A LONG, LONG TIME AGO, the web, such as it was, was ruled by one browser, Netscape Navigator. Aside from text-only pre-mouse creations like Lynx, Navigator was the only game in town. But it was not long before it was shown the door by Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE), which came bundled with Windows. By 2003 Netscape had been swallowed up by AOL, Navigator was gone, and IE had scooped up 95 per cent of the browser market. But Navigator was not quite dead. Its source code exacted its revenge when it was taken up by the Mozilla Foundation and used to create the Firefox browser which immediately began gnawing away at IE's lead, claiming almost 50 per cent of users in some countries.
Thanks to their open source codebase there are many different forks of Chrome and Firefox out there these days. With such browserful bounty on offer for free, it seems a shame to stick with the ones you know, so join us for a quick tour of the browserscape.
Rising from the ashes of Netscape Navigator, Firefox has reached middle age at version 50. There have been a few ups and downs on the way, but it's now in a pretty stable place and is less of a resource hog than it used to be. Open source and capable of running on pretty much any operating system, Firefox is still the first choice of many thanks to its flexibility, customisability and masses of extensions and other add-ons. Recent releases have seen the browser become privacy conscious with ad blocking and anti-tracking as standard in private mode, and you can sync settings across devices.
To be honest, it's starting to feel a bit long in the tooth, but 2017 will see the ageing Gecko engine replaced by a new one, Quantum, which Mozilla says will make it much faster and smoother, especially on newer hardware.
There are numerous Firefox forks out there too, most adhering to the element-animal naming format. So say hello to IceWeasel, WaterFox, SeaMonkey and IceCat.
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