Browser Battle Royale
From February 10, 2007

A while back I read an article that compared IE7 and Firefox 2 shortly after their releases. I liked the way it was done, but I’d wished that they’d included another popular browser, Opera. So since they didn’t, I am. Comments would be much appreciated.

Round One: Installation

First off, Internet Explorer requires you to have Windows XP Service Pack 2 (or a few copies of Windows XP that hardly anyone has) and it has to validate your copy of Windows before you can use it (so if you have a pirated copy of Windows running, IE7 is out of the question). Firefox and Opera, on the other hand, will download and install on almost any operating system. Second of all is installation file size. Firefox’s install file is 5.7mb, Opera’s is 4.7mb, and IE is a whopping 14.8mb. So if you’re still using dialup, Firefox or Opera are the browsers for you.

Once you’ve downloaded the browser, its time to install. Both Firefox and Opera have a less than two minute install, while Internet Explorer has a much longer one that requires a reboot (FF and Opera do not).

So the winner of Round One is both Opera and Firefox, which both have small install file sizes and install quickly on just about any computer.

Round Two: Browsing

Any web designer will tell you that Internet Explorer 6 was the worst browser of the time and it was an absolute pain to code for. Thankfully, Microsoft has taken a step up from the IE6 days with IE7. IE7 still has its share of issues, but nowhere near as many as it did when it was IE6. Opera and Firefox are hardly perfect and have their own issues with displaying websites. But between the three, Firefox has the least amount.

Another important part of browsing is Tabbed Browsing. Opera did it first, but Firefox made it popular. Microsoft finally realized its importance and included it in IE7. All three use tabbed browsing the same way, but Internet Explorer has one difference. IE7 has Quick Tabs, which allows you to view all of your tabs on one convenient page (Click here for a screenshot). Firefox and Opera can have a similar view, but they require add-ons.

Despite the Quick Tab feature that IE7 has, Firefox is the winner of this round. One feature does not make up for IE7’s displaying issues. Round Three: Add-ons, Extensions, Plugins, Etc. Right off the bat, Internet Explorer gets to sit out of this fight. Unlike Opera and Firefox, IE7 has no add-ons/plugins to speak of. Firefox has extensions, which allow you to add onto the various “bars” of Firefox. There are well over 2,000 extensions available from Mozilla. Opera has Widgets, which allow you to add features on top of Opera (just like Mac’ OSXs widgets) . There are a little over 300 available at Opera.com. Another major difference between extensions and widgets is that newly installed extensions require a restart of Firefox, while newly installed Widgets start working right away.

But, with almost seven times as many extensions as there are widgets, Firefox has more to offer. So the winner of this round is Firefox. Both Opera’s and Firefox’s websites provide helpful tutorials that teach you how to create your own extensions/widgets. Round Four: Skins Once again, IE is out.

One of the greatest features about FF and Opera is the ability to skin the browsers. For starters, getting skins for Opera and Firefox is very easy. Firefox takes you to a page on their site where you can automatically install skins, and Opera opens up a pop up window that lets you view a list of skins. The biggest difference in picking a skin is previewing. Opera provides a VERY useful previewing feature. Just click on a skin and it temporarily changes Opera’s skin. Firefox provides no preview at all.

Installing your skins is a quick process for both browsers, but its much easier for Opera. Opera instantly changes the skin, while Firefox requires a restart.

Opera is the clear winner of this round, due to the ease of changing its skin.

Round Five: RSS Feeds

Subscribing to a feed is done the exact same way in all three browsers. When you view a page with an RSS feed, an RSS feed icon appears. Clicking it will subscribe you to the feed. Accessing these feeds, however, is different between the three browsers. Opera is the easiest, because it has a Feeds dropdown menu at the top of the browser. IE7 is the second easiest, because all you have to do is click the Favorites Center icon (a star) and it will list your favorites and RSS Feeds. Firefox, on the other hand, seems to have gone out of its way to make it a pain in the butt. You have to open up your bookmarks menu, find your feed, and then select which entry you want to read. A comparison of the way feeds are display can be found here. The winners of this round are Opera and IE7.

Round Six: Performance

Performance is broken down into three aspects: Program loading time, web page loading time, and memory consumption. First is program loading time. Firefox loaded in roughly 15 seconds, while Internet Explorer loaded in only 10. Opera loaded in a speedy 8 seconds. Next is page loading time. Having used all three of the browsers for quite a while, I can tell you from personal experience that Opera loads pages the fastest. Firefox comes in second, and IE7 is in last…again. Last is memory consumption. To test this, I viewed Zilla Designs’ homepage in each browser and viewed how much memory it was using up to display one page. Firefox devoured 39,332K, Opera took up 31,728K, and IE7 used up only 30,272K. Firefox has always been known to use up a lot of memory, but I was surprised to see how little memory IE7 used. Please note that memory usage will vary from computer to computer (because of skins, plugins, etc.), but in all tests, Firefox has come out the biggest consumer of memory. Because of the quick loading times (both program and web page), Opera wins this round. Round Seven: Overview The overall victor is Opera (4/6 rounds won). Opera is much more than your usual browser. It is so much more. Opera has a built in email client, torrent downloader, and much more. Opera was created to be an all-in-one web using program. Does this battle mean that Opera is better than Firefox and that everyone should immediately use Opera instead? No. I use Firefox AND Opera. When I want the extensions I’ll work with Firefox. When I want to browse quicker, I’ll use Opera. All this battle really proves is that IE7 isn’t a good browser.