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Not All Browsers are Equal

Last Updated: Friday, 09-Jan-2015 12:32:44 PST

Incredible to Pitiful

Many products advertise that they have a web browser, but their support for websites ranges from incredible to pitiful. The part of the web browser, that is important for website compatibility is the rendering engine. The 4 major rendering engines are Trident (best known in Internet Explorer), Gecko (best known in Firefox), Webkit (best known in Apple Safari, Google Chrome, iPhone and iPad browsers), and Presto (which is best known for Opera).

Best Rendering Engines

The two best engines are Webkit and Gecko. Gecko is an older engine, that is more resource intensive than Webkit, but also has many more features, like a platform independent development environment. Webkit is almost exclusively used for advanced mobile platforms like: Apple iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, Google products like Chrome, Android, and Chrome OS, as well as Palm and Nokia's mobile devices.

Webkit

Webkit has lead the development of CSS 3 and other next generation web technologies, that allow us to do things one requiring advanced programming, or the use of Flash. There are some subtle differences between the different Webkit implementations, based on which company's version and what product version is being compared. Google's Chrome uses a different Javascript engine than Apple and Google Chrome sometimes disables certain features, for security reasons, like web fonts. Apple's mobile Safari only supports one type of web font, which is an unusual font format, and has restrictions on the amount of time Javascript can run, on its mobile devices. The effectiveness of anti-aliasing (making graphics smooth) in Webkit varies widely by platform.

Presto

Presto varies widely, from the advanced features of the desktop version of Opera, to the Opera Mini version, which reformats website, seemingly randomly and has serious problems, with rendering most sites, even legibly. Presto is also used in several Nintendo products, like the Wii and DS. No one else uses Presto, other than Opera, or those who pay for it, because Presto is not open source, like Gecko and Webkit.

Opera Mini Popularity

Opera Mini has as many users as Opera on the desktop. Opera mini is popular on cell phones, that cannot run a full featured web browser, or for people with slow connections, like 2G cell phones. Opera Mini's main feature is that it does the rendering on Opera' Server and then compresses the web page and the images, to make it load faster, but this causes problems with interactivity, security, and readability.

Defects of Opera Mini

The compression of images is particularly atrocious, because web graphics are generally as compressed, as they can be, without being unrecognizable. The layout, in terms of columns or headers and footers, is also compromised as well. Fonts are also only rendered in one typeface, one size, and one style.

Solutions to Opera Mini Defects

Another problem with Opera is that formatting could be specified, to be simpler for Opera, without dumbing it down, for the other more advanced web browsers. This could be done by just disabling images and stylesheets, or using the handheld stylesheets, specified by the site designer. Then, instead of pages becoming unreadable, they could just show a simpler version, of the website, for Opera Mini.

Trident

Microsoft uses Trident in its Internet Explorer and Internet Explorer Mobile browsers, but the mobile one is generally several versions behind the desktop version. Microsoft's Mac products have often used an entirely different rendering engine called Talisman. Internet Explorer 6-8 does not render websites correctly, so some hacks have to be used if you want precise layout and the other option is to give up precise positioning and allow your website's white space to vary between Internet Explorer 6-8 and other browsers.

Worst Web Browsers

There are other less known web browsers, based on different rendering engines, including the web browser that comes with Sony Playstation and the one used in the Blackberry mobile phones. These browsers can hardly even render text properly, and should disable images and stylesheets. In addition, the Blackberry web browser also is terribly slow as well. And the testing software for Blackberry is written in Java, but is so poorly written, that it only runs, under Java, on Windows.

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