I didn't even know I had their damned spyware installed in my BIOS or in whatever other piece of hardware it is.
Despite the increasing prevalence of apps to serve every need imaginable, the Web browser remains central to modern life. It's a container for not just webpages, but truly active, interactive apps, even video conferencing and gaming. It's your email reader, your music and video player, and potentially even your videoconferencing window.
Web apps can now pop up notifications, use your camera and microphone, and handle advanced 3D visualizations.
The latest entry comes from Opera, with the experimental Opera Neon browser that's far different from any traditional browser. Microsoft's fast-but-barebones Edge browser leapt onto the scene as Windows 10's included Web software after a series of Internet Explorer versions no longer could cut the mustard.
I say barebones, but the browser includes some nifty, unique features, like Web Notes, which lets you select, annotate, and share webpages; an ad-free Reading view, and integrated search and social sharing.
To those its latest version added tab pinning and extension support. Privacy and ad-blocking features have made a big showing in the browser world.
It makes some sense, since consumers surveyed have overwhelmingly stated that they prefer not to have their Web browsing tracked. The new Brave browser is all about sparing you from Web ads. Maxthon and Opera now ship with built in ad blockers.
And Firefox blocks third-party trackers while in Private Browsing mode—something I wish all browser makers would follow. The one exception to this trend towards greater privacy protections is Google's Chrome—unsurprisingly, as it comes from a company that makes its money by serving ads based on behavioral targeting.
Two features that I consider essential for consuming today's Web ad-free reading modes and share buttons. You'll find these included by default in several of the browsers, but for those that don't, you can find extensions that provide the functionality. So many sites are overloaded with ads of all stripes and auto-play videos that browsing the Web unhindered has gotten more and more difficult.
And one of today's most common actions is, when you see an intriguing story online, to share it to your favorite social network. Why shouldn't the browser make this easier? The move away from content that makes use of Adobe's Flash technology has been an ongoing issue in Web browser functionality.
Firefox is the first of them to actually take action, making Flash content on-demand, rather than auto-playing it. Google has stated that an upcoming release of Chrome will do the same. Meanwhile, Chrome and Edge are the only browsers that come with Flash built-in, which, while politically incorrect, ends up being most convenient.
Another issue in the browser world of late has been battery usage. Tech news stories claiming that Chrome was a laptop battery killer have been circulating for a few years. Last June, Microsoft published a video showing that using its Edge browser prolonged battery life significantly.
In support for emerging Web standards, Chrome still takes top honors on Niels Leenheer's HTML5Testwhich adds up how many coding features are recognized by a browser—though it doesn't measure whether the features are correctly implemented.
A lot of what it measures is used by barely any sites, and all the browsers here will render all the major sites and Web services perfectly well. In any case, get out there and try a new browser! You may find that it has some cool features or performance characteristics that appeal to you more than the one you've been using.
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