE from storing data about your browsing sessions, including cookies, temporary Internet files, history, and other data. I've used this mode at conferences while on kiosk machines, and it adds to my comfort level, even though I still cannot help but delete browsing history whenever I access a public machine. Likewise, Firefox 3 has Private Browsing, which provides the same functionality and does not retain visited pages, form and search bar entries, passwords, cookies, temporary or cached Internet files, and so forth.
They both offer at least one superscary privacy-invasion tool. In the case of IE8, it is called Suggested Sites, where your browsing history is sent to Microsoft to compare to related websites; then a link in your Favorites Bar offers "suggestions" to help you find new items. This feature is something that many (most) people are not pleased about.
Microsoft said it will not store this information, but at the same time, Windows Help and Support information says that even items deleted from your browsing History "will be retained by Microsoft for a period of time to help improve our products and services".
In Firefox, there is Location Aware Browsing (aka geolocation), where Firefox takes your IP address, information about nearby wireless access points, and a temporary cookie-like identifier and passes that off to Google (through an encrypted SSL connection, if that makes you feel any better) so that searching in Google retrieves results that relate to your current location.
If you're searching for pizza, there's no need to type in all the information about where you are. That's something else I opt out of.
Next page: What Internet Explorer 8 has that's cool, and our expert verdict >>