A Tidal Wave of Surfers: The Multitude of Browsers Has Many Net Surfers 'Wiping Out.' (Browsing Software for Use on the Internet)(Evaluation)

By Williams, Andrew | Black Enterprise, April 1996 | Go to article overview
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A Tidal Wave of Surfers: The Multitude of Browsers Has Many Net Surfers 'Wiping Out.' (Browsing Software for Use on the Internet)(Evaluation)


Williams, Andrew, Black Enterprise


Ever have a problem choosing a surf board? Well choosing an Internet browser to surf with can be just as difficult. According to Dave J. Garaffa's Browser Watch Web page (http://www.ski.mskcc.org.browserwatch/browsers.html), there are over 57 different browsers to choose from. Not every browser can be used on all platforms. But you can find a browser that meets your needs, whether you're running Windows, Mac OS or Unix systems.

You could surf the net without a browser, but it would be less dynamic. Browsers read and interpret hypertext markup language (HTML), the programming language of Web pages. They allow you to see graphics and hear audio embedded in Web sites; each browser interprets HTML differently. The browser's strength determines how the page looks and sounds on your computer screen.

The World Wide Web (WWW) is not the only offering on the Internet. You can download files using FTP (file transfer protocol) and find information on Gopher and Wide Area Information Server (WAIS) databases, as well as participate in news groups and chat sessions. A good browser allows you to navigate among these operations in a seamless manner. Standard features on most browsers include e-mail and "hot" lists of your favorite sites and graphics capabilities. To take advantage of all the services on the Internet, it's important to choose a full-featured browser. But even the best browsers don't handle all tasks equally well.

Points to pay particular attention to when choosing your browser are:

* RAM (memory) cache and disk (hard drive) cache. When a browser caches data, it stores information about your current browsing session into your RAM, and past sessions on your hard drive (disk cache). When the browser needs to access information from your RAM or your hard drive. This helps makes data retrieval faster. A good browser allows you to change the default settings to speed data retrieval.

* Ease of configuration. To connect to the Internet you must choose a protocol option that connects your modem to the Internet through your service provider. There are several different protocols to choose from. If you are unfamiliar to choose a browser that has an automatic setup feature. But choose carefully: Not all browsers can be used with every service provider.

* Ease of use. Getting online and accessing the information you need is the priority. Your browser should walk you through the setup process; once you're connected, it should have clearly labeled icons and menu palettes.

Netscape Navigator by Netscape Communications is the browser of choice and the de facto standard. Surveys reveal that more than 75% of active cybernauts use it. Some Web pages are even enhanced when viewed with Navigator. The cutting edge in HTML viewing, it's one of the few browsers to display tabular material. Version 2.0, which should now be on the market, promises animation-related capabilities.

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A Tidal Wave of Surfers: The Multitude of Browsers Has Many Net Surfers 'Wiping Out.' (Browsing Software for Use on the Internet)(Evaluation)
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