It used to be that companies were concerned with one issue when it came to
platform support: Does the browser run on Windows? For many companies, however,
it's not that simple anymore.
While the numbers are still small compared with those of Windows PCs, Macs
are definitely becoming more common in many companies. And more than a few
employees may be accessing Web applications on Linux, especially with the
widening use of netbooks.
The two top players for platform support are clearly Firefox and Opera.
Firefox is available on Windows, Mac and Linux, and runs nearly identically on
all of them. Opera also runs on these platforms (although new versions aren't
always released on all platforms at the same time), and Opera has an excellent
Safari, of course, runs on the Mac and iPhone platforms, and while it runs
on Windows, the implementation isn't quite identical (though the Version 4 beta
is better in this area than previous versions).
Both IE 8 and Chrome are Windows-only. IE 8 will likely stay that way, but
Google officials have said the company plans to release Chrome on other
When browser makers compare themselves, one of the main areas they focus on
is performance. At one point or another during the last year, each browser has
been declared the fastest in one way or another.
In my opinion, for the most part these are comparisons of fast versus faster.
It's been a long time since I've seen a browser that I consider slow in any
way. And when I have seem a browser run slowly, it was either due to a bug in
that release (and speed was improved upon updating) or it was due to issues
with a plug-in or extension.
Still, there are differences in browser performance, especially in the area
accessed several tests freely available on the Web and ran each browser against
them. Since most of these tests come from or are associated with a browser
vendor in some way, it was no surprise that some browsers seemed to do best in
the tests associated with them.
The browsers that performed the best in these tests tended to be Chrome and
Opera. Safari was just behind these browsers, with Firefox and IE bringing up
Like taking your car to a racetrack to see how fast it can go, running these
tests must give results that mean something. But just as that time trial on the
racetrack won't tell you how your car will perform in rush-hour traffic, these
tests won't tell you how these browsers will run your corporate applications.
Performance does matter, but only so far as it impacts the applications you
use in your business. So, rather than rely on external (and potentially biased)
performance reports, make sure that the browsers you use in your company
perform well with the applications you use.
In the end, that is the key to picking a browser for your company: Don't
pick the one that is the fastest, the most standards-compliant or the most
feature-rich. Pick the one that meets your specific needs the best.
Chief Technology Analyst Jim Rapoza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.