For several years, Microsoft's Internet Explorer enjoyed a largely unchallenged position of dominance in the Web browser market. Mozilla's Firefox browser had its adherents as well, but IE wasn't seriously challenged until Google introduced its Chrome browser in 2008. By focusing on performance and security, two areas where IE had been stagnant, Chrome quickly gained fans and marketshare. Today the two browsers are close rivals, with Chrome rivaling IE's market presence and IE offering similar performance.
One of Chrome's stated design goals from the very beginning has been high performance and lean, efficient code. Much of a browser's perceived speed comes from its efficiency in rendering pages, using standards such as Adobe's Flash technology or the newer HTML 5. Both browsers are similarly adept, with only minimal performance differences. Both employ various methods to pre-load pages in the background, so they are available when you want them. Chrome's performance is slightly better on the low-power graphics cards found on many laptops or entry-level desktop systems.
Older versions of Internet Explorer had a relatively intrusive interface, with multiple levels of tool bars, search bars and navigation bars that could easily consume over an inch-wide band at the top of your screen. Chrome's interface stripped this down to one row of tabs, one combined search/navigation bar and an optional bookmarks bar. Microsoft has mimicked this approach in IE 9, placing the search/navigation bar and open tabs in one streamlined row by default. Users who keep a lot of tabs open might prefer to tweak the interface to place open tabs on a second bar. Otherwise, both browsers are comparable in usability.
Security and Privacy
During the years when IE was unchallenged in the browser segment, it was frequently exploited with viruses, worms, Trojans and other forms of malware. IE 9 has made great strides in catching up to its competitors in security, offering real-time phishing protection and a sophisticated suite of security features. Chrome's developers took a different approach, keeping each open tab isolated or "sandboxed" from the rest of your computer. Most malware will be confined to the open tab, and unable to damage your system. IE's privacy settings are broader than Chrome's, because Google's business model relies on integrating your browser with its search, advertising and other products.
No browser can be all things to everyone, and both Chrome and IE have followed Mozilla's lead by encouraging developers to write extensions, add-ons and applications that exploit and extend the browser's built-in features. Google has created an online Web Store for Chrome, offering a wide range of add-ons and integrating Chrome with cloud-based apps from Google and other developers. The IE ecosystem has grown up haphazardly, with add-ons available from a broad range of download sites. Microsoft opened its own online App Store to coincide the launch of Windows 8 and IE 10 in 2012, offering a similar level of product integration.
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