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IE, Safari, Flock, Opera and Firefox: tested and rated

Which Web 2.0 browser is the best?

For many online habitués, the do-it-all browser has become a PC's single most important program. But which of the big three browsers - Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari - is best?

Safari loves standards

Safari version 3.1 adds support for CSS3, HTML 5 and other emerging web standards. Because Safari supports CSS3 web fonts, the browser can download a custom font used on a page at the time it's displayed.

We didn't encounter any sites that Safari couldn't render properly, and the browser passes the Acid2 standards compliance test formulated by the Web Standards Project. Furthermore, it tops the forward-looking Acid3 test, which attempts to measure a browser's ability to use technology available for Web 2.0 rich sites, with a score of 75 out of 100.

For a sample performance test, we ran clean browsers (ones with no add-ons or plug-ins) through the SunSpider Javascript benchmark site.

Webkit.org provides both the test and the open-source core for Safari and other browsers, but the test is applicable to all browsers. Safari 3.1 completed the battery in just over 4 seconds, which was significantly faster than its current competitors, Firefox 2.0 and Internet Explorer 7.0 (read on for a Firefox 3.0 performance surprise in this category).

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To gauge memory use, we loaded four sites; CNN, Netvibes, PC Advisor and Yahoo Mail, and to check for possible memory leaks, we left the pages up for an hour.

Safari used 94MB to start with, and the figure had grown to 95MB an hour later. Those are good numbers, but not as good as the ones that the new Firefox posted.

What about Safari security?

Safari comes up short on security features. Most notably, its lack of an antiphishing filter (standard in both Firefox 2.0 and Internet Explorer 7.0) led PayPal CEO Michael Barrett to advise PayPal users not to conduct transactions with Safari.

Safari doesn't support extended validation (EV) certificates, which provide better site identification than the regular certificates that encrypted sites use, either. Finally a small, easy-to-miss padlock in the upper right corner is the only visual indicator (aside from the https:// at the beginning of the URL) Safari offers that you are on a secure web page.

Another drawback: Apple continues to adhere to its closed-shop mentality for Safari - the browser doesn't allow third-party themes or add-ons.

NEXT PAGE: Firefox's functions and features

  1. IE, Safari and Firefox put to the test
  2. How Safari complies with web standards
  3. Firefox's functions and features
  4. Internet Explorer 8: a work in progress
  5. Our expert opinion on which browser is best
  6. Flock, and Opera


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