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Those Wild and Wacky Web Browsers!
It doesn't really matter whether you prefer to browse the Net with Netscape Communicator or Microsoft Internet Explorer - if you're serious about web design you need to get a copy of both. Why? So you can test your pages with the browsers that 98% of Internet viewers now use.

Web browsers have come a long way in the last few years, but these two now dominate the market so completely that nothing else really matters (from a web designer's standpoint). Even so, we've included 3 other browsers that are little treasures in their own right.

DESIGN TIP! If you design your pages to look good under Netscape's Communicator, it's very easy to tweak them so they look just as good under Internet Explorer. But the reverse isn't true. So if you want the widest possible audience, avoid those proprietary Microsoft extensions and technologies like the plague! Or resign yourself to either (a) building separate versions of your pages for each browser or (b) getting a few surprises the first time you look at your site through a Netscape browser.


How Long?

The overwhelming majority of the Net now uses one of the two big browsers But it takes people a while to upgrade.

In June 1999 - close to 2 years after the 1997 release of IE4 and early betas of Communicator 4 - our web server logs showed that 20% of visitors were still using a 3x browser. It took until December 1999 for this figure to drop below 5%.

This implies that it takes up to a year for a new browser version to be used by 50% of the market, and up to 2 years after release to reach 80% to 90% saturation.

Want to use the new features in 1999's 5.x browser releases? It will take until around summer, 2001 before you can be reasonably confident that 8 out of 10 visitors will actually see them.

Netscape Communicator
The browser that brought the Web to the world (and which is still used by about 50% of the world) is now owned by AOL but is still distributed as freeware. The software can be obtained in browser-only slim-line versions or much bulkier complete versions with full email, newsreader, calendaring functions etc. Available for most computing platforms including Macintosh and Unix. We've found that installation is always a snap - and you can operate it quite comfortably alongside Internet Explorer too.

Microsoft Internet Explorer
The web browser that has made web developers lives a nightmare ever since it was first released also happens to be the one best integrated with Windows. With the new IE 5.0, Microsoft promised - at last - to adhere to common web standards, and they appear to have finally got it right after several woeful earlier attempts. Available for all Windows platforms and Macintosh, and currently bundled with nearly every new PC in the world. Freeware.

This commercial browser from Norway has drawn a lot of press and well-earned plaudits since it was released. Opera is much smaller than either IE or Communicator, uses far fewer system resources and supports many more Web standards than either of the "big two" browsers. This may be a very handy browser to have if you compute in a restricted environment (eg: low hard disk space, low RAM etc).

WebTV Viewer
How does your site look to a WebTV viewer? Use this browser to see what your site looks like to the growing number of people now using television to surf the Net. This site also has tips on designing sites for WebTV that may be useful if you want to catch the attention of this audience segment. Freeware (no WebTV subscription required either).

Lynx is a text-only browser that's very small and very fast (and yes, this does show up a few times every month in our server logs, so it's being used by a small but loyal following of people out there). See how your site appears to those who'd rather not see graphics at all - the results will often give you a shock.

Search for more browsers in our Resources directory!

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