Web Browsers for the Mac

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The Macintosh Web browser market is hugely competitive with a large number of options, especially since the addition of WebKit in Panther. This page lists a number of notable browsers, based on popularity, historical significance or innovation.

Contents

Current Mac OS X browsers

Safari

Safari is presently the most popular Mac web browser, and is based on Apple's WebKit framework. A beta version was first released by Apple in January 2003 at Macworld, and it quickly grew in popularity. It is praised for both its feature set (which includes tabbed browsing, a Google search box, pop up blocking and many more) and its brushed metal interface. Nevertheless, it receives its fair share of criticisms, which often involve stability problems or slow rendering of some websites.

The version of Safari bundled with Mac OS X 10.4.3 became the first publicly-released, non-beta, non-preview browser to pass the Acid 2 test. As of Safari 3, Safari is available for both Mac OS X and Windows.

Firefox

Firefox is a multi-platform, Mozilla Gecko-based browser that has dramatically grown in market share over recent years. It has rapidly evolved to become the second most popular Web browser, becoming the biggest challenge to Internet Explorer's dominance of the market since the browser wars ended. Some have gone as far as dubbing the spread of Firefox as the second browser war.

Firefox includes many features similar to Safari and has a plugin architecture considered to be the best amongst Web browsers. Its main criticism comes from its interface, which appears to some to resemble Windows more than Aqua, and its lack of support for Mac OS X features such as built in spell checking. Many of these and lots of more features can however be integrated by installing Themes and Add-Ons from the Firefox Add-On page.

Camino

Camino is a browser for Mac OS X built on the Mozilla Gecko rendering engine. It predates both of its more famous upstart counterparts, Safari and Firefox. Known as Chimera, it was one of the original Mac OS X browsers.

Camino, like Firefox, is Gecko-based; it renders sites in the same way as Firefox. Unlike Firefox, however, it's developed solely for Macs, and has a much more Aqua-like interface than Firefox.

The goal of Camino was to provide a simple, light-weight browser that is Mac OS X native (Cocoa) and rendered by Gecko. Because of this, it lacks any of the RSS/Atom/"kitchen sink" functionality that has come to characterize both SafariRSS and Firefox. It also lacks the same level of plug-ins that have made its little brother, Firefox, famous. As such, it is recommended as an alternative to Safari and Firefox for those who dislike Firefox's interface or the bulkiness (speed, RAM usage, UI, etc.) of the other browsers.

Chrome

Introduced in May 2010 for Macs, it is now the fastest browser available. As of May 2011, it ranks as the third most widely used browser worldwide, after Internet Explorer and Firefox, according to Net Applications. It features an Omnibox which combines address bar and search bar, simply click on it and type your search terms. Also included are tabbed browsing, pop-up blocking and translation. A plethora of extensions is available, due to open source development. Customize with colorful Google themes, or add your own theme.

Opera

Opera has generally always had a small market share, however is praised by some as an excellent browser. It is often claimed that Opera has been a pioneer for many Web browser innovations, with an example being that Opera was one of the first browsers to support tabbed browsing. As of version 8.50, Opera is now distributed freely, without ads. Prior to this, users had the choice of paying a fee or having banner ads on their browser windows.

OmniWeb

OmniWeb was originally developed for NeXTSTEP, but is now solely developed for Mac OS X. While originally using its own rendering engine, it now uses Apple's WebKit. OmniWeb was the first browser to implement popup blocking, which is now a feature of all mainstream browsers.

Shiira

Shiira was developed to improve upon Safari, and uses the same rendering engine (WebKit). Features include a customizable search bar, flexible tabbed browsing, numerous appearance options and a feature called "Tab Exposé", which is essentially the same as Exposé except that it acts on tabs rather than windows. Despite not being widely known, many people who have tried Shiira recommend it.

TrailBlazer

TrailBlazer is a proof of concept browser based on the WebKit framework, listed here only for its innovations. While not meant as a primary Web browser, it features an innovated way of viewing history graphically.

Stainless

Stainless features tabs with their own threads and parallel sessions which allows you to be logged in to 1 website with multiple usernames which previously required 2 or more web browsers to do.

Other browsers

There are countless other Web browsers available for the Mac, many based on the WebKit framework. This website contains an extensive list of Mac browsers.

Older Browsers (Unsupported)

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer was once the dominant Web browser for Macs. However, development slowed tremendously near the end of its reign. Soon after the announcement that Apple had created Safari, the Macintosh version of Internet Explorer was discontinued by Microsoft, and Microsoft have even recommended against using it on msn.com (a message appears to Mac IE users on opening the page). Microsoft ended support for the Mac version of Internet Explorer on December 31 2005, and no longer made it available for download from January 31 2006. It can still be downloaded from some sites, for example this one.

Internet Explorer has been criticised for a number of reasons, namely its lack of features such as tabbed browsing and pop up blocking, as well as its poor support for many Internet standards (it should be noted that the rendering engine in the Mac version of Internet Explorer is different to that on the Windows version). As such, many Web developers are happy to see its popularity dwindle.

Netscape

Netscape was the standard Mac Web browser before Internet Explorer took over the reins, but then faded in popularity. Netscape 4.x was known to render many sites horribly. In recent years, Netscape was relaunched using the same rendering engine as other Mozilla based browsers such as Firefox and Camino. With the introduction of Netscape 8, however, it appeared that the Mac version had been discontinued. Netscape 8 and 9's main selling point is that it using both the Gecko rendering engine and the Trident engine (used by the Windows version of Internet Explorer), making it incompatible with other platforms. Netscape 9 is available for the Macintosh, but all support ends February 1, 2008 on all platforms.

Mac OS 9 browsers

Unfortunately for Mac OS 9 users, the choice of browsers is not as wide as for Mac OS X users. Most available browsers are out of date and lack useful features common in modern browsers.

Mac OS 9 browsers include Internet Explorer 5.1.7 (which is similar to the Mac OS X version), iCab 3.0 beta (one of the few Mac OS 9 browsers still in development), Opera 6.0.3, Mozilla 1.2 (or WaMCoM 1.3.1, a modified version of a newer version of Mozilla) and Netscape 7.0.

Text-Only Web Browsers

In this day and age of ever-increasing graphics available on the internet, you might ask yourself why a web browser that is limited to only text might be used. There are a number of reasons, including:

  1. Speed. On a dial-up connection or even over a reasonably fast broadband connection, a text-only web browser is noticeably faster than a web browser that must download and render graphics. Also, older and slower computers render text extremely speedily.
  2. Simplicity. The inability to render Flash means... no Flash Ads!
  3. Size. Although many people have hard drives that are plenty large, for older computer web browsers can be quite a bit larger than the benefit that they bring to the older computer.

Lynx

Perhaps the most common text-only web browser for Mac OS X is Lynx. Lynx works on Mac OS X 10.2.8 through to Leopard without issues

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Web browsers

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