A web browser is an application program that provides us a way to look at and
interact with all the information on the World Wide Web. The word "browser"
seems to have originated prior to the Web as a generic term for user interfaces
that let you browse (navigate through and read) text files online. By the time
the first web browser with a graphical user interface was generally available
(Mosaic, in 1993), the term seemed to apply to web content too.
Technically, a web browser is a client program that uses the Hypertext
Transfer Protocol (HTTP) to make requests of web servers throughout the
Internet on behalf of the browser user. Many of the user interface features in
Mosaic, however, went into the first widely-used browser, Netscape
Navigator. Microsoft followed with its Microsoft Internet Explorer.
Today, these two browsers are the only two browsers that the vast majority of
Internet users are aware of. However, there exist many alternatives with various
features to these two browsers from which the Internet users can benefit.
Here is a list of some available browsers and their development status from
which the Internet users can benefit. The browsers are listed in an alphabetical
order and Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer are included in the list. If
you are interested in, please follow the given links for detailed information
about these browsers.
AOL makes several independent
browsers. Most of these browsers are criticized for using a heavily modified
version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Gecko. An AOL account is required
to use its browser.
- AOL 4: AOL still offers this for Windows 3.1.
- AOL 5: AOL still offers this for Windows NT4 and the Mac OS.
- AOL 6: Obsolete, but may be used by some.
- AOL 7 // Windows: AOL still offers this for Windows 95. Windows 98,
SE, 2000, and XP users are encouraged to upgrade to AOL 8.
- AOL 8 // Windows: This was officially released in October of 2002.
It continues to use IE, distressing many designers who had hoped that it would
instead use Gecko.
- AOL 9 // Windows: AOL offers a public beta of its next generation
browser suite, dubbed AOL Optimized.
- AOL 10.3 // Mac OS X: This was released in Aug 2002, and updated in
Apr 2003. The version number in userAgent is 7, but AOL says that it has no
version number, that it is just "AOL for Mac OS X Refresh".
AOL acquired Compuserve years ago, and provides this browser for its
CompuServe subscribers. Versions up to 6 use Internet Explorer as its browser
engine; later versions use Gecko. A CompuServe account is required to use its
- CompuServe 2: AOL still offers 2.6.1 for Windows 3.1.
- CompuServe 4: AOL still offers this for Windows NT4.
- CompuServe 5: AOL still offers this for the Mac.
- CompuServe 6: AOL offers this for Windows 95, 98, ME, and XP.
- CompuServe 7: AOL offers this for Windows 98, ME, 2000, and XP.
AOL acquired Netscape
several years ago.
- AOL's Netscape 4: AOL appears to have dropped support for Netscape
4, which is used by a diminishing number of people.
- AOL's Netscape 5: Development was cancelled in mid-1999, and
Netscape 5 was never released. It was to have been built using the NN4 core,
but AOL dropped it to focus on NN6.
- AOL's Netscape 6: AOL released it in Nov 2000, using a Gecko beta
engine. It was updated several times, but never used a released Gecko engine,
so it had compatibility and reliability problems that hindered its widespread
use. In the meanwhile AOL continued to offer and update Netscape 4.xx. Anyone
using it should upgrade to version 7, as version 6 uses an old prerelease of
Gecko with many bugs and limitations.
- AOL's Netscape 7: AOL released it on Aug 29, 2002, using the Gecko
1.0.1 engine, and has been updated several times since.
Safari is an OS X browser using a variant of Konqueror's KHTML browser
Apple reportedly chose to base Safari on KHTML rather than on Gecko because
(a) KHTML is much faster, (b) KHTML's source code is smaller and cleaner, and
(c) Apple doesn't need Gecko's multi-platform capability.
- Safari 1.0: This was released on Jun 23 2003
Escape is made by Espial.
It is an HTML 4 browser, implemented in Java, designed for embedded applications
such as Internet appliances.
- In Jun 2003 the latest version was 4.89.
HotJava was made by Sun
- The last version, HotJava 3, was released in May 1999. It was never
updated, and in April 2003 it was relegated to Sun's archives.
IBM makes browsers for OS/2
that are based on Netscape and Mozilla browsers. IBM also makes a Windows
browser for the blind and visually impaired.
- IBM Netscape Communicator 4: This is a port of the Netscape 4
suite. It is free.
- IBM Home Page Reader 3: This is a talking browser for blind and
visually impaired persons, for Windows 98, ME, 2000, and XP. It is not free.
- IBM Web Browser for OS/2 2.x: It uses Mozilla's Gecko browser
engine. It is available only to those with IBM Software Choice Subscriptions.
iCab is a Mac-only browser made by Alexander Clauss and the iCab Company. iCab has been available
as a beta for a long time, and has many loyal users. It is touted as a highly
standards-compliant browser. Users will have to pay a small amount for it when
it is officially released.
Konqueror is a browser included in the open source KDE Desktop Environment for Unix
and Linux systems. It is
an HTML 4 browser that aspires to be fast and standards-compliant. It uses KDE's
KHTML browser engine. Another major desktop environment for UNIX and Linux
systems is GNOME, for which
Gecko-based browsers are available.
Lynx is the most popular text-only browser. Lynx is updated at very rare
intervals. It may be impossible to find the current version for your O/S,
since the Lynx developers do not consistently make it available for the common
Microsoft Internet Explorer
Microsoft makes several
independent browsers. Of these, Internet Explorer is firstly
introduced in this list.
- Microsoft's IE5: Microsoft no longer offers IE5 for Windows, HP-UX,
or Sun Solaris. It does offer IE 5 for Macs, but will not offer future
upgrades. Older versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported.
- Microsoft's IE6: Microsoft released IE6 for Windows in Q3 of 2001,
and SP1 a year later.
- Microsoft's IE7: Microsoft says that a new version of Internet
Explorer will appear with the next version of Windows in 2005.
The Internet Explorer engine is used by many browsers, including:
Microsoft MSN Explorer
MSN Explorer is a suite that Microsoft makes for subscribers of its MSN Internet service.
The suite makes Microsoft's MSN Internet service a more viable competitor to
AOL. It integrates existing Microsoft software with a new user interface.
- Microsoft's MSN Explorer 2 // OS X: This was released on May 15, 2003.
- Microsoft's MSN Explorer 7 // Windows: Users are encouraged to use
- Microsoft's MSN Explorer 8 // Windows: This was released on Oct. 23, 2002. A major
difference from version 7 is that it is no longer free for those who wish to
use it with their own ISP.
- Microsoft's MSN Explorer? // Windows: A new version of MSN Explorer
will be released in 2003/Q4; Microsoft announced in August 2003 that it will
not have a version number.
The NCSA made Mosaic,
one of the original graphic-based browsers: earlier browsers were text-based.
Many current browsers — including Netscape and Internet Explorer — trace their
origins to Mosaic. Development of Mosaic was abandoned several years ago, and
is mainly of historical interest.
The Mozilla Group makes
the open-source Gecko browser engine, used by the Mozilla browser suite and by a diverse
range of products. Gecko is highly standards-compliant and is available on many
- Mozilla 1: Mozilla 1 and its Gecko browser engine have been
released. Work on updates is ongoing. The current 'most stable version', used
by many products, is 1.4.
- Mozilla Firebird (formerly Phoenix, to be released
with the name Mozilla Browser): This will be a lean, standalone browser. It is
Thunderbird (formerly Minotaur, to be released with the name Mozilla
Mail): This will be a lean, standalone e-mail/news program. It is under
Gecko is being used (or will be used) in many other products,
The Omni Group makes
the OmniWeb browser for Mac OS X .
- OmniWeb 4: This is an HTML 4 browser that aspires to be
- OmniWeb 4.5: This uses the same KHTML engine that Safari uses.
Opera Software makes the
Opera browser for many operating systems, including embedded systems. Opera is
renowned as a browser that is small, fast, standards-compliant, and available on
- Opera 3: Opera 3.62 is available for uncommon operating systems,
e.g. BeOS and for Windows 3.1 and NT3.51.
- Opera 4: Opera Software released v4 for a few platforms, but
quickly moved to v5.
- Opera 5: Opera Software still offers Opera 5 for the Mac, OS/2,
QNX, and Symbian platforms, and alphas or betas for the EPOC, Mac OS X, and
- Opera 6: Opera Software offers Opera 6 for Linux, Macs, and for
32-bit Windows, with a new user interface and Unicode support.
- Opera 7: Opera Software offers Opera 7 for Windows and Linux, using
a new, faster browser engine that conforms better to standards; it will offer
Opera 7 for Macs later in 2003.
Like Internet Explorer and Mozilla, Opera is being used (or will be used) in
many guises, including:
Amaya is a browser/editor made by the W3C (Worldwide Web Consortium) — an organization that defines
the browser standards — in order to test and exhibit elements of new standards.
All versions of Amaya are necessarily betas.
The W3C plans to release the next update in Oct 2003. For details about
Amaya, you can visit the Amaya site.
References and several information links about web browsers: