If you’re relatively new to this whole Internet thing, you may not remember the olden days when there was no such thing as Internet Explorer. Web browsers started out as simple things (ah, good old NCSA Mosaic!), used by researchers for publishing papers and documents. Then came Netscape, and an increase in popular and recreational usage of the Web. Around 1995, Microsoft decided they wanted a piece of the pie (it was only later they decided they would like to have the whole pie), and out popped Internet Explorer.
Now, in 2001, the Internet is one of the main reasons people have a computer at home. Your web browser is now much, much more than a simple document reader: it’s your gateway to the on-line world. Chances are, it’s the first thing you start up when you switch on PC, and it’s the last thing you shut down. It’s a newspaper, a TV, a radio, a telephone, a shopping centre, a village hall. There are few people who would dispute that it’s a communications revolution.
And more likely than not, your gateway to this revolution is Internet Explorer. But why?
Two reasons. First of all, Microsoft fought a hard battle to make Internet Explorer the default browser for anyone using any form of Windows. Because most people use a Windows PC (sorry, Mac fans), and have a natural reluctance to change default options, Microsoft was going to win that battle from the start. (Although recent court actions in the US have proved this to be an illegal business tactic, this conclusion is about five years too late for it to matter.) But secondly, Internet Explorer is a very good product! It had features that people wanted, and after version 5 it was much faster at displaying web pages than Netscape was. As we all know, on the Internet speed matters.
But is there anything even better out there? For me, the answer is yes, and the product is Opera.
I say “for me,” because of the way I use the Web. My browsing habits include reading a lot of sites whose primary purpose is to serve up news, opinion or information in text format. I’m out to absorb as much information as I can, as quickly as possible. I don’t care about pretty logos or snazzy animations. Just plug me into the wire and feed me from the source!
I first tried Opera earlier this year, when I was revamping my own web site. I was trying the page designs in the various versions of Internet Explorer and Netscape. I’d just read an article about Opera, so I decided to try it out as well. After just a few hours of using version 5.11, though, I knew I had something special on my hands. So I kept on using it, and being pleasantly surprised by how good it was. And a few days later I was hooked completely. At work, I still use Internet Explorer (most of the projects I work on use IE as their sole target platform), but it seems awkward and slow now, just like Netscape did when I first switched to IE.
So here is the list of things that, in my opinion, make Opera a better product than IE (in reverse order):
5) Multiple Document Interface (MDI)