Opera 5, iCab, Internet Explorer 5 for Macs And More Get Rave Reviews in New York Times
Have a PC? Opera is a great alternative to Netscape and Internet Explorer. Have a Mac? Try iCab. In the January 4, 2001 edition of the New York Times, David Pogue overviews great alternatives to the 2 major browsers in Other Windows on the Web.
The Mac version of Internet Explorer 5 is also a very different browser from the Windows version 5. This Mac version was written from scratch and is very different from its predecessors and also different from the PC version 5. Fellow web developer friends and colleagues who use Macs have given good ratings to this browser compared to other browsers. Let’s hope Microsoft builds a better Windows version also, with an even closer eye toward the W3C and Web Standards.
For those interested in trying a very fast browser for PCs, I certainly suggest giving Opera a try. A couple of clients with laptops have told me they especially like its small program size and ease in turning images off and on to quickly access Web site information, for example. I enjoy using it for similar reasons, for testing Web sites, and for general Web use. My Mac friends have told me that iCab is quite similar to Opera, too.
Speaking of Standards....
What do all these browsers mean for web developers, testing, and ensuring compatibility of sites we develop? Are they standards compliant?
I don’t think there is a black-and-white answer. The needs for each Web site need to be considered and evaluated. The primary target audiences and the use of the Web site need to be considered, for example. If it’s for an Intranet where every employee uses one browser and the same OS, then there isn’t the strong need to test your site in multiple browsers. If the Web site is for the Internet, that usually means it’s important to test for cross-browser, cross-platform compatibility and accessibility.
Please note my use of the words "usually" and "generally."
If truth be known, there are dozens and dozens of browsers out there besides the names mentioned here. Evolt has an amazing list of links to dozens of browsers at their Web site. All these other browsers combined comprise about six percent of the browsers used, according to the above New York Times article.
So what are web developers to do? What do we also recommend to our clients? In practical terms, the cost and time needed to test in so many browsers would be prohibitive. For my own clients, as of today’s date I generally work toward building sites that work well for both Macs and PCs in Netscape versions 4.x, 5.x, 6.x, versions 4.x and 5.x of Internet Explorer, versions 3.6 and 4.x of Opera, and I also highly consider accessibility issues. Most of the sites I build are viewable in earlier browser versions, too, even though newer browser version features won’t be available, such as cascading style sheets.
Looking around at a few sites on web development will quickly reveal many charts on what does and doesn’t work on which browsers, however, so we need to be aware of and work with the cross-browser, cross-platform inconsistencies and problems.
As Web developers, I feel we also have a responsibility to follow the trends, to watch what’s going on with browser issues and to take an active role in discussion lists and the web developer community. When we stay well informed we can provide our clients with the best information, recommendations, and make the best choices with them, too.