Where have all the good browsers gone?

It's frustrating to deal with the constant threat of browser-based malware, pop-ups, and extensions gone wild. I wonder where all the good browsers have gone? It would be nice to have one that works.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

Using an Internet browser has become such a requirement that you'd think we'd have one that really works. Alas, we do not. I bounce back and forth between Internet Explorer and Chrome on Windows, between Firefox and Chrome on Linux and between Safari and Chrome on my iOS devices but none are working all that well for me. I need a reliable, stable, do-everything browser that is also cross-platform and I just can't find one that I'm satisfied with. It's very frustrating. To heck with the old adage, "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door." What we need is a better browser. You can name it "Mousetrap" if you want to. I just want it to work.

At this very moment there's a conversation with my Google+ homies concerning Chrome eating up 100% CPU on Linux. It does it on Windows too, by the way. I often have to deal with Chrome crashing on my Windows 7 PC. Often, I'll have it crash on my iPad or iPhone. And sometimes in Linux, it just disappears without a trace.

Firefox seems to be no better as one of the respondents in the Google+ conversation just said, "Incidentally, I'm getting a very similar result with FF and the same number of tabs open so not sure why some people seem to have better results with that."

Apparently I'm not the only one receiving bad mojo from browsers.

Thank goodness as I thought it was just the browser demons out to get me personally.

I've tried Opera too but got tired of seeing the "unrecognized browser" message so I happily terminated its use.

Here are my general and esthetic requirements for the ultimate browser:

  • Reliable
  • Stable
  • Fast
  • Cross-platform
  • Skinable
  • Tabbed
  • Extensible
  • Flash compatible
  • HTML5 capable
  • Java compatible
  • Javascript compatible
  • Equipped with a pop-up blocker
  • Antivirus compatible
  • Malware-resistant
  • Cross browser compatibility
  • Configurable stealth (incognito) mode
  • Each tab as a separate process
  • Independent tab configuration
  • Standalone

I guess that's enough for starters. Now, allow me to explain the more obscure of my requirements.

Antivirus Compatible

I often feel that antivirus software impedes my browsing. In my opinion, once a site is deemed safe by your antivirus software, it should basically turn off or stand down its scanning of a safe site. When your browser hits a new page, it should perform a sweep of the site to determine its safety and return that information to the user in a safety rating of some sort so that you may proceed or go somewhere else.

I don't think that I need for the same site to have each page that I touch scanned as I touch it. Once the initial sweep is complete, the site should be placed in a temporary white list, gray list, or black list depending on the nature of any threat content that it may contain.

Cross Browser Compatibility

On an as needed basis, your browser could disguise itself as Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, Opera, Firefox, or whatever browser type you select. I know that most browsers, such as Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox (the ones I've tested) can do this now but you almost have to invoke an Easter Egg to get to configuration.

To illustrate what I mean, open Chrome, press Ctrl-Shift-i, click the Cog icon in the lower right, click Overrides, select User Agent, and then select your desired browser masquerade. 

Now, I haven't performed any lengthy rituals to verify how well it works but I don't think that agent detection is all that sophisticated. However, it isn't the agent detection that a web developer should use for rendering pages for a variety of devices and browsers. A better method of finding compatibility is to use the rendering engine detection. Better still is to use feature detection.

In my perfect browser, the site page would send a signal to the browser to use a particular rendering engine or to invoke compatible features. The bottom line is that I don't want to have to change my browser compatibility manually. There should be some automated, programmatic way that works behind the scenes to render a site's pages for me regardless of browser or resolution.

Configurable Stealth Mode

Most browsers have a stealth, incognito, or private mode but it seems that we get or don't get what the developers want us to. I'd like for so-called stealth mode to be easily and dynamically configurable with memory. In other words, I can connect to certain sites in stealth mode but regular mode for others. One particular parameter that I'd like to configure is cookies. I'd like to be able to dynamically accept or deny certain cookies on sites where I don't necessarily want cookies from.

A possible fix is to have a notification area at the bottom of the browser that I could click upon landing on a page so that I could deny or accept tracking cookies. I don't want a popup every time I hit a new page or for every ad on a page. I want to be able to configure it once, at my discretion, and leave it at that. And I want the browser to remember my choices for that site, so that when I return, I won't have to configure it all over again.

Independent Tab Configuration

What if I want one of my tabs to always be Stealth and one to be setup as Internet Explorer-compatible all the time? I don't like an all or nothing type configuration. I'm not faulting the developers. I know how hard it is to do this stuff. I've done programming. The easier you make it for the user, the harder it is on the backend. 

I prefer, if you haven't noticed, easily configurable parameters for my browsers. I don't want to go hunting for some tweak or fix. I just would like for it to be readily available so that I don't get frustrated with the software and seek out an alternative. And I haven't had great luck so far with alternatives.

I know that there's no perfect browser and with all the threats facing them, it seems that there may never be the perfect one. Developers have to spend so much time preventing this or that hijack in their software that they can't focus as much on awesome features. I get that.

However, the solution is to have better compatibility or interoperability between browsers and antimalware software and antivirus software that we already must have on our systems. Interoperability like that will require some vendor handshaking. Fingers crossed on that front.

So, the question remains, "Where have all the good browsers gone?" The answer is that hopefully they're in development and not just in the minds of technology analysts.

What do you think of browser improvement? Is there room for improvement? Will it happen or should we all just live with what we have? Talk back and let me know.

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