Contender #2: Firefox 3.1
The status: Second alpha build released September 5. Beta expected in the next month. Full release targeted for end of 2008.
- Strong foundation. Mozilla's already built a loyal following with Firefox, and it doesn't intend on letting that go. With Firefox 3.1, you know you'll have a powerful library of add-ons and support already at your fingertips, not to mention the slew of other assets unveiled in Firefox 3.0.
- Competitive edge. Mozilla's developers have good reason to watch what Chrome is doing -- and work to match it, if not one-up it.
- Security questions. Some studies -- albeit, Microsoft-funded ones -- have suggested Firefox, with its frequent new versions, is more susceptible to threats than the other options.
- Crash potential. Unlike Chrome, Firefox does not have separate environments for each tab -- so one rogue page can still take the whole program down.
- Support. Firefox has worked hard to snag a small portion of the browser market share, and most early predictions show Chrome taking away more of its userbase than IE's.
- Google's focus on Chrome will also take away some of its previous focus on Mozilla's development efforts. Will Firefox be able to remain a key player in the browser war?
Contender #3: Internet Explorer 8
The status: Second beta released August 27. Full release expected before the end of 2008.
- Support. Love it or hate it, Internet Explorer is hanging on to about three-quarters of the browsing market with its default status in all Windows machines. You know developers and designers are going to cater to it.
- Security. With Microsoft at its helm, IE hangs on to a reputation of safe and reliable browsing.
- Privacy. IE 8 was the first to offer a no-record browsing mode, branded here as InPrivate Browsing.
- Searching. IE 8's Smart Address Bar offers similar functionality to Chrome's Omnibox, letting you type in URLs or search terms and taking you to the right place.
- Added add-ons. IE 8 finally catches up to Firefox with a new "Gallery" full of third-party add-on options.
- Speed. Independent tests have found IE 8 to be significantly slower than the alternative choices.
- Resources. IE 8 uses a lot of memory compared to its competitors -- a factor that could considerably slow down the rest of your system.
- Crash potential. While IE 8 does use separate processes for tabs, similar to Chrome's approach, it does not do so to the same degree -- still leaving room for a total meltdown.
- Competition questions. Can IE's add-ons reach the level of Firefox's? Already, some users are complaining of problems even getting them to work.
That's the lowdown on the battle's current status. Remember, all three of these programs are still early in their development, so many of the pluses and minuses could change as things move forward. One thing's for sure, though: This battle is on, it's growing fierce, and each of its contenders will do anything it can to win.