Browser Slugfest Ends in a Furious Dead Heat

By Dwight Silverman Houston Chronicle | THE JOURNAL RECORD, August 29, 1996 | Go to article overview

Browser Slugfest Ends in a Furious Dead Heat


Dwight Silverman Houston Chronicle, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Boy, don't you just love a good computer industry brawl? You know, the kind where both combatants are smart, boast good technology and are ferociously determined to win.

It's not just fun to watch, but also good news for those on the sidelines. The end result is often better products for computer users.

You and I are the beneficiaries of competitive animosity.

And there's no better techno-slugfest right now than the one being waged by Netscape Communications and Microsoft Corp. It's fascinating on several levels, including the fact that Microsoft is playing the unusual role of an underdog.

Netscape owns as much as 90 percent of the market for browser software used to view the World Wide Web, and Microsoft wants a large chunk of that flesh.

On Aug. 13, Microsoft released version 3.0 of its Internet Explorer browser. The following week, Netscape unveiled Navigator 3.0, though vigilant `Net surfers found it had been quietly posted the Saturday before on Netscape's download sites.

Both are very good. But as is often the case with competing products in the same genre, they outshine each other in specific areas. Here's a look at how they compare:

* Setup -- Advantage: Navigator. As your mother always told you, first impressions are very important, and Navigator 3.0 is much nicer to install on your computer. At 5.7 megabytes, it's a smaller download than Internet Explorer 3.0, which clocks in at 6.2 megabytes for a comparable setup.

Navigator is much more polite in its installation, because it lets you decide where to put the program. Internet Explorer installs on your C: drive, period, even if you don't have enough space there. And speaking of space, the installation process in Internet Explorer spreads up to 55 megabytes in temporary files across your hard drive, though the final product is more in the 15 megabyte range.

* Interface -- Advantage: Internet Explorer. Microsoft has done its usability homework here, with a very friendly interface that makes Netscape's button-heavy system look old. Internet Explorer uses a series of panels that "light up" as your mouse cursor moves over each one. Internet Explorer also can be customized more than Navigator.

* Speed -- Slight advantage: Navigator. Navigator loads about a second faster on both my 100-megahertz Pentium clone with 32 megabytes of random-access memory and a Cyrix 6x68-P200 with the same amount of RAM. …

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