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The Next Browser War

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Software

Spring is the season when beta versions of long-established Web browsers make their first tentative flights out of the developers' nests, before the full-fledged versions emerge sometime later in the year. We looked at test versions of three browsers that are on their way to becoming significant: Firefox 3, Internet Explorer 8, and Opera 9.50. The other browser in the news is Apple's Safari 3.1, recently released in a new Windows version, which we also reviewed.

All three beta browsers seem to be singing variations on the same two tunes: first, closer adherence to open Web standards used everywhere on the Web, and, second, unique features that you can't get from any other browser. It's a hard job keeping these two tunes from conflicting with each other, but the three betas manage it. Each one claims better performance on compatibility tests like Acid3, although what matters most is compatibility with JavaScript and other dynamic content in real-world Web ages--and all three have made real progress in that department.

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